Native forest on Ulva Island



Visit iconic Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara, off Stewart Island/Rakiura, a beautiful island sanctuary open to the public. Walking through bush vibrant with bird life, you'll begin to understand just what's possible without predators.

Iconic Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara is one of the few pest-free open sanctuaries in New Zealand. In this unspoiled rainforest you can see rare birds and plants at close quarters in a safe environment mostly unchanged by human activity and free of introduced animals. 

Never milled and pest-free since 1997, the island offers threatened native species a safe haven in which to flourish. Healthy populations of kiwi, saddleback and yellowhead can be found – birds which often struggle on the mainland.

Find things to do and places to stay Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara

Bird watching

Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara is renowned for its diverse and abundant birdlife including weka, kākā, kākāriki, tūī, bellbirds/korimako, pigeons/kereru, fantails/piwakawaka, saddleback/tieke, rifleman/titipounamu, brown creeper/pīpipi, Stewart Island robin/toutouwai and yellowhead/mohua. Some visitors may even be lucky enough to catch a rare day-time glimpse of the Stewart Island brown kiwi/tokoeka.

Probably the best time of day to see native birds is early in the morning during springtime, but Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara can be visited at any time during daylight hours, and is open year-round.

Watching other wildlife

New Zealand fur seal/kekeno can sometimes be seen on the rocks round Ulva Island. On the beaches, visitors may come across sea lions/pakake/whakahao and occasionally elephant and leopard seals. Usually these marine mammals come ashore to rest. Don't approach them.

Common skinks were transferred to the island from The Old Neck area, across Paterson Inlet, in 2005.

The forest on Ulva Island is typical of the area, dominated by rimu, southern rātā and kamahi, but here the diverse understorey of broadleaf and fern is prolific. Visitors are able experience what Stewart Island and other forest in New Zealand would look like without the impact of browsing animals.

Several boat operators are able to take you to Ulva Island and around Paterson Inlet.

The best way to view the reserve and its inhabitants is in the water. The rivers that flow into the waters off Ulva Island drain from pristine, undeveloped land and carry little sediment or nutrient run-off, providing prefect visibility for divers.

From land the best snorkelling is found off the north end of Sydney Cove beach on Ulva Island, but wear a wetsuit as the average February temperature is 16ºC dropping to 8ºC in July.

This is a great way to explore Paterson Inlet and visit Ulva Island, but there is a biosecurity risk. Check your boat carefully for rats and other stowaways such as weed seeds before setting out.

Check you are pest-free

Check, clean, and seal your gear to ensure you don't bring pests, soil, and seeds.

See island biosecurity requirements.


Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre
Phone +64 3 219 0009
Address 15 Main Road
Oban 9818
Hours See visitor centre hours
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