the island of tranquillity is how this destination is described. i am amazed that there is a place in new zealand where life is slower and simpler than what i have experienced since i moved to this south pacific island…yet, stewart island is such a place. approximately 400 people call it home. fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are the main focus for this tight knit community. it doesn’t take long to understand why the inhabitants love this remote island. i would call it a little place but it’s actually the third largest island in new zealand. most of the island is uninhabited, untouched by civilization as most of us know it and it’s beauty is extraordinary.
we boarded the ferry in bluff to cross the strait. spontaneous is one thing i am learning to be in new zealand. we discovered that the ferry only travels once a day since it is winter -so instead of monday, as was planned, we scurried off on sunday. the weather was a little disappointing. when planning the trip, i envisioned sunshine and beauty all around. i was partly right…it was beautiful. i did my usual while traveling on the water…i was looking for a whale. sigh…there were none in sight. one day, i know i will be delighted and catch a glimpse of one of these magnificent fish.
the port was magical. the bay was full of fishing boats, wild life and silence. it was so quiet and peaceful.
we found accommodation in a little cottage that overlooked the bay with this beautiful view. the only restaurant open on the island was the local “pub”. i am not accustomed to frequenting the pubs so this was quite an experience for me. the room was scattered with fishermen, locals, a few tourists and us. we sat for a few minutes and admired the view.
before long, the place was full and buzzing with conversations.
we ordered our food and a woman with an english accent walked up to the table and asked if we were going to participate in the activities for the evening. activities? quiz night! my husband was shrinking in his seat but my sister-in-law and i decided that if we wanted the full Stewart Island experience…we should join in.
trivia is not my strong suit but i did get one question correct…after all, it was an american question-“what is the name of the creature who lived in the “dus-pin” on sesame street?” i needed to clarify what a “dus-pin” was (wouldn’t want to embarrass myself by getting it wrong). i raised my hand and asked, “what is a “dus-pin”…is it the same as a garbage can?” the room roared in laughter and the host replied in her best attempt at the “american accent”, “yes, a “dus-pin” is a gar-bage can.” there you have it, Oscar the grouch lived in the “dus-pin” on sesame street. 1 for dee!
the next morning was more what i imagined…sunshine to compliment the beautiful scenery. the morning air was crisp and salty. i just love the sea air.
i have to pinch myself sometimes when i think about how much i used to love traveling to the coast in america for the chance to enjoy the ocean breezes, deep sea fishing and playing on the beach. living here, i am surrounded by those things i loved so much about beach vacations.aquaculture is especially fascinating to us since we are marine farmers. i grew up in the midwest in the states so i am used to farming communities but aquaculture is such a new concept to me. the mussel and salmon farms were massive and intriguing.
look at all of the birds flying over the salmon farm!
there are monuments like this one in many of the ports in new zealand. they serve as a reminder of the men who woke on a typical work day morning and headed out to sea but never returned. i had never personally experienced this kind of loss until last year. our friend took some friends out to do some fishing. a rogue wave hit the boat and capsized it. by the time help arrived, he had lost his best friend and oldest son. it was devastating, heart wrenching. this memorial reads:
they shall not grow old as we that are left grow old
age shall not weary them nor years condemn
at the going down of the sun and in the morning
we shall remember them
the sea commands respect. she expects that you not tempt her and when she rages, you most certainly do not want to be in her path of fury.
apparently, birds like the brown kiwi, albatross, penguins and kia can be seen along the landscape of Stewart Island. i was able to photograph seagulls and oyster catchers (the black birds here) but my brother-in-law caught a glimpse of a couple of wee penguins scooting into the water on our last morning. i am told that there are many great white sharks near stewart island as well…those, i am not sure i want to see…at least not up close.
a boat trailer was lifted to the top of the ferry…we thought they were joking when they said we had to wait until a boat trailer was loaded before we could leave…really?
the ride home was a bit bumpy. actually, it was like being on a roller coaster. i would not see a whale on this trip as the sea was tumultuous. i did sit and watch wave after wave roll in toward the boat like mighty walls of water…then crash against the vessel as if to say we were intruding on it’s space. there was a strong sense that we did not belong in this environment…guests at the mercy of the wind and the sea. i watched the captain. he was calm and sure. i felt confident and turned my thoughts to enjoying the adventurous ride as if i were in an amusement park.
i was thankful for the chance to participate in the charm of the island of tranquillity. i gathered the memories and tucked them away in my heart. ready to resume my day to day schedule, the less simple life traded for the journey, i disembarked from the ferry and headed home.
if you are ever in this part of the world, you might want to put stewart island, the island of tranquillity, on your bucket list. i would recommend visiting during the summer (Dec-Feb) for the best chance at agreeable weather. this little haven will not disappoint….and you can say that you travelled to the end of the earth.
hope you enjoyed a small tour of the island…