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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.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Walking and tramping


  • Visitor centre

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      About this place

      Getting there

      Take a short boat ride - accessible by water taxi, Ulva Island is situated inside Paterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera, Stewart Island/Rakiura and has a land area of 266.6 hectares and a coastline of about 11 km.

      Most of the island is part of Rakiura National Park and the remaining 7.6 ha, between Post Office Bay and Sydney Cove, while privately owned, is mostly accessible to the public, by agreement with the Hunter family. Respect all signs and keep to paths.

      Access is by boat, from either Halfmoon Bay or Golden Bay, on Stewart Island/Rakiura. Water taxis, guides and charter boats are available.

      Miriam Ritchie and rat-detector dog Moss.
      DOC ranger Miriam Ritchie and rat-detector dog Moss after checking the island for rats

      Know before you go

      Visitors on the way to Ulva Island.
      Visitors photograph penguins on the way to Ulva Island

      • Night visits are not permitted.
      • Dogs are not allowed on Ulva Island. They can kill ground birds.
      • Don't feed the weka! Keep them friendly, not greedy.
      • Take all your rubbish with you when you leave. There are no rubbish bins.
      • There is no public accommodation on the island and camping is not permitted.

      Keep Ulva Island predator-free

      Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara was declared free of rats after a successful eradication programme that began in 1992 and was completed in 1996.

      However, in 2010 a population of Norway rats was found to have established on the island. A major rat re-eradication operation was undertaken and a subsequent extensive survey using a rodent dog in 2012 has shown the island is once again free of rats.

      Ulva Island has high natural values and its relatively unmodified state makes it an important island for the conservation of threatened species.

      Your help is needed

      Norway rat.
      Norway rat

      Rats can stowaway on a boat. Water taxis and tour boats carry poison bait stations to prevent rats getting to the island. Rats can also hitch a ride on private boats or kayaks. Weeds can be a problem too. Weed seeds are very small and can easily be introduced on footwear or in bags.

      • Check your boat/kayak, bags or packs for rats before setting out for the island.
      • Make sure there are no rats on your boat or in your gear.
      • Check your footwear, pockets and Velcro tabs for any seeds that may be hitching a ride. 
      • If you see evidence of rats on Ulva Island, report it immediately to DOC.

      The Ulva Island Charitable Trust raises and manages funds to assist DOC to upgrade tracks and visitor facilities on Ulva Island and help keep it free of introduced pests and predators. See Ulva Island Charitable Trust.


      Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre
      Phone:      +64 3 219 0009
      Address:   15 Main Road
      Stewart Island
      Full office details
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