Visit Ulva Island

On this page:
About Ulva Island
Guided walks/freedom walk
Getting there: Ulva Island Ferry & Water-Taxi

About Ulva Island

Iconic Ulva Island in Stewart Island/Rakiura waters is a beautiful pest-free open bird sanctuary. Due to it’s long held protected status, Ulva provides visitors an opportunity to experience unspoiled, never felled rain-forest, and see rare birds and plants at close quarters. It really is an experience of what the New Zealand bush was like, and perhaps could be like with further predator control programs. Full of noise, movement, colour and variety – full of life!

How it came to be

The Island was first protected as a reserve for the ‘Preservation of Native Game and Flora’ in 1899, making it one for New Zealand’s first! In the 1980’s and 90’s the pest eradication work began – with the Island being declared pest free in 1997. The removal of rats in particular meant that several threatened species could safely be re-introduced back to Ulva Island.

The Island today

Nowadays you have the chance to encounter Kākā, Kākāriki, Tūī, Bellbirds/korimako, Pigeons/Kereru, Fantails/Piwakawaka, Saddleback/Tieke, Rifleman/Titipounamu, Brown creeper/Pīpipi, Stewart Island robin/Toutouwai and Yellowhead/Mohua. Not to mention the shore birds, and New Zealand/Hooker’s sea lions that sometimes frequent the beaches and the tracks!

If all that wasn’t enough, it’s pretty much the only place on earth where you have a chance of seeing a kiwi during daylight hours! A lucky one or two visitors a day usually report a sighting…just mind the Weka imposters…

Walking tracks on the Island are well formed and well signed. Track times can be somewhat misleading as they are very generous. We like to say they account for ‘stopping and looking’ time, and that fit people could walk all tracks looped together in 1.5h with no stopping.

Your Experience – Guided or Freedom Walk

Whether you prefer to wander tracks and explore independently at your own pace, or if you want to gain insights, insider stories and expert spying eyes, there is an option to suit you.

For the freedom walkers, we highly recommend purchasing one of the informative Ulva Island self guiding booklets. You can purchase these either from the local DOC centre, the Four Square supermarket, or with cash at the end of the wharf on the island. The booklets are put together by the charitable trust that keeps the island pest free. They offer colour coded track maps that match up with numbered stopping/interest points throughout the island, and bird & plant identification guides and information.

For those that would like expert guidance, we partner with local guides to offer you the expertise and background which bring Ulva to life. Our guides specialise in small group sizes so you won’t get lost in the crowd and will have plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Find out more about guided walk options here.

Getting There

Let the experienced skippers from Rakiura Adventure transport you there, and share with you their knowledge and passion for the wildlife and the history.

Take a trip on our classic Ulva Island ferry ‘Ranui’ which runs on a schedule and includes plenty of opportunity to spot Little Blue penguins and Mollymawks/Albatross on a breezy day.

Or, nip across with our Water-Taxi for a customised departure and return time.

Ulva Island Ferry

Scheduled Sailings:
Departs from Golden Bay Wharf
9:00am, 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00pm
Returns from Ulva Island
10:15pm, 12:15pm, 2:15pm, 4:15pm & (6:00pm in Summer)

Return Fares:
Adult – $20
Child (12y and under)  – $10

No booking required. Please arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to scheduled departures.

*Please note card payment at the boat have a $2 surcharge.

Ulva Island Water Taxi

Transfers to Ulva Island available any time upon request.
Please call Rakiura to arrange
+64 272 898 292

Or make an online enquiry here

Return Fares:
Adult – $25
Child – $15

Cash and eftpos payment options available
*Please note credit card payments at the boat have a 3% surcharge.

*Please note, in the off season – the depths of Winter…brrrr – only the water taxi will be running

Check out the great work of our local school kids in helping you keep Ulva Island predator free!