Stewart Island | New Zealand
A Spiritual Journey.
It is said that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
We travel to connect - to new experiences, other cultures and to fill our boots with spiritual sustenance. Some return to their home feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated while others leave their hearts on foreign shores.
That’s what happened to Manfred and Ulrike Herzhoff when they visited Rakiura/Stewart Island in the 1980’s. This is the story of how they came from the northern reaches of Europe to make a meaningful life at the bottom of the world.
30 kilometers south of Bluff, Stewart Island/Rakiura is New Zealand’s third largest island. Permanent residents number around 400 and life on the little island is idyllic. It’s home to unique native plants and wildlife found nowhere else on earth. Stewart Island is striving to become the largest 'predator free’ island in the world. Teeming with natural beauty, coastal vistas and endemic wildlife, Rakiura affords visitors a place to reset, reconnect and relax. There’s loads of adventure on offer too, the Rakiura Track, fishing, diving, hiking and hunting.
For years after their initial visit to Rakiura, Manfred & Ulrike commuted between Germany and the Island until “the pendulum swung” and Stewart Island became their home.
Manfred says, “The island has become a uniquely special and spiritual home for us as it re-defines our idea of life; to live and feel alive to the fullest.”
“Everything we do is somehow related to this place, to its community and people living here and how we understand what our life is all about. To be one with nature, with the sea, with the land, flora and fauna, with the people, the ones now and before and the ones who will come after us”.
This spiritual connection led to naming their first born child ‘Rakiura’, the Māori name for Stewart Island. It means ‘place of light’ in Māori language and refers to the brilliant dancing skies when Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) are active.
The Herzhoff family believe that living is not about just living your own life, but being with others and sharing with others. This ethos led to ventures in tourism on Stewart Island and gave birth to a holistic vision where local businesses can thrive from a growing visitor market.
Like many young folk, Rakiura Herzhoff was drawn to travel and spent time overseas studying anthropology before returning to the island where he drives the family business. With a commercial skippers ticket under his belt, his passion is evident when taking visitors out to discover and appreciate all the Island has to offer.
Ulva Island is a predator free nature reserve located inside Paterson Inlet with a land mass of 260 odd hectares and coastline of about 11 kilometres.
Rakiura Adventure operates the Ulva Island Ferry Service enabling guests to experience an enchanting excursion to the predator free sanctuary. Prolific birdlife thrives in the rainforest on Ulva Island and a trip there offers beautiful insights into what New Zealand was like prior to human activity. Passengers on the Ulva Island Ferry present a special leaf as their boarding pass, a novel ticketing approach introduced by dedicated team member Anyta Cox who operates the shore station.
A recent addition to the Rakiura Adventure fleet is the historic vessel MV Wairangi. Built in 1934 by renowned boat builders Miller & Tunnage of Dunedin, she’s made of beautiful native kauri with well appointed accommodations and considered functionality. MV Wairangi will be available for private overnight charters by individuals, groups and families to enjoy a bespoke experience while cruising the island’s coves and bays.
Local knowledge plays a big part of interacting with visitors and you’ll definitely get more than the ‘bog standard’ commentary when venturing out with Rakiura Adventure. Teaming up with a growing network of local hosts and activity operators means better outcomes for the ‘islanders’ and an opportunity to improve and progress communal tourism infrastructure while retaining funds locally. Remaining true to their vision and values, Rakiura Adventure offers a range of community links to encourage guests to explore more while claiming no commission. They include E-bike hire, water taxis, hunting & fishing excursions, cruises, charters, nature tours, kiwi spotting, accommodation options and more.
Rakiura Herzhoff is now leading Future Rakiura, a group of progressive and focussed community members. He’s also a member of the Community Council. This work is strongly based to balance a love and passion for the Island and it’s community and to engage and motivate other residents of the island to ‘live and breathe’ Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Of course, progress requires visionaries and commitment. Steadfast in their resolve that visitor revenue should remain within their community for the benefit of all Stewart Islanders, Manfred & Ulrike recently purchased a property in the heart of Oban with a three stage plan to transform it into a multi-use visitor centre. Eventually, the footprint will be increased to build a second floor into the hill to accommodate a bistro/brewery with breath-taking views over the bay and Oban.
Completely remarkable, Stewart Island is a magical destination and a place all New Zealanders should venture to. It's a place where unique wildlife including kiwi roam freely.
This place of light is where peaceful slumber comes under a dazzling night sky to the sound of gentle lapping waves and the rustling of giant tree ferns. Where morning is broken with the excited chatter of magnificent tūī & kākā, perfectly nestled in endless vistas of ocean and coastal bush. A place where the people are welcoming while remaining firmly grounded in the Island's history and unique environment, all the while extending a genuine willingness to share it with you.
Are you ready for your Rakiura Adventure?
Getting to Stewart Island/Rakiura
Ferries from Bluff run regularly. There is long term parking available at the ferry terminal from $21 per day. You can book here
Flights take 15 - 20 mins from Invercargill Airport. You can book here.