Our Heritage

From the 13th century the island's rich resources of native flora and birds, seafood and that very special delicacy, the titi (Sooty Shearwater/Muttonbird) provided a bountiful harvest for Maori.

Early in the 19th century explorers, sealers, missionaries, miners and settlers from all corners of the world made their mark on the island. Marriage with local Maori women created strong family and cultural links to Rakiura.

Saw millers, boat builders and fishermen followed. The island's population grew, stabilized and settled, mainly around the edges of Paterson Inlet and the heads of Halfmoon and Horseshoe Bays, and in short-lived ventures at Port William, Port Pegasus, and Maori Beach.

In the 1920's new arrivals came from Norway as part of the Rosshavet whaling enterprise. Those who chose to stay permanently added another thread to the interesting tapestry of nationalities living on Stewart Island.  Whalers' Base is a protected marine heritage site and in 2014 was declared an archaeological site by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, making it the first marine heritage site in the country.

A visit to Stewart Island isn't complete without a browse through the Rakiura Museum.

Today, little remains of those wider, scattered settlements and the enterprises which fostered their establishments. Fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are the main pursuits which now support the islands population of 390 people. This affirms the natural attributes of the island qualities which first attracted Maori and Europeans to its shores.