Stewart Island is almost bisected by Paterson Inlet. This expansive waterway
opens into the Pacific near the eastern entrance to Foveaux Strait. Mt
Rakiahua at the head of the Inlet is almost exactly half-way between
he east and west coasts. Here the Inlet divides into the Sou' West and
Today, only a few homes in the town of Oban overlook
this enchanted place of bays and coves. In former days small
communities dotted it's shores. From the 1870s to the 1920s sawmills
at the water's edge cut timber from rimu trees brought from the
forest interior. The last sawmills were at North
Arm and Kaipipi.
In the 1920s and early 1930s a Norwegian whaling company maintained
workshops at Kaipipi. At the end of the summer whaling season in the
Antartic, the fleet returned here. Around
40 men over-wintered here to service the whale-chasers, while the
factory ships returned to Europe with the catch.
Stewart Island's first Post Office and store opened on Ulva Island in
Paterson Inlet in 1867. It was a logical site. There were no roads and a
scattered population. When the monthly mail-boat arrived, a flag was hoisted
on a hill top. Settlers would climb in their boats and row or sail out to
collect their mail and stores.
Big Glory Bay, on the south side of the Inlet had a permanent population
when a sawmill worked there. Today it has semi-permanent residents. Barges
with living quarters on-board are a week-on home for workers in the industry.
The marine farms are hidden from the main part of the Inlet. This is
given over to recreation. Tour boats visit Ulva Island and other
sites, while fishing and diving are
popular recreation for locals, holiday home owners and visitors. Water
taxis give trampers easy access to Fred's Camp, Freshwater Hut or
North Arm at the head of the Inlet. More energetic folk can hire sea
kayaks to reach these places, or explore the myriad of beaches and
bays in the Inlet.