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Paterson Inlet

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 South West and North Arms.

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.


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