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  • Writer's pictureRose Parsons

Takapourewa - Stephens Island, Marlborough Sounds

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

Takapourewa, later known as Stephens Island is located northeast of D’Urville Island in the outer most reaches of the Marlborough Sounds. Jutting out of the strong currents and wild winds of the Cook Strait, Takapourewa has been historically a notable place despite its extreme isolation.

In early Māori history it was here that one of Kupe’s men Pani, attempted to abscond with Kupe’s daughter. Pursued by Kupe; who had earlier rescued his daughter from the water, Pani capsized his waka in the areas famously strong currents and winds and perished. Read more.

Captain Cook used the high, steep sided island to serve as a land mark when he circumnavigated the South Island, to confirm he was re-entering the Marlborough Sounds in 1770. He named the island Stephens Island after Sir Phillip Stephens, Secretary of the Admiralty who was on board and in the crows nest when it was first sited.

The island was later taken by the Government of the day from the owners Ngāti Koata in 1891 to use as a light house island for coastal navigation, necessitating that a boat landing ledge and vertical tramway up the precipitous cliffs be constructed. The first beacon of light lit the sky in 1894 fueled by oil, to this day it is one of New Zealand most powerful lights with a range of 18 nautical miles. The light house was manned until 1989 by a number of light house keepers who were also honorary wildlife rangers, whose duty it was to watch over the last strong hold of the endemic reptile the Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus). The lighthouse keeper who took cats to the island has forever been damned with the reputation for causing the extinction of the last of the Lyall's wren. Read more

Today the island is the Mana Whenua of the Ngāti Koata in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. Visits to the island are strictly limited and no public access is permitted. The island is home of the Stephens Island gecko and Hamilton's frog which are rare or endemic to the island.

Although we do not land on the island, we can view the island and other offshore islands like the Trio Islands from the water if the conditions permit. If you would like to join our tour to D'Urville Island you can read more here

Our inclusive nature tours of the South Island are created for seniors, but are ideal for anyone with a sense of adventure, and a love of nature and heritage. We look forward to connecting you with rural New Zealand!

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