Captain Cook, after sailing round the east, south and west coasts of straw to Ireland in March 1770, believed that there was little reason to suppose of an island. So he called the region south of Cape and on his card he linked it with bloodlines to the South Island. It was not for another 30 years that it was discovered to be an island.
The settlements have come and gone on the island, and now there is only Oban at half Moon Bay. The 500 inhabitants of the town have two stores, a hotel, and more than 30,000 visitors a year.
In shape, the island is a ragged triangle. Its West Coast, 60 km long from Rugged Point in the North to South West Cape, faces the unceasing rollers of the Tasman Sea. The southeast coast, from South West Cape to East Cape, is scarcely less rugged or exposed but has a few good harbours. Beyond East Cape the coast faces north-east, this is the milder, sheltered aspect where the bush is at its most luxuriant.
Virtually every type of vegetation on Stewart Island differed significantly from its counterpart on the South Island, according to this page. The distinctive plant life is a product of the island soils, geology and climate, plus modification during nearly 10,000 years of isolation.
In the mid-1870s the first boatload of organised sightseers arrived at Halfmoon Bay from Bluff. Since then there have been regular voyages and flights across Foveaux strait. Many visitors prefer the 20 minute flight from Invercargill to the two hour ferry voyage from Bluff across the often turbulent strait.