Visit Bluff, Southland, NZ

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  • Bluff is a port town at the extreme south of the South Island, about 25 minutes’ drive east of Invercargill. It was one of New Zealand’s first European settlements, pioneered by early whalers and flax traders.

    The town is named after a 265-metre ancient volcanic hill that was called “Old Man’s Bluff” by early whalers, which dominates the township, and shelters from sea winds. The township is located on the eastern side of a peninsula separating the harbour from Awarua Bay to the west.

    Bluff is famous in New Zealand for its annual harvest of oysters from Foveaux Strait. These are larger and sweeter than the Pacific Oyster found in more northerly waters, and are considered a national delicacy. Fattened sooty shearwater chicks, known as muttonbirds, harvested from Foveaux Strait islands are also another local delicacy.

    Accommodation in Bluff (NZ)

    Bluff has a hotel, motels and a number of bed & breakfast lodges. There are also holiday homes to rent (known as “cribs” in the south).

    Nearby Omaui beach has a holiday park that caters for motor camping and backpackers.

    Transport around Bluff

    A regular bus service connects Bluff with Invercargill. Other road transport options include travelling north-east through the Catlins towards Dunedin.

    Bluff was the site of New Zealand’s first railway, which became part of the “main trunk” line from the north of the North Island. However, it became a freight-only service decades ago, mainly servicing Tiwai Point, New Zealand’s only aluminium smelter, located on the opposite side of the harbour to the township and providing employment for many of its residents.

    Mountain biking around Bluff Hill is very popular, and this stage is a highlight of the prestigious annual Tour of Southland international cycling race.

    Tourist Activities around Bluff

    Bluff Hill has a network of tracks that approach it from the coast or inland. Some of these trails are suitable for mountain bikes. A lookout station at the top of the hill gives a panoramic view of the coastline and harbour.

    Bluff’s nautical heritage is brought to life at its Maritime Museum, which features a life-sized oyster dredging boat on display.

    Bluff’s annual oyster harvest festival is held in mid-May each year and is run along the lines of a food and wine festival with many events during its week of progress.

    Fishing and diving are popular activities around Bluff, due to its richness of marine life. Hunting is also popular. Experienced guides are available for all such activities.

    Boats can be chartered for sightseeing purposes, as well as for fishing trips. As well, scenic flights are available. Such charters can be weather-dependant, as sub-Antarctic storms, especially during winter, can make flying and boating too dangerous.

    Note that there are no automated banking machines in Bluff, although electronic payments over the counter are possible. Therefore, visitors are advised to bring a reserve of cash.

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