Invercargill’s port is Bluff, 16 miles (27km) further south. The port’s main claim to fame is the delicious oysters that are harvested during a limited season from Foveaux Strait and which send New Zealand’s seafood gourmets into raptures of delight.
The pleasures of seafood aside there is not a great deal more to Bluff to distract the attention of visitors eagerly awaiting the departure of the Stewart Island ferry. One ‘sight’ that is impossible to miss is the rather unattractive industrial complex of the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, just across the water. The smelter is one of the largest in the world and Southland’s largest single employer. A free tour of the complex takes about two hours.
Another place of interest is the unique Paua Shell House, a private home decorated with thousands of brightly polished paua (abalone) shells.
At Stirling Point (follow SH1 through Bluff, along the coast) there is a restaurant with sea views and the start of a coastal walkway (2 hours). For the best views around, either walk or drive to the top of Bluff Hill (869ft/265m).
Oysters fresh from the sea can be sampled from March 1 until August 31, but the highlight of the season is undoubtedly the week-long Bluff Seafood Festival in mid-April. Those who wish can visit the oyster sheds during the season to watch skilled workers scooping the delectable molluscs from their shells. Although purists will prefer them raw, the oysters are commonly disguised in a (hopefully) crisp batter and sold by the local take-aways as oysters and chips.