– MARCH 27, 2015
The travels within New Zealand can’t be complete without a trip to Bluff. Earlier we hit Cape Reigna, the northern most point of New Zealand on the #1 highway. Now we have to hit the southern most point of the #1 highway at Bluff. Both locations have the same signage that points out major locations across the globe from this point. We needed to experience both points.
Now this isn’t truly the most southern point of New Zealand, but it symbolically represents that designation. Stewart Island is the true southern point, but let’s not dicker about it. There is a common New Zealand saying of “from Cape Reigna to the Bluff” to mean from the top to the bottom. Bluff and Stewart Island both have cool art pieces of a huge chain that symbolically links Stewart Island to the main land of New Zealand.
There is the same piece on both Stewart Island and in Bluff. They were unveiled in 2002 on Stewart Island and was subsequently gun shot on its first day by unruly islanders. Personally, I think its a cool idea and should be considered as a connection between the people of New Zealand.
Oysters…more specifically, Bluff Oysters. These are considered the best oysters in the world by many and it just so happens that Bluff Oyster season starts in March. Bully for us! After asking around for the best place to have Bluff Oysters caught within 24 hours, we were directed to Fowler’s Oysters. This place only opens during the oyster season and specializes in their wonderful oysters. When we pulled up it looked like a Saskatchewan small town service station…are we really in the right place?
I went inside and asked if this was the right place, they promptly told me this was not a restaurant. I asked “do you cook and sell Bluff Oysters caught within 24 hours?“…the lady replied “Yes, but we are not a restaurant“.
I didn’t point out the flaw in her logic…I just ordered a dozen raw Bluff Oysters and a dozen cooked Bluff Oysters at this apparent non-restaurant. I added a scoop of chips as a side (you order chips in New Zealand by scoops it seems…when you ask what’s a scoop of chips look like the take-away workers we have met look at us like you just asked the dumbest question in existence rather than just explaining it).
The oysters came in a container that we usually get fishing bait in back in Saskatchewan…a small plastic container that could read “minnows” on it back home. Not the most appetizing way to showcase such a revered and special delicacy…but proceed on we did! The cooked ones were dipped in batter and deep-fried.
We had some garlic crackers left in the car, so we made some delicious snacks. Jill tried one raw oyster…kudos to her for getting it down. I wish we had a picture of her face! I was happy to polish off the 11 raw ones left. She didn’t mind the cooked ones, so we went about taking care of these 24 oysters and some of the chips. It was more food than we could handle, so the sea gulls got some chips for a snack.
Bluff Oysters were better than any I had in Vancouver or Seattle…they were simply great.
Bluff Hill is a decent hike 265m (870 feet) up that has some World War II stops of great interest. The walk is a good workout, but the path is well manicured and maintained as you traverse through the woods and open areas.
When the walk opens up you can get some amazing views of the ocean and the tree canopy.
Back in World War II, there was fear of a marine invasion from enemy ships. They built a Battery Observation Post as part of Bluff’s coastal defences. The battery observation post was the lookout, as 30m up the hill a gun battery was installed to counter any marine attacks. Installed in this observation post was a Barr and Stroud Admiralty Pattern Rangefinder, able to measure the fall of shots from the gun emplacement over a range of almost 13 kilometres. Observers then relayed, by telephone, the adjustments needed for an accurate line of fire.
Up the hill lies the remains of the battery. A concrete structure held the cannon on a swivel base and ammunition was stored in the concrete building behind it, which were constructed after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec 8, 1941 and its subsequent command of the Pacific. They built this in 2 months despite the urgency of government request, atrocious winter weather, and a shortage of road metal.
There were barracks built close by so the posts could be manned at all times. All that remains of the camp today are the concrete foundations.
Beyond the visual cues of the observation post, they also used radar to prepare for any attacks. The radar had a range of 48 kilometres (30 miles) and its job was to detect armed raiders. It provided essential information to the coastal defence camp lower down the hill. Any unexplained radar signal would send troops a message to the observation post and gun battery. All that remains today is the foundation for the radar antennae.
The coastline here was beautiful.
Upon departing from Bluff we headed for Te Anau. On the way we noted some surfing hot spots, so we stopped at one to see how the waves were looking. At McCrackens Rest we saw a replica of the Cape Reigna/Bluff signs, but this one only has New Zealand locations as opposed to international locations. Still it was cool to come across it unexpectedly.
Nobody was surfing here, but the waves certainly looked dangerous for a surfing fanatic. It was crazy!
We continued on to Te Anau to see some more natural beauty. This area offers plenty of nature hikes of different difficulty.
Te Anau also had a sun dial, which seems to be a repeated design element on DOC sites.
Next we are returning to Queenstown for the sequel.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.