If you look at a map, Bluff looks like the furthest south you can get without hopping a ferry to Stewart Island. It’s actually not though. Slope Point in the Catlans holds the honor. Bluff however, is where you get oysters. Sweet Bluff oysters are harvested in the Foveaux Strait and sent all over the country from here. It’s also famous for a signpost that mirrors the one in Cape Reinga and an awesome piece of artwork that symbolizes a Maori legend. A giant chain link descends from Stirling Point into the sea and Stewart Island has the other end rising out of the sea and sunk into the ground. It symbolizes the Maori Gods use of Stewart Island as an anchor for his canoe; which is the south island. What can I say? The oysters were lovely. We found a little fish and chip shop and spilt a dozen for dinner. I would have thought that they might have been a bit more reasonable as they were so close to where they are dredged, but they weren’t.
Our next destination was Invercargill. There is a E. Hayes & Sons Ltd. hardware store there that is a must see for any gear head or admirer of classic cars, bikes and accoutrement. I don’t want to say too much about it now, as I am planning a post on cars and bikes seen around New Zealand and want to include this there. I will say though that they have the original “The Worlds Fastest Indian” on display. Burt Monroe would be so proud.
Our other reason for going to Invercargill was a continuing passion for Bluff oysters. We stopped at a fish shop we’d heard about; Henry’s, that will fry up whatever you buy for a dollar more. We got a few oysters, some blue cod, garlic shrimps, and the ubiquitous fries. We’ve learned too; to say no salt on our orders. OMG! It was sooo good. The store is fabulous too, though not out of the ordinary for fish shops here.
From there, we headed east to the Catlans in search of penguins, dolphins and sea lions. At Curio Bay, we read there is a nightly penguin parade up from the beach, through a petrified forest and into the dunes. Our guide-book said they come up at dusk so we went to check it out. We stayed from seven pm to nine and never saw a one. We did see beautiful scenery and the petrified forest was neat, but it did cut down on our camping options that night. Luckily, there was a campground right up the road.
The next day started rainy and miserable, but with another cool bay to explore we threw on our waterproofs and went out anyway. The campground hugs the cliff of Porpoise Bay and this bay is the where some mini dolphins known as Hector’s Dolphins live their whole lives. The campground also offers surf lessons so the dolphins are used to people. As we watched a couple of kayakers in the water, we could see the dolphins would swim up quite close to check them out before dashing away. Marc was entranced and went to check about a surfing lesson for us so we could swim with the dolphins. Thank goodness they were closed, that water is cold!
Cannibal Bay was going to be a bit of a trek with the hope of seeing some sea lions. It turned out to be all about the sea lions. We came across the first one sleeping on the sand about half way round the bay and from there they just seemed to multiply as we continued. Further along we saw a group of people standing a respectful distance from a group of three adolescents and one adult male taking them all on. He was massive, and they didn’t stand a chance. It looked more like play than anything though and was highly entertaining. We walked further after they all decided to take a nap and saw many more scattered around the beach and their trails going into the dunes. It was those tracks into the dunes that dissuaded us from continuing our walk as we heard a roar as we were walking that way. Discretion was the better part of valor there. Those things might look like kids in pajamas, but they really can hustle for short distances.
Further up the coast we hit Nugget Point and Roaring Bay. Nugget Point has some really cool little nugget islands right off shore that are popular with the local fur seals and we saw tons. They are very shy though and as they mainly stay off shore or quite a distance away on the beach, we needed the binoculars to see them. It was incredible to see them at the top of the nuggets and bopping their way up the rocks to find a good location for a nap. It also looked like they had a kiddie pool for the young’uns inside one of the nuggets. What a treat!
Roaring Bay was where we finally saw our first two penguins. They were Yellow-eyed penguins or YEPS for short and boy are they cute! We spied on them from the hide and swapped sighting locations and experiences with the other folks there as we incredulously watched them laboriously hop/walk/waddle their way up the cliffs through the tall grasses to reach their nests. It seems that our visit coincided with molting season though, which may be why we didn’t see more of them. During that time they replace all their feathers and aren’t waterproof so they really can’t do much except stay on shore, lose weight and try to avoid being eaten.
We moved on after that, out of the Catlans and into the southeast towards Dunedin with lots of stops along the way. In search of penguins, sea lions, and seals. Did we find them? Yes, we did, but that is a story for another day. In the meantime, I’d like to send out a thank you to all the folks who are reading my blog, following me, sending comments or just “liking” me. Family, friends, friends of family and total strangers that just found me through WordPress. Thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to me. Cheers!