After a long drive back from Milford Sound to Te Auna, we continued south for several hours until we reached Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand.
As we had been warned we found very little in the city to get excited about. According to our guidebook, one of the main attractions was the Invercargill Brewery. However this was clearly not a popular opinion, as we arrived to find it had shut its doors for good the previous day.
We found a campsite just outside of the city, before continuing south to Bluff the following morning. Most tourists that make it this far south head straight to Sterling Point, which according to popular misconception signifies the southernmost point of the New Zealand mainlaind.
It was amazing to think just how far from home we were, with London over three times further away than the South Pole. We took the obligatory photo of the sign before driving back into the small town.
Bluff is also famous for its oysters, which are often claimed to be the finest in the world. We were fortunate to arrive just a few days into the season, which runs from March until either August or when the allowed catch has been reached. We visited the small Fowler’s Oysters to sample some of the delicacy ourselves. With neither of us fans of raw oysters, we ordered ours battered and deep fried. While i’m sure any culinary experts would be horrified by the idea, we enjoyed them very much!
Rather than the shorter inland route, we decided to take the coastal road to Dunedin. This meant we rejoined the Southern Scenic Route and continued to the Catlins coastal area.
Our first stop here was at the scenic Waipapa Point, where we took a short walk around the headland. This took us past the small lighthouse, which dates back to 1884, before continuing down to a beach.
The smooth pebbles and calm water made for perfect stone skimming conditions, although neither of us proved to be very good, with an underwhelming best effort of four skips. On the far side of the beach we encountered a large sea lion, lazily relaxing on the beach and ignoring both us and the surrounding seabirds.
Slightly further along the coastline we came to Slope Point, which is the southernmost point of the New Zealand mainland. As indicated by the far less impressive sign, it is actually located 7km closer to the South Pole than Stirling Point. The point is located on private farmland, and can only be reached with a short walk from the nearby road.
After stopping at Curio Bay for a brief afternoon nap, we continued along the highway before reaching the stunning Florence Hill Lookout. The views over Tautuka Bay and along the coastline were great, and we could just about make out several surfers trying their luck on the large waves.
We camped for the night at nearby Papatowai Bay, finding a secluded campsite only a few minutes walk away from the beach.
The following morning we made our way inland, taking a gravel track through remote farmland before reaching Purakanui Falls. The 20m tiered waterfall is one of the most popular in New Zealand, and despite limited rainfall for several weeks it was still an impressive sight. We followed the short walking trail through thick forest, before stopping at several viewing platforms.
Back on the road, we continued towards Dunedin where we were hoping to find more life than we had done in Invercargill.