Two of the oldest and southernmost towns in New Zealand, Bluff and Riverhead / Aparima had plenty to fill a few hours while travelling the Southern Scenic Route between Te Anau and Dunedin.
Bluff is the southernmost town in New Zealand, named after the The Bluff, a prominent hill. The first European’s arrived in 1823/4, and Campbelltown (as it was called till 1917) was named in 1856. It has clearly seen better days, with the closure of huge meat works, but on a good day (which I got on my third visit to Bluff) it’s a pleasant place to explore.
It is most famous for Stirling Point, the start (or end) of State Highway 1, running the length of New Zealand, with its much photographed (and recently updated) signpost. Next to it is half of the chain sculpture by local artist Russell Beck, the other half is on Rakiura / Stewart Island at the start of the Rakiura Track.
Bluff Hill Lookout provides panoramic views of Foveaux Strait and the plains of Southland, with the town and port below, and Rakiura / Stewart Island and the huge aluminium smelter on Tiwai Peninsula in the distance.
Bluff Maritime Museum is pretty comprehensive and worth a visit for anyone interested in maritime heritage. Outside is the Monica, an oystering boat, which was pretty creepy to explore down below, along with the former Stirling Point signpost.
I particularly liked the shop window mannequins dressed in Navy clothes.
In February 2021 the South Sea Spray project, a street art festival, came to Bluff and added significant colour and interest to the town with over 20 murals painted, all by New Zealand artists.
Further round the South Coast to the west, Riverton / Aparima has many similarities with Bluff. It was founded in 1836 and originally called Jacob’s River. It was a popular harbour until it started silting up, though fishing remains the main industry in town.
It is home to one of the best provincial museums in New Zealand, Te Hikoi Museum. This is housed in part in an historic courthouse, and has some wonderful dioramas explaining the history of the town, starting with Maori and whalers.
Outside ‘Black Maria’ is an old restored Johnson model A steam locomotive.
A short drive away Howells Point Reserve is a privately-owned recreation reserve.
Riverton hosted the 2018 South Sea Spray art festival which gifted it with some wonderful street art.