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Stirling Point and Bluff Hill: Not Quite the Bottom of the South Island

Stirling Point and Bluff Hill: Not Quite the Bottom of the South Island

Bluff, a small town south of Invercargill, has always been known as the bottom of the South Island. It’s actually not – that crown goes to Slope Point (an hour away in the Catlins region) but I guess it’s the southern most town and it’s worth visiting for the views from Bluff Hill. Stirling Point, directly below Bluff Hill, is also worth checking out – combine them both for a fun hour or two!

Stirling Point

It takes around 25 minutes to drive between Invercargill and Bluff, and I’d recommend heading straight for Stirling Point. It gets busy so you might have to park a little way down the street like we did. There’s a lighthouse, a beach and some nice coastal views as you walk towards Stirling Point.

At Stirling Point you’ll see a sign pointing off in numerous directions and an anchor-chain sculpture which mirrors the one on Stewart Island, which is just south of Bluff. There are also several walks starting there – we did a bit of the track around the coast which is a good option if you want to stretch your legs. There are also tracks heading up Bluff Hill, but we figured we’d be lazy and drive. There’s a café / restaurant at Stirling Point with some nice views, so it could be worth timing your visit for lunch.

Bluff Hill

The road to the top of Bluff Hill is easy to find and the views from up there are stunning on a nice day. You can see to across to Stewart Island and along the southern coast of the South Island. You’ll notice the massive aluminium smelter, which does take away from the pristineness a little, but I guess it’s easy to ignore. There’s a big car park at the top and several places where you can admire the views. It gets very windy up there and this region of New Zealand is known for its bad weather, so try and visit on a nice day if you can.

Stewart Island in the distance


Bluff is a nice enough town but there isn’t too much else to keep you occupied. It’s the gateway to Stewart Island (the ferries leave from the terminal in town) and its particularly famous for the local “Bluff Oysters”, said to be some of the best oysters in the world. I can’t confirm that though – I think I was put off oysters from a young age as my dad insisted they be eaten raw, which obviously never appealed to a fussy kid. The main part of town is OK – there are some old buildings and a few decent places to eat – but it’s not somewhere you’d spend more than a night in I’d say.

The Catlins

As I said before, Slope Point in the Catlins is the true southern-most point on the South Island. I haven’t been yet (the road there was closed last time I tried) but the Catlins is an awesome place – so many great beaches and waterfalls including Curio Bay, Cannibal Bay, Tautuku Bay, Matai Falls and McLean Falls.

Are you planning a road trip around the South Island of New Zealand? Check out my two-week itinerary!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.