Southland Tour







As we expected we had thoroughly enjoyed the extra time we managed to spend in Stewart Island. With Fiordland it remains a relatively unvisited wilderness. Though the weather can be challenging, the cruising itself is not excessively demanding, so long as you choose your weather correctly. We were sad to head away, but other travel plans were becoming pressing, so we headed East out of Foveaux Strait past Nugget Point.





More than anything we were sad to be leaving behind the flocks of albatross which we had delighted in throughout our time in the far south. Though there are albatross to be seen throughout New Zealand waters, they abound in the far south. To be fair, our next destination, Dunedin, has its share of Royal Albatross, which breed on the Taiaroa Peninsula, which bounds the southern side of Otago Harbour.






After the isolation and peace of Fiordland and Stewart Island, Otago Harbour was a stark contrast, with its busy channel and the container port at Port Chalmers, where the very Scottish ‘kirk’ stands in curious juxtaposition to the huge cranes.


Our ultimate destination was 20 miles up the Harbour at the Otago Yacht Club in Dunedin City. The Harbour does not boast a modern marina, but the welcome at the OYC was warm and the Facilities Manager, Kevin Martin, was extremely helpful.


The Club has a few alongside berths and pile moorings. Depths in the basin vary and many areas are less than 2 metres. The Club is conveniently a short bike into the city centre. A pile mooring was ideal from our point of view as a place to leave ‘Sunstone’ safely while we were away on our air travels.









To make the most of the few days which remained before our flights to New York, we hired a car for a brief land-cruise of Southland. We had a delightful hike along the Catlins River. As usual the DOC-maintained track was excellent and the scenery beautiful. We also had a number of sightings of the relatively rare Yellowhead, which is one of a number of endangered native New Zealand birds.





Along the coast at Curio Bay, we took the opportunity of low tide to see the unusual remains of petrified wood in which the grain was still visible. The extensive kelp beds nearby were very attractive, but we were very happy that we didn’t have to anchor anywhere near them!










The Southland towns of Invercargill and Bluff still reflect some of the glories and prosperity of the early 20th century, though both are now much reduced in size and wealth from those days. Bluff particularly is a fairly sleepy backwater, which only comes alive during the crayfishing and oyster seasons. Thereafter most of the fishing boats based at the harbour head for other grounds for the rest of the summer.


It was good to have a final view of Stewart Island across Foveaux Strait on a perfect Southland day. All too often this view would be obscured by rain and spray in the westerly gales and storms that regularly thunder through the Strait.





As this panoramic view from the top of Bluff Hill shows, Bluff Harbour itself is a wonderful natural harbour and is still the site of one of New Zealand’s major industrial installations, namely the aluminium smelter on the point opposite the town. This huge facility has its own power station and docks. Unfortunately its siting does little to benefit the town as access to it by road involves a trip of many kilometres. Thus most of the workers at the plant are drawn from Invercargill.






One of the primary reasons for our visit to Bluff was to meet Meri Leask in person for the first time. We had spoken to Meri many times on the radio, as she runs Bluff Fishermen’s Radio as a service both to the local fishermen and to visiting yachts. Meri holds two scheds per day during which she provides the Metservice marine weather forecasts and vessels can check in with their positions and pass on weather information. Meri is often the first to pick up distress calls in South Island waters and she has been instrumental in assisting with several major rescues. Both Meri and Bluff Fishermen’s Radio have become national institutions