As we drove along the Mataura River, leaving the Catlins, both Sarah and I remarked how different it was to other parts of New Zealand. With its wild, rugged coastline together with some of the greenest forest, we have seen the photo opportunities were endless so we will return for sure next time we are down this way.
The change in both scenery and driving conditions is quite marked as the road flattens out as well as becoming straighter with an increase in traffic it was apparent that we were back in “civilisation” heading towards Invercargill. Many years ago one of my best friends lived here working for the local radio station, but I never got to visit. I must say as we followed the turn off to Bluff the town was bigger than I expected but more about that later.
The road to Bluff takes you through some scrubby farmland as well as several industrial sites. I have to say that after the Catlins I didn’t think much of the drive even the arrival into Bluff is marked by the tumbling down freezing works but also by this sign.
27 years ago, when we visited, we had taken the obligatory photo at Stirling Point. When we arrived this time, it was impossible to find a park, especially given the size of our camper. So I parked on the hill area while Sarah went out to take a couple of photos. Since we didn’t know how long we would be in town, we felt it was better to get the shot while we could.
Just before we left the Point a lady came up to us to let us know that there was a freedom camping area just outside town by the old freezing works, we thanked her for this info thinking we would at least have a look on the way back past.
Along the waterfront, there are numerous place to stop and admire the water we planned to stop somewhere to have lunch but first a stop at the local dump station located outside the campground. The dump station is rather small with no water our van also blocked the driveway into the camp while we used it. The campsite pricing was $20 per person non powered or $25 per person powered as its the only paid choice in town there aren’t many options if you don’t know about the freedom camp or drive back to Invercargill.
Finding a large parking area next to the tank farm, we sat down for a bite to eat. It was a beautiful spot with a mural painted along the surrounding concrete wall that appeared to have only just been done. With lunch done, it was over the road for a well-deserved icecream.
We decided that we would have a look at the freedom camp but had a little difficulty finding it as the camp is not listed on any of the camping apps. After driving past the old freezing works, Sarah mentioned that it was meant to be up the side road before the works. We drove up the road where the well set out area has several flat areas to park your van as well as the large sculpture that dominates the area. For those looking for the site, it is the road directly opposite the Bluff sign shown above.
As Sarah and I always do once, we have settled the van we set off to explore the area around the camper with the rugged coastline stretching both left and right we chose the left walkway first. The path left was not that well-formed with us returning over the farmland shortly after setting out but not before nabbing some photos of the coastal rocks and a view of a building on the township side that appears to be only accessible when the tide allows.
Heading out again but this time turning right towards the wind farm, the path followed the boundary of the old freezing works before bordering a farm. There was a reasonably well-made track this time with a leisurely walk along the shoreline. Compared to some of the beautiful sandy beaches we have seen recently this was quite a different coastline but in its own way very pretty. The only thing spoiling the walk was the amount of broken concrete and rusty metal that appeared to have just been shoved over the small cliffs hard to know who had done this maybe illegal dumping. We might have walked all the way up to the wind farm, but I rolled my ankle and didn’t feel comfortable with continuing on. It was also extraordinary to find a pair of leather shoes about 2 km’s from the camp seemed like a strange place to leave them.
It was another of those I’ve seen you before moments when we returned from the walk to discover Campbell and his partner parked next to us in their van Adventure before Dementia as we had parked next to them in Dunedin for a couple of days we had also met them in Auckland about 6 months ago in Albany when they had made a trip home for a family event. They have been touring the South Island now for almost 3 years and are coming to the end of their travels ready to settle down. I don’t think we will be on the road that long!
This camp is also very popular with the locals who are collecting Paua, Kina as well as other seafood. Also popular with the fisheries officers who visited regularly. Inspecting catches when they timed their arrival to co-ordinate with someone returning with their catch. The officers also made us feel safer by their presence in the area.
One of the great things about this camp is that because it’s not on any of the app’s none of the tourists know about it, so there were no backpackers there all night.
The following morning it was up early to get back to Stirling Point to grab the shots we had missed out on the previous day. Thankfully parking was a little easier giving us time to have a decent look around before the crowds turned up.
On the way back out of town, we stopped by the local port where yesterday they had unloaded the first of the new season’s oysters, but at $30.99 per dozen, we had decided to give these a miss. It’s obviously a busy port with lots of fishing boats coming and going anytime we happened to be watching.
For those looking for the freedom camp this is the turnoff we strongly recommend the spot, one of the best we have stayed at.
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