"Is Bluff New Zealand’s oldest settlement?" Bluff Things to Do Tip by Kakapo2
Bluff Things to Do: 21 reviews and 29 photos
Bluff is not only mainland New Zealand’s southernmost town (not: southernmost point, as Slope Point holds this superlative) but also the country’s oldest settlement. This claim, however, is disputed because the missionary settlement in Kerikeri (Northland) dates back further.
Bluff bases its claim on the first ship that is known to have entered the harbour in 1813. This was the Perseverance in search of flax trading possibilities. The first settlers arrived in 1823/24 only.
In Kerikeri Samuel Marsden acquired land for the Church Missionary Society in 1814. He planted the first grape vines in 1819, and the first plough was used by Reverend J G Butler in 1820.
James Spencer is credited as Bluff’s first European settler. In 1824 he purchased land from Tuhawaiki, built a house and established a fishing station which employed 21 people. This was the birth of Bluff which has a longer history of European settlement than any other New Zealand town.
By 1850 most parts of Southland were settled by European runholders.
Bluff became Southland’s service centre, with goods for farming and the sawmilling industry being shipped in from Australia. You might not think of it – but Bluff is New Zealand’s closest port to Australia.
The gold rush attracted another 1600 settlers arriving on twelve ships, most from Glasgow, between 1862 and 1864.
You cannot imagine such busy life when you walk through Bluff today.
One of New Zealand’s first railway lines connected Bluff to Invercargill. It was built between 1863 and 1867. This was hugely important because there was a big swamp between the two towns which caused access problems. The railway line solved this problem.
The first European name of the town was The Mount, followed by Old Mans Bluff – the term “old man” derived from the Celtic meaning: high rock. Later it became The Bluff. But before becoming Bluff on 1 March 1917 the name was changed to Campbelltown in 1856.
The Maori called the place Motupohue, meaning: Island of Convolvulus. Their main settlement prior to European arrival was nearby Ruapuke Island.
Due to its location at the foot of 265 metre high Bluff Hill the town has a history of whaling, sealing and shipping.
You can learn quite a lot about it at Bluff’s Maritime Museum which you find on the Foreshore Road, probably 200 metres from the Stewart Island ferry terminal. The exhibits include whaling and oystering shipwrecks and a working steam engine from the TST Awarua. Their pride is the oyster boat Monica, situated beside the museum with a replica sea bed and oyster dredges. You can board the vessel and explore its nooks and crannies.
Open Mon – Fri 10am – 4.30pm
Sat, Sun and public holidays 1pm – 5pm (in winter only until 4pm)
Admission NZ$ 2.
Phone (03) 212 7534
More Reviews (7)
- See All Stewart Island Ferry Terminal
- See All Bluff Hill Environmental Trust
- Bluff Oysters and Oyster Festival
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