The Bluff Oyster and Food Festival is indisputably the highlight of the South Island’s culinary calendar. For one day, this tiny New Zealand town with the impressive global reputation rejoices in the simplicity of these tiny morsels of perfection.
Bluff oysters are renowned for their succulence and flavour, the result of being allowed to mature very gradually in the pristine, ice-cold waters of the Foveaux Strait, which separates Stewart Island from Bluff, on the mainland. The festival marks the middle of the oyster-harvesting season that runs from March to August, making it the best time of year to sample the juiciest offerings.
A sell-out event, the festival attracts local and international visitors who come to watch blindfold oyster eating, competitive shell shucking and live performances, all to the sounds of tuneful bagpipes.
As well as offering the local delicacy, an array of local meats, wild game and other caught-on-the-day seafood can be washed down with southern craft beers and a selection of New Zealand wines. Make no mistake — this is a salty Southland party that would make any Cornish sailor proud.
WORDS OF WISDOM
- Oyster-themed souvenirs and curiosities can be picked up from the stalls dotted along Bluff’s main street.
- Gear up for the cold; this is a southern hemisphere-winter festival.
- If accommodation in Bluff has sold out, make the day trip from Invercargill. Return bus tickets cost NZ$15.
- Buy entry tickets prior to arrival. If sold out, there will be no door sales until attendees start leaving the grounds.
- Don’t go for just the day — explore all that the unspoilt Southland region has to offer. Just one hour away is Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island, a natural refuge for marine and bird life, and a hiker’s paradise.