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Invercargill & Bluff

From Te Anau we headed down the Southern Scenic Route, towards Invercargill. The scenery changed to greener, lower hills and farmland. Most “towns” were a couple of buildings.

Scenery between Te Anau and coast

Along the way we stopped at a historic suspension bridge, built in 1890s and used until the 1970s. Now it’s just for curious tourists.

We also lingered at a few of the scenic viewpoints for photos and explored Gemstone Beach. While no diamonds will be found, it does feature some semi-precious stones and many simply pretty stones that can be collected. Large cliffs, somewhat reminiscent of south coast of England (not white though) run along the coast into distance. A small stream enters the beach, as well.

The boys spent quite some time building dams for the stream; rather more successfully than I anticipated! I am not sure how their hands didn’t get frostbite, but they were fine.

Gemstone Beach
Gemstone beach’s namesakes

Invercargill proper is nothing to write home about, though I suppose that is exactly what I’m doing. It reminded me of a small, past-its- glory city in New England. Naugatuck, Rutland, Pittsfield. There are signs of life and a few interesting things but on the whole it’s a bit sad.

Downtown Invercargill
Queen’s Park playground – first “hamster wheel” we’ve seen

And now on to what is possibly the highlight of the entire trip for the kids. Dig This! Yes, they let people drive and dig with real construction equipment. It’s like a dream come true for many. Apparently it is a spin-off of one (also Kiwi owned) in Las Vegas. The kids are already wanting to get to Vegas in coming years.

Nate, being under 12, couldn’t drive his. He did get to dig a big hole, though. Jack learned to drive, spin, dig and fill holes in his 5-ton small excavator. Steve had a full size one! Each had an instructor walking them through on a headset. Steve even picked up a soccer ball from the tip of a traffic cone and other tricks.

Jack learning the ropes
Nate digging away (you have to be 12 to drive, so this one is stationary) This is also smaller than the one Jack is in.
Steve digging is his full size excavator

We also stopped at Bill Richardson’s Transport World. It claims to be the world’s largest private auto museum and I wouldn’t doubt it. It was enormous, certainly, and by far the most vintage trucks I have ever seen in one place. Not even close. All were in beautiful condition, as well.

Bill Richardson’s Transport world – this is heaven if you are into old trucks. Huge huge collection
Bluff – end of their National Highway 1 (though not quite the Southernmost point)

We also took a ride out to Bluff, the symbolic southern-most point on the South Island. It’s the end of Highway 1 that runs the length (more or less) of both islands. The sign above is quite famous. Bluff’s famous for its oysters, though we didn’t see many stores or restaurants open. Bluff is is also infamous (to us) as it was the site of a very unfortunate wedding that started one of NZ’s largest COVID-19 clusters. We’d hear of the “Bluff wedding” regularly on TV. Tragic.

One reply on “Invercargill & Bluff”

Good to know that things are “normal” there, with places that are struggling, places that are fine, and places that are fun to dig around in! Stay safe, and please keep the reports coming!

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