Bluff Oyster Festival

Oyster-shucking contest
oyster-shucking contest

Bluff is a small port town on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Bluff is known for their oysters and is the gateway to Stewart Island. We traveled down specifically for the Bluff Oyster Festival. When we arrived in Invercargill late Friday it was clear the town was filling up for Saturday’s event.

Since Invercargill is only 30 kilometres from Bluff it was the obvious place to stay. Shuttles were supposed to run hourly in the morning, but our stop was bypassed by full buses. We waited 30 minutes to get on a bus. Upon arrival we went straight for the freshly shucked oysters. Served on the half shell with vinegar and lemon they were meaty and tasted of the sea. Delicious! Next we tried to get fried oysters, but the line in front of us of 200+ people was not moving. Everyone seemed to be crowded into the food tent to avoid the intermittent rain. Allen and I stopped by the drink tent and ended up in the last tent in the middle of an oyster-shucking contest. Guys shucking 50 oysters in less than 3 minutes! Then was the ladies’ competition and finally a blindfold race. Such fun to watch and it was easy to get caught up in the local pride and cheer on the hometown participants.

raw kina
raw kina

Eventually we made our way back to the fried oysters, bbq smoked oysters and Oysters Rockefeller. Kina was an option but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the spiky sea urchins.

With over 5000 attendees, 2016 was Bluff’s largest festival to date. If the festival continues to grow the organisers need to reconsider the layout to improve the flow of foot traffic, and increase the number of food and drink vendors to match capacity. It was a frustrating start to the day not getting on scheduled shuttles and standing on insanely long queues. Thankfully there were other activities to entertain us.

Dates: 20-22 May 2016
Travel with: Allen
Weather: cloudy and cold with a few drizzles; 40-50s
Accommodation: Our room at Southern Comfort was really cold at night.

  • Bluff Oyster Festival 2016

Food & Drink:

  • Batch Cafe (!!)
  • Speights Ale House
  • Bombay Palace

Transportation: Air NZ via Christchurch; event shuttle to Bluff for festival