The most densely populated ship graveyard in New Zealand. And some appetising sea smells.
The shipwrecks are best viewed at low tide.
Greenpoint Track is signposted on the right, 5 km north of Bluff, shortly after Greenpoint Cemetery. A stonewall marks the entrance to the reserve, which has a parking area and picnic benches overlooking Bluff Harbour.
The even metalled track crosses the railway line then merges to a boardwalk through coastal vegetation of tea-tree, flax and coprosmas. The track leads to picnic benches by the ship graveyard, passing interpretation panels on the birdlife, mudlife and geology.
The appetizing smells of the sea may delay a picnic until you find somewhere a trifle more digestible.
Interpretation panels bring to life the geological history of the shoreline. The distinct bands retreating from the point strikingly show how 240 million years old igneous intrusions have punctured through 170 million year old sedimentary basement rocks. The igneous intrusions lie inclined and have fractures protruding through the flatter sedimentary rock, whose bedding angle is relatively flat.
There are views of Tikore Island, used by Bluff’s pioneer European settler James Spencer to graze pigs, following purchase from Chief Tuhawaiki.
Other vegetation includes oioi, saltmarsh ribbonwood and glasswort on the mudflats. Higher up coprosma rotundifolia and other divaricating coprosmas are prevalent.
Cockles live in the mudflats and are fed on by South Island pied oystercatchers, variable oystercatchers and eastern bar-tailed godwits (northern hemisphere migrants who feed from October to March before embarking on the 10,000 km flight to breed in the Arctic).
Maori stone tools dating from the thirteenth century have been discovered in the region, suggesting the kai moana has long been an attractive lure for settlement.
The deep water entrance to the harbour has given the area long use as a port. The shipping heritage is displayed by the ship graveyard, known as ‘Rotten Row’. It is the final resting place for a number of vessels, many still in the early stages of decrepitude. Some vessels were retirees from Bluff’s oyster and fishing fleets. The boiler of the Savaii and the skeletal ribs of the hull still remain. This ship carried Maori to Titi Island for the annual muttonbird harvest. Other examples include:
Kekeno (1882-1955) – a government training vessel, launched as the Kohimarama and later renamed. She began service in Bluff in 1882 and was a commercial sealing ship until 1947. Her name translates as fur seal.
Orewa was built in Auckland in 1898 as a coastal steamer and sold in 1939 and converted to an oyster boat.
Dispatch was built in Sydney in 1883 as a steamer and arrive in Bluff in 1889. Her career included fishing, ferrying and oystering.
Loyalty was the Wellington ferry until 1906 when she was sold to the Bluff Fish and Oyster Company. She was accidentally sunk by explosives in 1925.
The rotting remains are best viewed at low tide.
South Island ▷ Southland ▷ Bluff
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