Our next destination was Invercargill, the base for a day excursion to Stewart Island, which is south of the South Island. Invercargill bills itself as the southern-most city in the world, but I think there are contenders in Argentina and Chile that would take issue with that claim.

Whenever anyone asks for my favorite part of the trip, I have to pick Stewart Island.

But first we had to get to Invercargill. We spent this and the next several days on the Southern Scenic Route.

Nugget Point Shoreline

At Nugget Point we had the option of walking out to a lighthouse.

The southern shoreline is stunning with blue water, empty white sand beaches, and plenty of wildlife.

Our luck with weather continued to hold -- sunny skies and very little wind. Many of the trees and shrubs in this area were sculpted by strong prevailing winds.

Nugget Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse occupied a dramatic headland.

The islets in the sea beyond the headland are "the nuggets" for which the point is named.

Purakaunui Falls

Our next stop was to visit Purakaunui Falls. Chas apologized for the low rainfall, which had severely impacted the flow over the falls, but for me the best part was the walk through the forest to get there. I don't have a recording of the wonderful bird calls we heard in the bush, but if you're interested you can hear some at the link above. (I recommend the bellbird.)

After the walk to the falls, we had a picnic lunch at the carpark.

Petrified Tree

Curio Bay is the site of a fossil forest. It is so ancient that it predates the separation of New Zealand from the Gondwana super-continent eons ago.

There were many stumps and such, but this tree really grabbed me.  

While in this area we also visited Porpoise Bay hoping to see the rare Hector's Dolphin. We didn't.

Stewart Island

The sea could not have been smoother for our trip to Stewart Island. We couldn't tell at this point what the weather would be on the island. (It was changeable but generally outstanding.)

The high point is Mt. Anglem.

We saw pictures that made it clear that the sea can be MUCH more challenging. In fact the excursion was listed in our materials as "weather permitting."

Albatross taking off

We had a brief minibus tour of the island settlement and then embarked on a boat to visit the natural areas. We were visited by a number of albatross.

It is not easy for these large birds to take off in the absence of  a good breeze. They had to run along the water to get enough airspeed to take wing.

It was fun to see them coming in for a landing with both of their large feet extended for a skidding stop.

White-capped Mollymawk on the wing

I'm always so excited when I get a good picture of birds on the wing! These are Salvin's Mollymawk. Aren't they glorious?

South Sea Hotel, Stewart Island

After the tour of Stewart Island and the cruise of Paterson Inlet, several of our number kicked back with a beer at the South Sea Hotel.

Before that, however, Jim & I and a few others went to the movies to see "A Local's Tail," a whimsical compilation of home movies, historical stills, and tall tales narrated by ... a dog. Check the trailer on YouTube. After the movie the dog was available for a meet & greet.

The giant chess set on the green is made from traffic cones. I wonder if there is a local chess club or ???

Return from Stewart Island

Stewart Island was definitely the high point of a wonderful trip.

The wonderful weather held for our return to Bluff in the late afternoon. Would we have liked it as well had it rained the entire time with a gale-force wind?

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