If you want to go to the Southernmost point of New Zealand, you’ll end up at Steward Island. Since many tourists don’t take the ferry to the small island, there is the southern tip of the South Island instead.
On all the brochures you see the pole with the bright yellow signs indicating distances to other places in the world. This pole is located in Stirling Point in Bluff, the port of Invercargill, where you can also take the ferry to Steward Island. Bluff is only a small town and seems to be there because of the harbor. As a tourist you can stay here, but it is mainly a place to wait for your connection or come for a day trip. There is a hill from which you have a good view of the area, including Steward Island. You can drive up the steep road, or climb up via Stirling Point. Many people just go to Bluff to take a photo with the yellow sign.
However, this yellow sign is not the southernmost place of the South Island. The real Southernmost place can be found in a paddock full of sheep. On my way to Bluff I took the dirt road from Curio Bay to Fortrose and took the turnoff to Slope Point, as the southernmost place is called. It is a long dirt road, but surprisingly has a backpackers along it. There are plenty of farms in this area, but it still surprises me that this many people live along an unsealed road. I wouldn’t want to drive this day in day out.
Suddenly I see a sign pointing into the paddocks. Slope Point. What? There is no big parking lot. There isn’t even any official parking. All there is, is some grass at the side of the road and this sign pointing towards sea. I open the gate into the paddock and start walking. I think I see some sort of track, but there are no signs anymore. I hope I’m taking the right way, following the wire that fences off the paddocks. And then I see it, another sign. I’m at Slope Point. 5140km from the equator and 4803km from the South Pole. The southernmost spot in New Zealand.
Even after all the gravel roads I’ve taken, I had expected a normal road. I expected a big parking lot. I expected a big building with a café, information panels, toilets and a tourist shop. What I got was a sheep paddock, a sign and total solitude. I guess the real south of the South Island is not that touristy yet.