Bluff Oyster & Food Festival

Bluff Oysters have an aura like no other seafood.

And what better place to pay homage to the mighty Tio Paruparu than at the annual Bluff Oyster and Food Festival?

It’s brought to you by a dedicated bunch of Bluff locals, giving the event a uniquely Southland flavour. Their catch-cry is ’Unsophisticated and proud of it!’ and they back it up in boatloads with an action-packed day. 

Thousands of people flock to Bluff for the festival each May, as one of the highlights of the winter event calendar in New Zealand. Decked out in warm hats, scarves and winter coats, the bounty of the southern seas awaits you.

Next event date: 24 May 2025
Location: Bluff
Keen to learn more:

Originating in the pristine, cool waters nearby Foveaux Strait, from one of the few natural oyster beds in the world, these delicate and succulent shellfish are a national treasure.

Complementing the sumptuous Bluff Oyster is a variety of local seafood from smoked and grilled salmon, blue cod, paua (abalone) patties, creamed paua, fresh kina, seafood chowder, scallops, prawns, and delightful crayfish cheese rolls.
All washed down with great southern ales and a selection of New Zealand wines.

“Bluffies”, as the oysters are affectionately known, are renowned for their intense flavour, articulated by one scribe as “saltwater, rocks, seaweed, a meaty sweetness, then a rush of intense brininess, then a long, lingering slightly metallic sweet fresh sea flavour”. 

And let’s not forget those aphrodisiac qualities.

Many insist that raw is the only way to scoff them, maybe complemented with a glass of Chardonnay or Champagne. Others rave about the crunchy goodness of freshly battered oysters. Maybe even the quirkiness of Oysters Kilpatrick. We’ll let you decide.

More than 20,000 Bluffies - raw, battered or featuring in specially prepared recipes - are downed at the event each year.  There’s truly nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Fantastic. Amazing. All of the above and more are descriptions that will roll off your tongue.

Oysters in all their glory.

Grab a good spot to witness the ‘Piping in of the Oyster’ and the reciting of the ‘Ode to the Oyster’ - adding a nostalgic touch to the joyous occasion.

And if a feed from the land is more your style, there’s muttonbird (titi), lamb, pork, venison, bacon and egg creations, and sometimes even escargot (snails), in the shell with garlic butter to enjoy.

The entertainment bill is headlined with top Southland musicians and invited guests, spine-tingling kapa haka and soaring bagpipes.

Oyster opening competitions are another highlight as skilled “shuckers” vie for the coveted titles. Throw your name in the hat for the oyster eating competitions - where participants are chosen from the crowd to down one dozen of Bluff’s best in the fastest possible time.

Sit back and enjoy or dare to enter the eye-watering Wasabi Chilli Competition, where contestants from the crowd down 10 Bluff Oysters – dipped in chilli oil and wasabi. Sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

Mountains of shells are testament to the annual celebration of Tiostrea chilensis (Bluff Oysters) - to get scientific about it.

While you’re in Bluff, explore the port township, which alongside the festival offers street craft stalls and galleries. Bluff has some interesting nooks and crannies with a quirky artists’ scene.

It’s a great way to meet the hardy locals, and, maybe purchase a memento of your visit.

But why stop there — while you’re down our way, take time to discover the rugged coastline of The Catlins, the bright lights of Invercargill, the starry skies of Stewart Island/Rakiura and the majestic wilderness of Fiordland.

Come south - and feast on everything your heart has ever desired.

Bluff Oyster & Food Festival
Sam Deuchrass

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