Nearest town: Bluff, about 5 minutes drive South
Type of track: there and back
Official distance: maybe 1km each way
Official time: 30 mins return
Jenny’s time: a little over an hour
Toilets: nearest ones are in Bluff
Tips: This path crosses an active train track, so be careful! Go at low tide if you want to see the shipwrecks and lots of birds.
For me, the word ‘shipwreck’ tends to invite all kinds of dramatic visions – of exciting, raging storms and enormous waves, of castaways, deserted tropical islands, and romantic rescues by courageous strapping young sailors. You know, that sort of thing.
I’m sure anyone who’s actually been in one doesn’t feel this way about it, but to me shipwrecks are evocative; full of mystery and lost stories and potential treasure troves, not just of valuables but of information about the past.
I guess maybe this is the archaeologist in me. I love objects – imagining who used something, thinking about how and why and when and where and what their story was has always fascinated me. I never really enjoyed history class, where the focus was on the political and economic side of things – the ‘who invaded who, and why’ always bored me to tears – but I’ll spend hours in a museum poring over all the myriad of fascinating things they have, many of which I’ve never seen in my 21st century life.
So when I heard about Greenpoint Reserve I was intrigued. There’s a ship graveyard here, where numerous fishing and oyster boats as well as former tugs and passenger boats were driven onto the sand banks at high tide and left to rot. One of these boats even used to patrol the subantarctic waters south of New Zealand looking for seal poachers, newly wrecked ships, and castaways!
Some of the ships are still visible at low tide, and if it’s low enough and you don’t mind getting your feet a bit wet and mucky you could go right up to them and investigate. Either way, their rotting skeletons add an unusual twist to this short walk.
And as a bonus, at low tide there are plenty of wading birds here. I saw oystercatchers, a group of shags (cormorants) sitting on a rock, a heron or two, and a group of one of my favourite New Zealand birds, the royal spoonbill.
Greenpoint Reserve is a super easy, short walk, but you could spend a long time here looking at the birds and the shipwrecks, and with its views across Bluff Harbour it’s a great place for a picnic!