Capital of the Southland region of New Zealand, Invercargill is a great base to explore the spectacular scenery of the south, including Catlins Coast and Stewart Island. With a combination of unique cultural attractions and modern city life, holidays to Invercargill and the Southlands are great for exploring.
Things to do in Invercargill
Just north of Invercargill’s city centre, Queens Park is one of the most important parks in New Zealand and sprawls across a massive 80 hectares. Rose gardens, a rhododendron dell, azalea gardens, Japanese gardens and more are connected through winding tree-lined walkways and tracks through native forests. Other highlights of the park include a fitness trail with 20 exercise stations, an impressive bird aviary, and a popular playground for children.
Central Invercargill is a cultural hub with many museums and galleries popular with tourists and locals alike. The Anderson Park Art Gallery on McIvor Road was the first public gallery in 1951, and now homes some of the country’s finest collection of art – particularly the collection of paintings, pottery, and sculptures.
The Southland Museum and Art Gallery on Gala Street is an extensive cultural organisation in the Southland region. Situated in a distinctive pyramid shaped building – the largest pyramid in the southern hemisphere, the gallery’s major draws are the Roaring 40s Gallery, live displays of tuatara, and the Museum and Art Gallery exhibition. The Southland Fire Service Museum is slightly more unique with a vast collection of fire fighting history from the region, including five fire engines dating from 1940s onwards.
One of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand, the seaport town of Bluff is famous for its world renowned ‘Bluff Oysters’ – just a short 20 miles from Invercargill, they’re worth the journey! April – August is oyster season, but we recommend visiting in May during Bluff Oyster Festival, where the town comes alive with seafood-related festivities; oysters are served raw, deep fried in batter, Kilpatrick, or in pies and activities include ‘piping in the oyster’ and the prestigious oyster eating competition. The Bluff Maritime Museum is also worth a visit and Greenpoint Domain is a wonderful spot for a picnic with great views.
Adventure on Stewart Island
A 30-minute flight from Invercargill or a short ferry ride from Bluff, remote and rugged Stewart Island is a great way of swapping the city for a slower pace. Best-known for its huge variety of bird life, many travel from around the world for bird-watching. We recommend an overnight ‘tramping’ trip – the three day ‘Rakiua Track’ is one of New Zealand’s most famous hikes through the bush with plenty of bird sightings, including the Rakiua Kiwi.
Alternatively, explore the island’s natural clear waters with a kayaking adventure – you can opt for a full day or half day, but the overnight and twilight tours are particularly enchanting. Choose from river and coastal in Paterson Inlet, Ulva Island and Rakiura National Park.
The natural wonders of Catlins are a highlight of the Southern Scenic Route between Kaka Point and Fortrose. Encompassing forests, rugged coastlines, lakes, and beautiful waterfalls, the dramatic landscape of the area tempts all visitors from those looking to explore, or others just wanting a relaxed solitude in an unspoilt part of the country.