What to Do in Invercargill: New Zealand’s Southernmost City
You’ll hear that a lot when exploring Southland‘s bustling hub: the “southernmost” of this and the “southernmost” of that. It’s all part of the charm of this city with a whole of character. It’s packed with friendly locals keen to share their local delicacies and heritage through the amazing architecture and museums found around the city. It’s not all about the urban delights in Invercargill though, as Invercargill has some of the best city parks and reserves found in any city in New Zealand. Come and see it for yourself and plan your itinerary with this list of things to do in Invercargill.
1. Explore Queens Park
Discover one of New Zealand’s best city parks. Queens Park is a must-visit, whether it’s your first time in Invercargill or your tenth! There’s always something interesting and different to see between the 10 Art Monuments, the Aviary, the Steans Centennial Winter Gardens, the Japanese Gardens and the Jessie Calder Gardens. Although there are many amazing parks in and around the city, which we mention in 5 Glorious Reserves & Parks in Invercargill, we definitely suggest starting with this one.
Location: Queens Drive
2. Go for a Stroll at Sandy Point
If you’re staying in Invercargill for a while, take a trip to Sandy Point. This domain is rich in history, as well as varied landscape, from native forest to wetlands. While Sandy Point Domain is home to many of the local outdoor clubs, it’s best explored on the myriad of walking trails. The 13.5km network of walks are well-signposted and offer a range of experiences. Hatch’s Hill Lookout (5 minutes one way) provides amazing views across the estuary all the way to Stewart Island. Enjoy walking through a mix of native forest and coastline on the Daffodil Bay to Hatch’s Hill (45 minutes one way). And the list goes on! Check out 10 Best Walks in Invercargill for more information on Sandy Point and other walks in the area.
Location: Sandy Point Road, 7km west of Invercargill
3. Check Out Some of the Interesting Architecture
Invercargill has a proud heritage which is best seen through the diverse architecture throughout the city. Check out the Invercargill Water Tower, Invercargill’s best-known landmark standing 40m high. Although you can’t go inside the water tower, it makes no less of an awesome photo opportunity. Additionally, get a photo of the impressive Civic Theatre, built in 1905. There is no shortage of events happening at this Gothic-style theatre. The best time to see it is after dark when it is beautifully lit up. Finally, St Mary’s Basilica is often described as one of the prettiest churches in New Zealand with its stained-glass windows.
Location: Invercargill Water Tower – 101 Doon Street, Civic Theatre – 88 Tay Street, and St Mary’s Basilica – 65 Tyne Street.
4. Indulge in Southland Specialities
Invercargill and the Southland region have their own dining specialities. A must-try is Bluff Oysters, best eaten as fresh as possible during the oyster season (March-August). Try them at Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters. Another speciality is the Southland Cheese Roll, served in most cafes in the city. For something sweet, try the artisan chocolate at the Seriously Good Chocolate Cafe!
Location: Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters – Corner of Spey & Bond Streets & Seriously Good Chocolate – 147 Spey Street.
5. Check Out Demolition World
Probably the quirkiest attraction you’ll visit in Southland, if not New Zealand, is Demolition World. It’s essentially a mini-village constructed from demolished buildings and recycled items. There are some creepy displays to check out at the haunted theatre, historic school and the dreaded dentist! While you’re there, you’ll get to meet the friendly chickens and alpacas. Entry is a gold coin donation.
Location: 290 Bain Street
6. Visit Bill Richardson Transport World
Whether you’re a petrolhead or not, it’s hard to not be impressed by Bill Richardson Transport World. See one of the largest private collections of its type with hangers and hangers filled with beautifully restored vehicles from all over the world. There’s also heritage memorabilia from Invercargill’s past on display, as well as a World of Wearable Art (WOW) exhibition. After you’ve spent at least an hour or two discovering it all, relax at the on-site American-style diner.
Location: 491 Tay Street
7. Walk Along the Waihopai Walkway to Thomsons Bush
There are more glorious outdoor spaces to enjoy in Invercargill. One of our favourites is the Waihopai Walkway and Thomsons Bush. The Waihopai Walkway is a loop walk following the banks of Waihopai River, taking 4h30mins to complete the whole loop. Otherwise, there are many access points to the walkway to make the walk shorter. Along the way, don’t miss the side trail into the Thomsons Bush Reserve, packed with its own network of bush walks. You would never guess you were in the city!
Location: Waihopai Walkway access – Stead Street Wharf, North Road, Queens Drive, Racecourse Road and Bainfield Road. Thomsons Bush – Queens Drive or Gimblett Street.
8. Go Shopping!
Invercargill offers excellent shopping, either for stocking up on supplies or getting some uniquely New Zealand souvenirs. However, our first recommendation is an attraction in itself at E. Hayes & Sons. This is a hardware store with a difference, home to vintage and classic motorcycles and memorabilia including the original Burt Munro’s Indian Scout! You can also pick up something warm and snuggly at the Knight of New Zealand Factory Outlet Shop. Also, check out the H&J Smith department store. Finally, Invercargill is home to eight different op-shops (secondhand shops) to grab a bargain!
Location: E. Hayes – 168 Dee Street, Knight of New Zealand – 21 Levin Street, H&J Smith – corner of Tay and Kelvin Streets.
9. Check Out the Exciting Nearby Towns
Invercargill makes an excellent base for exploring the highlights of the Southland region. Head to the little coastal town of Riverton for surfing or visiting the fantastic Te Hikoi museum. Or head down to Bluff, climb Bluff Hill and take a ferry to Stewart Island. Check out 5 Fun Things to Do in Riverton and 5 Fun Things to Do in Bluff. Plus, check out 5 Amazing Day Trips from Invercargill for more recommendations.
Location: Riverton, 40km west of Invercargill & Bluff, 28km south of Invercargill.
10. Enjoy a Brewery Tour
[UPDATE: the Invercargill Brewery has closed]
Invercargill is home to many of New Zealand’s “southernmost” things, including the southernmost brewery! Join a tour of the Invercargill Brewery to see how the good stuff is made in a micro-brewery. Of course, the tour includes plenty of tastings! It also makes for one of the 10 Things to Do in Invercargill on a Rainy Day.
Location: 72 Lee Street