5 Best Things to Do in Riverton

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What to Do in Riverton: Southland’s Relaxed Seaside Town

One of the main highlights of the Southern Scenic Route, Riverton is rich in both Maori and European history. Discover it for yourself and the amazing local museum, through the relics on display around the town or along the nearby hiking trails. Riverton also has plenty of places to unwind, from the quaint cafes to the magnificent beaches at Howells Point or Colac Bay. You can even give surfing a go at probably the southernmost point you’re ever likely to surf! (Don’t worry, wetsuits are available to hire). So take a look at this list of things to do in Riverton and get inspired for your visit!

While you’re here, you might also be interested in 5 Invercargill Must-Dos and 7 Fun Things to Do in Tuatapere.

1. Learn to Surf at Colac Bay

As you might have guessed by the giant sculpture welcoming you into the settlement of Colac Bay, surfing is kind of a big deal here. Surf as far south as you’re ever likely to surf on the powerful waves of the Southern Ocean. Surf lessons are available here or experienced surfers can hit the waves at either Riverton, Colca Bay or Monkey Island. Learn more about surf locations in 7 Places to Surf in the South Island.

Location: Colac Bay, 13km west of Riverton

Sally on Flickr© Sally on Flickr

2. Visit Te Hikoi Culture Heritage Museum

One of the must-visit museums in New Zealand, the Te Hikoi Southern Journey is more than just your standard small-town museum. Your journey begins in the sailing ship theatre where you’ll learn about early voyages to the Southland region from the early Maori and Europeans. Learn stories of sailings on the Roaring Forties, enjoy interactive displays of how Maori and early Europeans survived in this wild part of New Zealand, and gain insights into the seasonal lifestyles of the South Island Maori. There are lots to unpack here, so give yourself at least one hour.

Location: Palmerston Street©

3. Walk the Long Hilly Walkway Track

The Long Hilly Walkway (pronounced Long Hee-Lee) is a 2-hour forest walk featuring relics of its gold mining past. See dams, water races, sluicings and tram cuttings paving the trail. The walk is located on Round Hill, one of Southland’s most significant goldfields, which is also part of the Te Araroa Trail (a trail spanning from the north to the south of New Zealand).

Location: Round Hill Road, 17km west of Riverton©

4. Treat Yourself at the Riverton Cafes

Even if you don’t have time to stay in Riverton awhile, at least make a pitstop at one of the glorious cafes of this small town. Try the award-winning Beach House Restaurant serving fabulous coffee and fresh local food. Or try the famous Custard Square from The Postmaster Bakery!

Location: Beach House – 126 Rocks Highway & The Postmaster Bakery – 166 Palmerston Street

Schwede66 on Wikipedia© Schwede66 on Wikipedia

5. Discover Howells Point

This picturesque corner of the South Island is well worth venturing through Riverton. Watch waves crashing against the rocks as you take a walkway along the coast. If you don’t feel like walking along the coastal trail at the end of Rocks Highway, then just enjoy the views while having a picnic at the picnic areas. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Stewart Island.

Location: Rocks Highway

purdyrns on Flickr© purdyrns on Flickr

More Things to Do Near Riverton

That’s it for the best things to do in Riverton. Find more activities for your travels in the 51 Best Things to Do in the South Island.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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