The Must-Dos in Invercargill!
You’ve made it THIS far south?! Good on you! What awaits in Invercargill is a whole lot of charm, discovery, awesome road trips and references to everything in this city being the “southernmost” such-and-such. It’s all part of the charm of this city with a whole of character and 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
Sprawling 80ha (198 acres) in the city centre, Queens Park is a definite Invercargill must-do in the city. Stroll around the beautifully kept gardens with lots of photo opportunities 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 strongly suggest starting with this one.
Location: Accessible from Queens Drive, Herbert Street, Kelvin Street and Gala Street, Invercargill city centre.
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 landscapes from native forests to wetlands. While the 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 (8.3-mile) 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, approximately a 10-minutes drive from Invercargill city centre.
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 (131ft) 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! For more experiences like this, check out the 5 Luxury Activities in Invercargill.
Location: Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters – Corner of Spey & Bond Streets & Seriously Good Chocolate – 147 Spey Street.
5. Take a Road Trip in The Catlins
If there’s just one road trip you’re going to take from Invercargill, make it the Catlins Coast! There’s a natural attraction almost every 20 minutes down the “Southern Scenic Route” including some of New Zealand’s most scenic waterfalls, best wildlife spotting and coastal scenery. Check out 10 Must-Dos in The Catlins to plan your road trip.
Location: The Catlins Coast is a 40-minute drive southeast of Invercargill. It’s the coast between Fortrose and Balclutha.
6. See the Southern Hemisphere’s Largest Collection of Vehicles at Transport World
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Southern Hemisphere’s largest collection of vehicles. See some blasts from the past beautifully restored and put on display in Bill Richardson’s Transport World, as well as heritage memorabilia from Invercargill’s past on display and a World of Wearable Art (WOW) exhibition. After you’ve spent at least an hour or two discovering it all in this 15,000m² (161,459ft²) venue, relax at the on-site American-style diner. Here’s an extra tip: even the toilets are worth a look. Find out more about Transport World on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, check out the 9 Things to Do in Invercargill with Kids for more attractions like this.
7. 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. See more activities like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Invercargill.
Location: 290 Bain Street, approximately a 10-minute drive from Invercargill city centre.
8. Fly to Stewart Island
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third-largest populated island. With 80% of the island covered in the Rakiura National Park, it’s certainly a place to lose yourself (hopefully not literally) in wilderness experiences with some fantastic multi-day hikes and wildlife activities. Invercargill Airport is the place to take a flight straight to Oban, which is not only a quick way to do it but has some great views along the way. Find out more about Stewart Island in the 10 Incredible Things to Do on Stewart Island.
Location: Airport Avenue, approximately a 5-minute drive from the city centre.
9. 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! Check out more romantic walks in the city in the 7 Romantic Activities in Invercargill for Couples.
Location: Waihopai Walkway access – Stead Street Wharf, North Road, Queens Drive, Racecourse Road and Bainfield Road. Thomsons Bush – Queens Drive or Gimblett Street.
10. 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.
11. 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 (25 miles) west of Invercargill & Bluff, 28km (17 miles) south of Invercargill.
[CLOSED] See Tuatara at The Southland Museum
[Update: The Southland Museum closed in April 2018]
See the “three-eyed lizard”, “living dinosaur” or “living fossil” right here in the Southland Museum. There are lots to learn about the native tuatara and the Southland Museum is the perfect place to do it with over 100 tuataras in captivity for breeding (and tourism) purposes to boost populations back in the wild. What’s more, the Southland Museum has many more fascinating exhibitions that will make you want to stay at least a couple of hours.
Location: 108 Gala Street, Queens Park, Invercargill