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 being the “southernmost” such-and-such. It’s all part of the charm of the 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 New Zealand city. Come and see it for yourself and plan your itinerary with this list of the best 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 the 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 8km (5 miles) 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. Check out more free sights around the city in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Invercargill.
Location: Invercargill Water Tower – 101 Doon Street, Civic Theatre – 88 Tay Street, and St Mary’s Basilica – 65 Tyne Street, Invercargill city centre.
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! See more experiences like this in the 5 Best Luxury Experiences in Invercargill.
Location: Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters – Corner of Spey & Bond Streets. Seriously Good Chocolate – 147 Spey Street, Invercargill city centre.
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. Plus, check out the 10 Things to Do in Invercargill with Kids for more attractions like this.
7. Then Check Out NZ’s Largest Motorcycle Collection
And if the largest collection of vehicles in the Southern Hemisphere wasn’t enough, there’s also a classic motorcycle museum in the centre of Invercargill! Classic Motorcycle Mecca is the largest collection of motorcycles in New Zealand, boasting collections of John Britten and Ivan Mauger bikes, as well as a whole range of American, British, Japanese and European bikes. There’s also an on-site cafe and a motorcycle-themed art gallery. Admission is around NZ$35 per adult and NZ$20 per child. Check out reviews and book tickets on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 25 Tay Street, Invercargill city centre.
8. 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, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Invercargill city centre.
9. Operate an Excavator at Dig This Invercargill
Speaking of demolition, are you ready to wreak some havoc? Get behind the controls of mighty excavators, bulldozers and skid steers to dig giant pits, build giant mounds, play “bucket basketball”, stack 910kg (2,000lbs) tyres, smash things and cause a bit of havoc! Each “ride” at Dig This Invercargill lasts a whopping 60 minutes, with options for all ages. All in all, Dig This is the perfect way to blow off some serious steam! Find out more about Dig This on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 84 Otepuni Avenue, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Invercargill city centre.
10. Admire the Art at He Waka Tuia + Museum – FREE
Invercargill city centre is home to a fantastic art gallery. The He Waka Tuia Art + Museum showcases a permanent collection of works from well-known New Zealand artists. Alongside paintings, you’re likely to see a number of carvings, ceramics, sculptures and mixed-media pieces. What’s more, admission is free! See more indoor attractions like this in the 14 Things to Do in Invercargill on a Rainy Day.
Location: 42 Kelvin Street, Invercargill city centre.
11. 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 20 Incredible Things to Do on Stewart Island.
Location: Invercargill Airport – Airport Avenue, approximately 2.5km (1.5 miles) from Invercargill city centre. A coach and ferry transfer to Stewart Island is also available with RealNZ.
12. 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 the 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 8 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.
13. Spend an Afternoon in Oreti Beach
Named after the Oreti River, the long flat beach seems almost endless, stretching as far as the eyes can see. For those in need of a challenge, try the Oreti Beach Track. This 32km (20-mile) track takes in streams, dunes and a low tide beach before ending on Stead Street.
Location: Access at the end of Dunns Road and Foveux Street, approximately 10km (6 miles) from Invercargill city centre.
14. Take Part in a Chocolate-Making Class
For the foodie within, be sure to try out some of the artisan chocolates at The Seriously Good Chocolate Company. While the cafe is a great place to simply relax and indulge in a gourmet hot chocolate, very few people know that you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of their factory – best done in the morning. Amplify the experience further with a bespoke chocolate-making class, exclusively for you and your family/group to learn how to craft chocolate. Of course, there are plenty of obligatory taste tests along the way.
Location: 147 Spey Street, Invercargill city centre.
15. 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 & Sons – 168 Dee Street. Knight of New Zealand – 21 Levin Street. H&J Smith – corner of Tay and Kelvin Streets.
16. 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 Amazing Day Trips from Invercargill or The Best Day Trips from Invercargill for more recommendations.
Location: Riverton, 40km (25 miles) west of Invercargill & Bluff, 28km (17 miles) south of Invercargill.
17. Get Sporty at ILT Stadium Southland
Get competitive with your mates or loved ones at the ILT Stadium. The stadium has seven wooden sprung multi-sport courts, four squash courts, 10 clip n’ climb climbing walls, a normal climbing wall, and a bubble ball court. It’s also home to the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome, which is New Zealand’s only indoor velodrome. Call ahead to see if you can go for a ride.
Location: 18 Surrey Park Road, Glengarry, approximately 2.8km (1.7 miles) from Invercargill city centre.
18. See if You Can Solve Invercargill’s Escape Room
Find clues, crack codes and solve riddles together at Solve It And Escape! The escape room offers 60 minutes of fun, mind-bending and perhaps rainy day relief with a choice of four different themed rooms to escape before the time runs out. Games are designed for groups of two to six players.
Location: 170 Dee Street, Invercargill city centre.
19. Explore the Estuary Walkway
The 1-hour return Estuary Walkway is the best way to discover the aptly named, Pleasure Bay Lagoon. Harbouring many local birds and featuring a rich human history, this 4.7km (3-mile) track has several interesting things to see and read about on interpretation panels. Plus, with the lagoon on one side and the sea on the other, you’ll get a unique point of view of the city.
Location: Eastern end of Stead Street, approximately 1.5km (1 mile) from Invercargill city centre.
20. Try Your Luck at Spotting the Southern Lights
Also known as Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights are a natural phenomenon where pink and green hues light up the sky due to strong solar winds reacting with the atmosphere in the polar regions. One of the best places to see the Southern Lights is, of course, in New Zealand’s southernmost city, while the best time to see the lights are during the winter season from locations such as Oreti Beach and Sandy Point. There are a lot more conditions that are required for good aurora viewings, however, so make sure to read up on The Best Times and Locations to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand.
Location: Oreti Beach – Access at the end of Dunns Road and Foveux Street, approximately 10km (6 miles) from Invercargill city centre. Sandy Point – Sandy Point Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Invercargill city centre.
[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
Discover More Must-Dos and Things to Do in Invercargill
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Invercargill. Now plan your trip according to your travel style with the following guides:
- The Guide to Invercargill on a Budget
- The Luxury Guide to Invercargill
- The Guide to Invercargill for Families
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Invercargill
Finally, for more amazing experiences on your travels, check out the 51 Best Things to Do on the South Island and 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.