backpacking invercargill©
backpacking invercargill

Invercargill – Guide for Backpackers 🤙 [2024]


A Guide to Backpacking Invercargill

New Zealand’s southernmost city provides a place to unwind for backpackers. Admittedly, Invercargill isn’t packed with an array of free attractions that will wear you out. But by the time you reach this city in the south of the South Island, we’re guessing you could use a break anyway. Nevertheless, Invercargill still offers some attractive short walks, gorgeous parks to explore, and the odd quirky attraction that you’ll just have to see to believe. We’ll go through all the details, as well as recommend places to eat and places to stay on a budget, in this complete backpacking guide to Invercargill.

Things You Can’t Miss in Invercargill

  • Get creeped out at Demolition World
  • Check out the Invercargill Water Tower
  • Take a photo of the picture-perfect Victoria Railway Hotel
  • Explore Queens Park
  • Walk through the Otepuni Gardens
  • Spend the afternoon at Oreti Beach
  • Hike or mountain bike at Sandy Point
  • Walk the Invercargill Estuary Walkway
  • Check out the highlights on the Invercargill Heritage Trail.

For more information on each activity and more, see the details on 15 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Invercargill.

backpacking invercargill©

What to Do in Invercargill on a Backpacker Budget

Invercargill is a hub for Southland cuisine, excellent shopping and has one of the world’s largest private collections of vehicles (see 20 Amazing Things to Do in Invercargill), but what is there to do that’s either free or extremely cheap? Here are some ideas…

Parks and Reserves in Invercargill

One of Invercargill’s most attractive free activities for budget travellers is its parks and reserves. Even in the city you can feel transported to what feels like New Zealand wilderness. The Seaward Bush Reserve is a must-see, which is an area of regenerating forest now home to native frogs and snails. The reserve has a fantastic short walk and picnic area.

Thomsons Bush is also well worth discovering, accessible from several sections of Queens Drive and Gimblett Street. The reserve has some stunning examples of native New Zealand trees, such as matai, kahikatea and ribbonwood, and 3,514m (11,530ft)-worth of walking trails to help you explore.

Finally, a trip to Invercargill is not complete without exploring Queens Park. This is Invercargill’s main city park, home to art monuments, an aviary, winter gardens with a glasshouse, Japanese gardens and more. Find this park in the city centre.

For more information on each reserve, as well as a few more recommendations, check out the 5 Glorious Reserves & Parks in Invercargill.

Sightseeing in Invercargill

Invercargill has a number of photogenic buildings worth seeking out for a few snaps. The Invercargill Water Tower is just one of those fun features. This 40m (131ft)-high Victorian brick structure stands tall on Gala Street made up of around 300,000 bricks. While the water tower only serves as a backup water system for the city, it still makes a good photo-op.

Speaking of photo-ops, the Victoria Railway Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in New Zealand and is, quite simply, a stunning piece of architecture. Find this Victorian and Baroque building on Leven Street.

For more buildings of interest, pick up a Heritage Trail map from the i-SITE and start visiting the 18 sites across the city. The Heritage Trail map tells you all about each point you visit.

Demolition World

Finally, if you’re intrigued by the strange, check out Demolition World on Bain Street. Entry to this attraction is by gold coin donation, giving you access to a makeshift village of buildings and household items we can only assume have been retrieved by a demolition site. Visit the dentist, church, shops and more, all dressed up with creepy manikins. There are alpacas and chickens to keep you entertained too.

backpacking invercargill©

Free Walks in Invercargill

As any backpacker will know, making use of the walking trails in any New Zealand city is a great way to see the highlights. Here are some of our top recommendations for stretching your legs when backpacking Invercargill.

Sandy Point Domain (5 Minutes to 45 Minutes One Way)

Sandy Point Domain holds a spectacular network of walking tracks. There is approximately 13.5km (8.4 miles) of trails to choose from, all of which are well sign-posted and take you somewhere interesting, such as Hatch’s Hill Lookout (5 minutes one way), which offers panoramic views of the New River Estuary, Bluff and all the way out to Stewart Island. Combine this walk with Daffodil Bay to Hatch’s Hill (45 minutes one way) offering estuary views and native forest walks. Petrie’s Track (20 minutes one way) is an open walk through a pine plantation. Find this reserve on Sandy Point Road.

Otepuni Walkway (30 Minutes One Way)

For something close to the city centre, the Otepuni Walkway goes through the Otepuni Gardens and alongside the Otepuni Creek. Follow a paved walkway on top of a flood bank, giving elevated views of the surrounding city. The walk is approximately 3.8km (2.4 miles) taking around 30 minutes to complete one way. Start this walk from either Rockdale Road or Clyde Street.

Invercargill Estuary Walkway (30-40 Minutes Loop)

For some different scenery, check out the Invercargill Estuary Walkway. Discover Pleasure Bay Lagoon, its rich history and its ecosystem on a 4.7km (2.9 miles) walkway around the lagoon. There is also a shorter walk to a viewpoint over the estuary. Find this walk a the Stead Street car park or Bond Street.

Find more walks in and around Invercargill in the 10 Best Walks in Invercargill.©

Cheap Eats in Invercargill

While we always recommend for backpackers to cook their own meals to save money on food, here are a few recommendations for affordable food found around the city.

Find something totally Kiwi at Fat Bastard Pies on 158 Tay Street with an awesome selection of savoury pies for around NZ$5 each! Or pick up a cheap Indian curry from Curry Guru Malabar Kitchen on 356 Tay Street, where between 12-2pm they do NZ$10 lunch deals. We also recommend Global Byte Cafe at 150 Dee Street for their coffee and cake combos for around NZ$7.

For more recommendations, check out our guide to the Cheap Eats in Invercargill.

More About Backpacking Invercargill

That’s it for our guide to backpacking Invercargill, but it’s not the end of our advice on Invercargill. Check out the following guides to help you save more cents while exploring New Zealand’s southernmost city.

And for more backpackery advice, head to the 30 Tips for Backpacking in New Zealand and the Useful Websites for a Working Holiday and Backpacking in New Zealand.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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