How to Plan a Trip to Invercargill, New Zealand
Down at the bottom of the South Island lies a city that many travellers fail to get to. While a little off the beaten track, Invercargill is well-positioned for exploring some of the South Island’s most stunning areas, like The Catlins and Stewart Island. What’s more, Invercargill gives you a different slice of life in New Zealand, where locals have slightly different accents compared to the rest of the country (like rolling their Rs) and have their own established cuisine.
In terms of attractions, the city is a little obsessed with vehicles, featuring three different vehicle museums, but has a great range of outdoor spaces to enjoy, from Queens Park to Oreti Beach.
In this complete travel guide to Invercargill, we go through the different types of activities and accommodations that different traveller groups can experience.
Common Questions About Invercargill
Here are a few quick things you need to know about Invercargill.
Is Invercargill Worth Visiting?
While not a major tourist destination, Invercargill is ideally situated between two highly recommended travel spots; The Catlins and Stewart Island. Invercargill is worth visiting if you have the time, but not if you have limited time to explore the South Island.
Where is Invercargill Located?
What is the Climate of Invercargill?
The daily average temperature in Invercargill is 9.9°C/49.6°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 1,112mm/43.8″. Despite being the southernmost city in New Zealand, it does not snow frequently in Invercargill. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
How Do You Get to Invercargill?
Invercargill is accessible by road and by domestic flight to Invercargill Airport. The nearest international airports at Christchurch and Queenstown airports, where it’s possible to rent a car from Christchurch or Queenstown. Invercargill is also on the nationwide bus route, which you can find more information about in our guide, Bus Networks in New Zealand.
What to Do in Invercargill
You couldn’t have a better base for exploring some of the South Island’s best off-the-beaten-track day trips, from The Catlins to Stewart Island. But there are a few things well worth exploring in Invercargill between the largest vehicle collection in the Southern Hemisphere and nature at Sandy Point or Queens Park.
The Top Experiences
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Invercargill highlights:
- Explore Queens Park, its gardens, aviary and more
- Go for a stroll or bike ride at Sandy Point
- See the Southern Hemisphere’s largest collection of vehicles at Bill Richardson’s Transport World
- Check out Demolition World
- Walk along the Waihopai Walkway to Thomsons Bush
- Fly to Stewart Island…
… And the list continues over in the 20 Best Things to Do in Invercargill.
Rainy Day Activities
The bottom of the South Island is known for having a fair few rainy days. Make sure you have some wet weather alternatives in your arsenal, such as:
- See the world’s fastest Indian at E Hayes and Sons Ltd
- Check out He Waka Tuia Art + Museum
- Treat yourself to a Southland Cheese Roll.
For more ideas, head over to the 14 Things to Do in Invercargill on a Rainy Day.
Where to Stay in Invercargill
Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side of this complete travel guide to Invercargill, we have compiled entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, as well as premium stays. What’s more, each list is written by real writers; not some algorithm.
Invercargill for Budget Travellers
For the budget traveller who likes to explore on foot, Invercargill has plenty to see for free! Get out and explore the gorgeous gardens and parks around the city, take photos of attractive heritage buildings, and find a few quirky attractions like “Demolition World“. What’s more, staying in Invercargill doesn’t have to be costly thanks to the range of budget accommodation available. Find out more about visiting Invercargill on a budget in Invercargill – Guide for Backpackers and The Travel Guide to Invercargill on a Budget.
Things to Do on a Budget
- Visit the weird Demolition World attraction
- Take an obligatory photo of the Invercargill Water Tower
- Stroll through the Otepuni Gardens
- Hike or mountain bike at the Sandy Point Domain
- Visit the highlights of the city on the Invercargill Heritage Trail.
Find out more about each activity in 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Invercargill.
Invercargill has a small selection of backpacker hostels, budget hotels, motels and a holiday park. Check out some of our top picks in 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Invercargill, as well as the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Invercargill.
Invercargill for Luxury Travellers
If you find luxury in getting off the tourist trail and discovering a side of New Zealand that many visitors fail to see, more for the lack of time than things to do, then you’ll love spending time in Invercargill. The city is the base for scenic flights to Stewart Island, home of a heavy machinery playground where you are let loose with excavators, bulldozers and more, and offers some of the most prestigious cuisines in New Zealand, like Bluff oysters and Fiordland venison. Find out how to make your stay in Invercargill extra special with The Luxury Guide to Invercargill.
- Embark on a scenic flight and multi-day hiking expedition to Stewart Island
- Indulge in Southland cuisine at one of the fine dining restaurants
- See one of the largest private collections of vehicles at Transport World
- Do a bespoke chocolate-making class
- Blow off some steam at the heavy machinery playground of Dig This!
Find out more about each experience, see the 5 Best Luxury Experiences in Invercargill.
In the humble city of Invercargill, admittedly, the luxury accommodation options are not extensive. However, this makes the luxury stays that do exist here all the more exclusive. Check them out in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Invercargill.
Invercargill for Families
See how Kiwi families typically spend their family time together in Invercargill! The city is full of attractions that many New Zealand families do to keep the little ones entertained, so could be a good slice of life experience. Spend time at the beach or check out some amazing all-weather activities, like climbing walls and various vehicle museums around the city. Find out more about visiting Invercargill with kids using The Guide to Invercargill for Families.
- Let the kids loose among the vintage vehicles and LEGO construction room of Bill Richardson Transport World
- Check out the bikes on display at Classic Motorcycle Mecca
- Tackle the clip n’ climb climbing walls at the ILT Stadium Southland
- Build sandcastles and go for a walk at Oreti Beach
- Take a family road trip to The Catlins, Stewart Island and more.
Get details on all of these activities and more in 10 Things to Do in Invercargill with Kids.
Family accommodation comes in many forms in Invercargill, from homely motels to simple hotel rooms. Check out some of our top picks for family rooms in the 7 Best Family Accommodations in Invercargill.
Invercargill for Couples
Explore a remoter part of New Zealand, making Invercargill your base. You won’t have the crowds of the South Island’s busier tourist hotspots to disturb your time together, yet you’ll still enjoy some quality time visiting museums, exploring the attractive outdoor spaces, and even trying some hands-on classes. What’s more, there are a few romantic B&Bs in the city that just beg for at least one night’s stay. Find out more in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Invercargill.
Romantic Things to Do
- Watch the sunset from Oreti Beach
- Stroll hand-in-hand through Queens Park
- Enjoy an intimate scenic flight to Stewart Island
- Indulge in Southland cuisine for date night
- Make each other chocolate hearts at The Seriously Good Chocolate Company.
Get information on all of these activities and a few bonus activities in the 7 Romantic Activities in Invercargill for Couples.
For couples, the choice of accommodation is endless in Invercargill. Among the selection are romantic B&Bs, stylish hotels and luxury estates. Check out some of our recommendations in the 5 Best Romantic Accommodations in Invercargill.
Invercargill for Foodies
Any foodie who has done their research will know that the food is a little different in Southland. Invercargill and its eateries specialise in seafood only found in this part of the country, like Bluff oysters, as well as wild venison found in the wilderness of Fiordland National Park.
The culture down here has also made their own tongue-in-cheek creations like the “Southland Cheese Roll” or “Southland Sushi”, which is quite simply a slice of bread rolled up with melted cheese and herbs! Learn more about the speciality in the 25 Foods You Have to Try in New Zealand.
However, compared to elsewhere in New Zealand, the food-related activities are limited, so while we don’t have a full foodie guide to Invercargill, here are a few ways to incorporate food into your stay.
Where to Eat
- Elegance at 148 on Elles (148 Elles Road)
- Buster Crabb (326 Dee Street)
- The Rocks Cafe & Shop 5 (101 Dee Street)
- The Batch Cafe (173 Spey Street)
- The Cheeky Llama Cafe (216 Queens Drive)
- The Seriously Good Chocolate Company (147 Spey Street).
Foodie Things to Do
- Make your own chocolate at The Seriously Good Chocolate Company
- Try Bluff oysters at most restaurants
- Try Southland Sushi at most cafes
- Scout out the cheap eats
- Browse the Southern Farmers’ Market every Sunday, 9.30am-1.30pm.
More About Invercargill
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Invercargill. Now plan more of your exploration of Invercargill and New Zealand with the following guides:
- 10 Best Walks in Invercargill
- 20 Amazing Things to Do in Invercargill
- Public Transport in Invercargill
Finally, discover more ways to explore the South Island with the 51 Best Things to Do on the South Island.