City Guide - Invercargill, Southland, NZ

Invercargill is the largest city in New Zealand's Southland region and also the southernmost city in the entire country. It also happens to be where Emmett and I had been residing for the past five months as we painted the interior of a local  hostel. (Unfortunately for anyone wanting to stay there now, it's recently converted into student housing for the nearby Southern Institute of Technology). It may not be the most thrilling, adventure-filled city in the country but it's got a relaxed vibe and is the perfect base for exploring many other gorgeous South Island sights by car or bus.

Do

  • Visit lovely Queen's Park.
    Queen's Park is a beautiful, expansive city park; one of the nicest I've ever visited. It's got loads to do, such as:
    • Check out the (free) Southland Museum & Gallery where you can learn about Sub-antarctic islands and see tuatara (essentially small living dinosaurs).
  • Check out the aviary where you can see native birds like weka, kea, & kaka as well as tropical parrots from around the world.
  • Take a stroll through any of the park's numerous gardens. You'll find native New Zealand plant gardens, a greenhouse-enclosed Winter Garden, a cactus house, a Japanese garden, a Sub-antarctic plants garden, an extensive rose garden, a rhodendron grove... Basically, if you like to stroll around and look at cool plants, then this is the place for you.
  • Practice your swing on the Queen's Park Golf Course.
  • Take a walk around the Animal Reserve, where they have wallabies, peafowl, kune kune pigs, sheep, red deer, turkey, rabbits, and turtles.
  • Get a workout on the park's fitness track.
  • Grab a warm drink, cold popsicle, or yummy lunch from The Cheeky Llama cafe & tea kiosk near the park's playground.
  • Experience the surreal woodscape of the Stumpery.
  • Take a picnic to Otepuni Gardens.
    Otepuni Gardens are a lovely creek-side park spanning a few city blocks just off of Invercargill's CBD. The gardens make for a great place to have a picnic, stroll, or just a sit in with a good book.
  • Visit Oreti Beach.
    Oreti is a 30 kilometer beach overlooking the Southern Ocean with views of Fiordland's mountains to the west and Stewart Island on the horizon to the east. It's also where Burt Munroe of World's Fastest Indian fame rode his motorcycle. While living in Invercargill, Emmett and I went to Oreti numerous times for evening drives and afternoon strolls.
  • Go to the Southern Farmer's Market.
    The Southern Farmer's Market is a small produce and crafts market held every Saturday from 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM next to the Southland Masonic Hall. It's the perfect place to get inexpensive fresh produce (compared to supermarket prices) and try the Southland classic snack, cheese rolls. Cheese rolls are a made up of one slice of bread that's slathered with cheese and onion soup powder, then rolled up and toasted with slabs of butter on top. They are scrumptious.
  • Take an afternoon trip to Bluff.
    Though Invercargill is the southernmost city, Bluff is a township twenty minutes further south of Invercargill. While there, you could hike Motopuhe Hill for great views of the Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island or take a picture with the Bluff signpost (below) that hammers home just how far south you are. From Bluff you can also catch the ferry to Stewart Island, a mecca for scenic hikes and kiwi bird sightings.
  • Drive around the Catlins.
    In The Catlins region just north of Invercargill, you can see gorgeous New Zealand rain forest, coastline, and wildlife. Check out my post on the Catlins for more.

Eat

  • The Cheeky Llama / Queen's Park / Dine-in & Take-away / This cute little cafe inside Queen's Park is the perfect place to grab a snack or tea while exploring the park grounds. Do get a cheese roll and a custard slice.
  • Burger Fuel / 123 Dee Street / Dine-in & Take-away / Okay, okay: Burger Fuel is a national chain. However, they have awesome & affordable food. And, as a vegetarian, I was thrilled to find that they have not one but three delicious vegetarian burgers on the menu. Get a V-Dub Vege burger, kumara fries, and a chocolate thickshake.
  • Thai Dee / 9 Dee Street / Take-away / I haven't been here (we didn't eat out much to save some $$) but the owners of our hostel always recommended it to guests. It's supposed to be a reliable Thai takeout place.
  • Hell Pizza / 2 Dee Street / Dine-in & Take-away / Like Burger Fuel, Hell Pizza is a national Kiwi chain but it's choice (as they say around these parts). They have so many types of pizza, many that are gourmet combos at a decent-for-NZ prices. Emmett and I really liked the Veggie Grimm and the Limbo pizzas. I also recommend the delicious fried camembert bites as an app.
  • The Batch Cafe / 173 Spey Street / Batch Cafe is a really cute place with a full menu of baked goods and hot drinks. They were NZ Hospitality Cafe of the year three years in a row, so you know you'll find something tasty here.
  • Bombay Palace / 68 Forth Street / Dine-in & Take-away / This place has excellent Indian food. I wish I could eat here every day. I highly, highly recommend any and all naan on the menu and the Malai Kofta Curry.

Drink

Disclaimer: drinking out in New Zealand is expensive, so Emmett and I almost always quenched our thirst by buying our alcohol at Liquor Land. Also, Invercargill is one of the few cities in New Zealand where you can only buy alcohol at liquor stores, not in super markets.

We have been out to drink once, at Lone Star and found the drinks to be decent & not too pricey. The popular late-night place for local uni students is BarLuca Bar & Cocktail Club but we've also heard good things about the more casual atmospheres of the Irish Pub and the Vinyl Bar.

Stay

As I mentioned before, the very lovely and highly-rated hostel that we've been living in has now become student housing.

For BBH members, try the cozy Southern Comfort near Queen's Park. There's also one other hostel in the city, Tuatara Backpackers Lodge, which is a large hostel with many rooms. We have heard from other backpackers that it suffers from issues that typically plague larger places - messiness, impersonal staff, and loud guests.

If neither of those places happen to capture your interest, you could always try trusty old airbnb which looks to have many affordable rooms listed in the area.

Go next:

The Catlins & Dunedin, Queenstown & Wanaka, or Te Anau & Milford Sound