Southland is the perfect place to relax and enjoy fertile green farmland, rugged unspoilt landscapes, clean waters, native forest and spectacular coastal scenery.
Originally Southland was part of Otago. It wasn’t until 1861 that it was declared a separate province and since then the city of Invercargill has been the main service centre for the region. Invercargill offers visitors a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and accommodation as well as parks, golf courses, art galleries, theatres, conference centres and an aquatic centre.
Today the Southern Scenic Route (stretching from Te Anau to Dunedin) unlocks many of the secrets of Southland as it winds its way from the diversity of the Fiordland mountain range to the southern plains and sandy beaches. If time is limited the Southern Scenic Route can be traveled in two days otherwise many days can be spent discovering the wonderful attractions and friendly small towns along the way.
Visit Dean Forest to see New Zealand’s largest Totara Tree, take a walk out to Monkey Island when it’s low tide and visit Cosy Nook, a small secluded settlement perched on the edge of the wild Pacific Ocean.
Tuatapere, located on the banks of the Wairau River is known as the ‘Sausage Capital of the World’. Tuatapere offers a variety of hunting, tramping, fishing, kayaking and jet boating. The Clifden Limestone Caves, historic Percy Burn Viaduct, Lake Hauroko, Bluecliffs Beach and Te Waewae Bay are all popular with visitors. Tuatapere is also the departure point for the Hump Ridge walking track.
Riverton, known as the Riviera of the South was once an historic fishing town but today is a popular holiday destination. Its safe sandy swimming beaches, cosy bays and quaint harbour estuary make it the perfect place to stop along the Southern Scenic Route. The Observation Point, Early Settlers Museum and Paua Shell Factory are popular places to visit. Sample fresh seafood straight from local fishing boats, get your photo taken outside the largest Paua Shell in the world and enjoy numerous scenic coastal and bush walks.
Make sure you take the time to visit Bluff – New Zealand’s equivalent to Great Britain’s Lands End. Bluff is a major port and fishing town located at the very bottom of the South Island, it is here that State Highway 1 begins. Visit Bluff Maritime Museum, Stirling Point and Fred & Myrtle’s Paua House or head to the top of Bluff Hill for amazing panoramic views of Southland, Stewart Island and Foveaux Strait. Take a tour through a local fish factory or the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter, along with boat cruises, good seafood restaurants and many historical walking tracks, Bluff is famous for producing the finest Oyster in the world. Popular annual events in Bluff include a Fishing Tournament and the Bluff Oyster and Southland Seafood Festival.
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s newest National Park. It is accessible by ferry from Bluff or by plane from Invercargill. This untouched paradise is a haven for any traveler wishing to get away from it all.
Other places in Southland to visit include the more populated town of Gore, which is New Zealand’s country music capital and also famous for its brown trout. Conveniently situated on the main roads to Queenstown, Milford Sound and Catlins Coast, Gore offers excellent shopping, an air force museum, vintage car museum, art gallery and a vintage aircraft restoration centre (at nearby Manderville). The local ice skating rink is popular as well as several golf courses. Gore hosts the annual Hokonui Country Music Festival and the Gold Guitar Awards.
Southland is a place of serenity with beautiful lakes, forests, beaches and elusive wildlife. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, get away from thousands of other visitors and explore the traffic free roads then Southland is the place for you.