20 Things To Do In Invercargill

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Invercargill is New Zealand’s southernmost city, right down at the bottom of the South Island. Even though there’s an airport about 2km (1.2 miles) out of the Central Business District, Invercargill is sometimes forgotten by New Zealanders, because it’s tucked away down there. However, it shouldn’t be. I first visited Invercargill only a few years ago, and I immediately fell in love with it.

This city has some old-school New Zealand charm and is in a beautiful part of the world. There’s lots to see and do here, and I’m already dreaming of visiting again. This city is particularly well known for its automotive and transport history in New Zealand, and the “World’s Fastest Indian” motorcyclist Burt Munro called Invercargill home. It’s also near some incredible beaches, and it’s just a day trip away from the lakes and mountains of Central Otago as well. Here are the best things to do in Invercargill.

Invercargill, New Zealand

20 Things To Do In Invercargill

things to do in invercargill
Admiring colonial architecture is one of the things to do in Invercargill, NZ.

1- Visit The Bill Richardson Transport World

One of Invercargill’s most famous attractions is the Bill Richardson Transport World Museum.

When you’re visiting Invercargill, you simply can’t miss it.

This museum started as Bill Richardson’s private project, and it’s grown into a privately owned museum with more than 300 classic vehicles lovingly restored and on display.

Here, you’ll see cars, trucks, and motorcycles, as well as transport accessories including petrol pumps.

Even the toilets here have been carefully created according to different themes, so you shouldn’t miss out on these either.

Bill’s Richardson Transport World will have something to interest everyone in the family, big or small.

Bill Richardson Transport World is at 491 Tay Street, Invercargill 9810.

2- Take A Day Trip To Bluff

Invercargill is New Zealand’s southernmost city, and it’s just 30 km (20 miles) from Bluff, the Southernmost point of mainland New Zealand.

While Stewart Island is technically further south, it’s a little harder to get to, so Bluff is the next best thing.

When you get to Bluff, don’t miss the iconic yellow “AA” Sign.

The sign was erected by the Automobile Association to mark this point, and it includes the distance to destinations all over New Zealand and the world.

No matter where you’re from, you might see your home city on it.

Bluff is also known for great oysters, as well as good fish and chips, so make sure you try some seafood while you’re there too.

3- Beat The Heat At Splash Palace

If you’re looking for somewhere to swim in Invercargill, Splash Palace is a public pool that has been recently restored and is one of the best swimming pools in New Zealand.

At Splash Palace, you’ll find lane pools, a water slide, sauna and spa pools and a wave pool.

There are also separate areas for learners and toddlers, helping everyone to stay safe while they swim.

This pool is open every day of the week, from 5:30 am until 9 pm Monday to Friday, and from 8 am until 6 pm on the weekend.

You’ll find Splash Palace at 58 Elles Road, Georgetown, Invercargill 9812, New Zealand.

4- Go Crazy At Dig This

For an experience like nothing you’ve ever had, visiting Dig This is a must-do while you’re enjoying Invercargill.

Dig This is described as “New Zealand’s Only Heavy Machinery Playground”, and that’s exactly what it is.

Here, you can play on a 5-tonne digger, a 15-tonne bulldozer, or even a 4-tonne skidder.

These massive machines are the type that you usually see on a construction site, but when you visit Dig This, you get to be in control of them.

It’s not cheap to book one of the Dig This experiences, with each one costing at least NZD 100, but if you’re interested in having fun with heavy machinery, then it’s worth it.

Dig This is at 84 Otepuni Avenue, Newfield, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

5- Visit The Southland Cenotaph

The Southland Cenotaph was constructed after the First World War, as a place for New Zealanders to pay their respects to soldiers buried overseas.

It also commemorates Southland Nurses who died overseas during the war, and it now has more than 2,000 names engraved upon it.

While the design of the cenotaph was modeled off one in London, it was created from local stone, and carved by a New Zealand artist.

This is a special place, and it’s worth visiting, whether you have a personal connection to a Southlander who’s served overseas or not.

The Southland Cenotaph is at 194 Dee Street, Avenal, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

6- Enjoy A Walk Through Queens Park

If you’re looking to get outdoors and enjoy some nature while you’re in the middle of the city, then Queens Park is the perfect place for you.

This park covers around 200 acres, and it’s home to a botanical garden, playgrounds, a museum, sports grounds, and even a golf course.

You’ll also find a lot of statues, animals, and picnic areas in Queens Park, which makes it the ideal place to walk around and explore.

It’s also very easy to get to, no matter which part of the city you’re in.

Queens Park is just north of the center of Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

7- Run, Walk, Or Bike At Sandy Point Domain

For one of Invercargill’s lesser known attractions, I recommend a trip to Sandy Point Domain, around 7 km (4.3 miles) out of the city center.

This domain is near the Oreti River, and backs onto the coast by the Foveaux Strait.

There’s some interesting history to this area too, as it was home to whaling station in the 1880s, and it’s seen more than one shipwreck.

Sandy Point Domain, as a public park, has been open for nearly 30 years.

There’s always something happening here, and it’s home to many of Invercargill’s recreational clubs, including the Rowing Club, Pistol Club, and Pony Club.

When you visit the domain you’ll find many different short walking tracks, as well a few different playgrounds for the children.

It’s a good spot to run, walk, or go for a family bike ride.

You can reach Sandy Point Domain from Sany Point Road, Southland 9879, New Zealand.

8- Enjoy The Art At He Waka Tuia

He Waka Tuia is a special place to visit while you’re in Invercargill, as it’s a collaborative museum and art gallery, encompassing the best of both.

The Invercargill Public Art Gallery has combined with the Southland Museum and Art Gallery to create He Waka Tuia.

Open every day of the week from 10 am onwards, here you can find a range of exhibits and events to check out.

Most exhibits are free to enter for all ages, and He Waka Tui caters to all people, with a monthly “Low Sensory Hour”, and children’s activities.

You’ll find He Waka Tuia at 42 Kelvin Street, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

9- Check Out the Invercargill Water Tower

fun things to do in invercargill water tower
Taking a photo of the historic water tower is one of the things to do in Invercargill for history lovers.

One of Invercargill’s most iconic buildings is the local water tower.

This was built in 1889, and at that time it was the primary source of pressurised water for the entire city.

It’s still in use today, but now it plays a backup role, in case of supply issues.

The tower took 12 months to build and used approximately 3,000 bricks to disguise the 300,000-litre steel water tank.

While you can’t go inside the tower, it’s worth a look from the outside, and if you get there early enough in the day you’ll be able to snap some great pictures.

The Invercargill Water Tower is at 101 Doon Street, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

10- Taste A Southland Specialty: Cheese Rolls

Locals will say that you haven’t experienced Southland until you’ve eaten a cheese roll.

This is a simple delicacy, consisting of a slice of white bread slathered in a thick sauce similar to bechamel, with a whole lot more added cheese.

The cheese bread is then rolled into a tube, and toasted.

Cheese rolls were first seen in New Zealand in around 1935, although no one is quite sure where they come from.

Regardless, there’s no dispute about the fact that they’re delicious.

You won’t get cheese rolls in the North Island, so make sure you eat your fill while you’re in Invercargill.

You won’t have trouble finding them, as most cafes, bakeries, and even a few restaurants will stock them.

You may have to try a few though, to see which one is your favorite.

11- Visit The Burt Munro Statue

One of New Zealand’s national heroes, Burt Munro, hails from Invercargill.

Burt Munro is famous for setting, and continuing to hold, the land-speed record in a vehicle under 1,000cc.

Burt set his record in the Bonneville Salt Flats, USA, and in 2005 a film starring Anthony Hopkins was produced to tell the story.

At the entrance to Queens Park, you’ll find a larger-than-life bronze statue of Burt Munro, created by local artist Roddy McMillan.

It’s an impressive statue, commemorating an even more impressive story behind it, so make sure you take the time to have a look.

The Burt Munro Statue is in Queens Park, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

12- Spend An Afternoon At Anderson Park

Anderson Park is north of Invercargill, and it encompasses more than 300 acres, including a huge area of native bush.

Anderson Park was originally owned and developed by Sir Robert Anderson, however upon his death he donated his house and grounds to Invercargill, to be used and accessed by all.

At Anderson Park, you’ll find great picnic spots, playgrounds, and walking tracks that will weave and wind you through areas of well-maintained native bush.

In the homestead, you can also see a large collection of art, curated by the Anderson Park Art Gallery Society.

This collection includes many pieces by New Zealander and Invercargill artists.

It was closed in 2014 following an earthquake risk assessment but has recently been renovated, and is now open to the public again.

You can access Anderson Park from McIvor Road, Waikiwi, Southland 9876, New Zealand.

13- Explore Demolition World

Demolition World started as a scrap recycling business, and it’s now morphed into another of Invercargill’s iconic places.

In 2003, David and Lee Fallow opened their collection of recycled materials up to the public, organized into an entire village of buildings, entertainment, and art pieces.

Here you’ll find, among other things, a reconstructed dental clinic, a medieval banquet, and a rebuilt church.

It’s been described as creepy, but also welcoming, so it’s something you have to come and see for yourself.

Demolition World asks for just a $1 donation to enter, and it’s open every day except Sunday.

Demolition World is at 290 Bain Street, Clifton, Invercargill 9812, New Zealand.

14- Catch A Glimpse Of The Aurora Australis

To partake in this incredible experience, you need to be in Invercargill at exactly the right time, on exactly the right day.

Unfortunately, I can’t predict when that’s going to be, but it’s worth taking a good look at the solar weather forecast before you travel, in case you’re in luck.

Autumn and Winter offer the best chances of seeing the Aurora Australis (“the Southern Lights”), so March through until September are the best times to be prepared.

If there is high solar activity, then grab a blanket, and a good camera, and head on out to Oreti Beach, Sandy Point, or Awarua to get the best view.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

15- Relax At Oreti Beach

For a day out at the beach, you don’t need to go any further than 10km (6 miles) west of Invercargill, where you’ll find Oreti Beach.

Spending time here is one of the best things to do when you visit Invercargill, and you’ll see why as soon as you arrive.

The beach is 26km long, and it’s covered with golden sand almost all the way along.

The waters of the Foveaux Strait are icy cold in winter, but lovely for swimming in summer.

Bring an umbrella, a picnic lunch, and some beach toys for the perfect day out.

Walking along this beach is also part of the Te Araroa Trail, so you might even spot some hikers out there.

Oreti Beach is west of Invercargill, 9879, New Zealand.

16- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At The Seriously Good Chocolate Company

Are you really on holiday if you don’t indulge in all the sweet treats around you? Paris may have croissants, but Invercargill holds its own with the Seriously Good Chocolate Company.

Here, chocolates and truffles are made on sight, using fresh local ingredients, and they do produce some seriously good chocolate.

If just eating chocolate isn’t enough for you, then you can sign up for a chocolate-making class as well, as get some behind-the-scenes views.

The Seriously Good Chocolate Company is regularly releasing new, New Zealand, flavours, so you might be able to try something unusual, like the recently produced Sheep’s Milk Chocolate.

You’ll find the Seriously Good Chocolate Company at 147 Spey Street, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand.

17- Visit E. Hayes And Sons

This Hardware-Store-cum-Motorworks-Collection is a quirky place to visit, and it will help you to take a step back in time.

The store has been open for more than 40 years, and it stocks anything you’ll need for a DIY project, as well as a lot of Invercargill history.

Here, you’ll be able to see the “Fastest Indian”, the original motorcycle that Burt Munro set his land speed record on (as I’ve mentioned above).

It’s been well maintained and is on display alongside some of Munro’s other equipment including his helmet.

In addition to this vintage motorcycle, E. Hayes and Sons also has a curious collection of other vintage items, including typewriters, bikes, and woodworking tools.

E. Hayes and Sons is at 168 Dee Street, Invercargill, 9810, New Zealand.

18- Go Hiking In The Catlins

invercargill catlins coast
Exploring the Catlins Coast is one of the things to do from Invercargill.

“The Catlins” is an area of New Zealand just east of Invercargill, and it’s an area known for incredible scenery and native beauty.

The Catlins sits on the coast of New Zealand, and it’s largely untouched and undeveloped, so you’ll get the sense that you’re stepping back in time when you come here to visit.

This is a fantastic spot to do some hiking, and the Department of Conservation website lists a range of different day walks, for different fitness levels.

The Nugget Point Lighthouse is very iconic, and you’re likely to see it on many New Zealand calendars, as well as promotional posters.

There are also waterfalls, caves, and forest areas to explore, so I recommend taking your time to enjoy the Catlins.

19- Bike Along The Invercargill Heritage Trail

The Invercargill City Council have produced the “Invercargill Heritage Trail” guide, which sets out 18 important sites and sights of Invercargill, and a suggested order to visit them.

This map is available on the Invercargill City Council Website.

While a lot of the sites included in this trail are on my list of the best 20 things to do in Invercargill, following the planned Heritage Trail is a great way to see a lot of them, all in one day.

Even better, I recommend bringing or hiring a bicycle, so that you can cycle between the different areas.

The map provides both walking and driving directions, so you can decide which path you plan to follow, as you make your way around the city.

20- Visit The Classic Motorcycle Mecca

If you hadn’t guessed already, Invercargill is a hub for transport history in New Zealand.

In addition to the two other transport museums I’ve listed here, another fantastic place to visit is the Classic Motorcycle Mecca.

This is considered New Zealand’s best motorcycle museum, and there is a huge range of motorcycles included in the collection; some date back to 1902.

As well as motorcycles, here you’ll find different exhibits and events, as well as some interactive displays that will interest visitors of all ages.

The Classic Motorcycle Mecca also hosts the Burt Munro Challenge every year, which is the largest motorcycle rally in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s held around Invercargill.

The Classic Motorcycle Mecca is at 25 Tay Street, Invercargill 9810, New Zealand. 

red bridge over a waterway in otepuni gardens
Relaxing in Otepuni Gardens is one of the things to do in Invercargill.

For more things to do in New Zealand, read:

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Sarah Hyde was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Now based in Innsbruck, Austria, she is getting out to experience Europe every chance she gets. When Sarah was in high school she spent a year living in Toronto, Canada, and hasn't stopped travelling since. She has explored India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and spent several months of 2020 in Covid lockdown in the village of Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. After hiking Te Araroa, New Zealand, in 2022 she developed a love for solo-hiking and thinks it's one of the best ways to really get to know a new country! Since then, she has gone on to hike Rota Vicentina in Portugal, and Haute Route from Switzerland to France, two incredible adventures. When she's not travelling, you’ll find her writing or reading. Sarah has a Bachelor of Communication Studies from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, as well as a law degree.