Yes, we’ve heard all the comments about how “it’s so cold down there” or “don’t you wear gumboots all year round?” (well if you’re a farmer then yes, for sure!). Even, as I overheard a well-meaning lady from the North Island in a camp kitchen one day say to an overseas visitor, “oh yes, you must go to the far south and see Christchurch!”
Seriously guys, Christchurch is nearly 600km north of Invercargill and not even close to the far south! There is so much in between that you are missing out on if you don’t start your journey in “Invers” as it’s affectionately known by us locals.
Your awesome kombi road trip adventure should start in Invercargill!
For those who have never been, Invercargill is a city of a little over 56,000 people in the very most southern tip of the South Island, New Zealand. Like much of the rest of New Zealand you can expect to see breath-taking scenery along with fascinating history.
Many people like to start their kombi adventure in Christchurch or Queenstown, but starting in the centre of the South Island doesn’t make sense to us and who enjoys back tracking anyway? Why not start at the beginning of our island and do a round trip, or mini round trip!
Make the most of your Invercargill starting point and let us help you discover some secret spots of our southern city full of Scottish heritage.
Our forefathers of Invercargill had such amazing vision to put aside over 80 acres in the centre of the city for us to enjoy and share with our visitors. Queens Park is magnificent, and definitely not to be overlooked. The Feldwick Gates are one entrance to the park leading the eye through to a Band Rotunda in the centre – prime opportunity here for one of those photos with leading lines and a symmetrical viewpoint.
Queens Park is a perfect way to relax by wandering around the variety of garden rooms in different styles. The winter garden featuring exotic plants in a tropical environment is also worth popping in to.
If you have a family, Queens Park is known for its crowd-pleasing playground, a water park and plenty of space for the little ones to burn off some energy. Also a kid-friendly attraction is the animal reserve, with domestic farmyard type animals as well as more exotic animals like alpacas, ostrich and wallaby. Additionally you can wander through an aviary area and see unique birdlife up close and personal.
A new garden, and one of my personal favorites, is The Stumpery. An interesting area created from stumps, logs, roots from peat bogs on the Awarua Plains, recycled railway sleepers and hardwood poles, with steel rods and chains joining it all together. Takes me back to the days of “picking up sticks”, as it was called when I was kid. Essentially clearing the ploughed paddocks on the farm of bits of bog wood – sometimes we’d even get some pocket money!
There are also various fitness activities throughout the park like an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, cricket, croquet or workout on one of the 20 exercise stations along a 4km fitness trail.
For an extra bit of fun, try the Queens Park Selfie Exploration Challenge – Clues can be found here.
E Hayes & Sons
New Zealand’s largest independent hardware store has more than just hardware, paint and gifts. E Hayes & Sons boasts a world-renowned Motorworks collection. A range of classic, vintage and modern motorcycles, engines and the famous Burt Munro’s “World’s Fastest Indian” motorcycle. If Burt Munro is unknown to you, you should check out his back story as it is a claim to fame for the South Island.
Burt Munro Statue
Speaking of Burt Munro and Queens Park, if you have a passion for speed, you can check out a larger-than-life bronze statue of the famous speedster. The statue is located on the south end of the park on Gala Street. Don’t miss this celebrated piece of Invercargill history and a photo opp!
Maybe one of the lesser known gems of Invercargill is a small village created out of scavenger’s treasures. Demolition World is a unique display of history and culture with chickens roaming freely, where for a gold coin entry fee, you can see an old-world reconstructed entirely of demolished buildings and recycled items. Allow a few hours to wander around this junk lovers haven!
Stirling Point Signpost
At the southernmost end of the island in Bluff is an infamous landmark – the Stirling Point Signpost. This signpost of many signs shows the directions and distances for major cities around the world and was named after Captain Stirling, who established a Whaling Station here in 1836. Another prime photo opportunity for you to mark the memory of visiting the southern most town of the South Island in New Zealand.
While you’re visiting Bluff for the signpost experience, make sure you include a trip up Bluff Hill. From the top you get amazing views over the famous Foveaux Strait (between the South and Stewart Islands). Because of it’s height (265m) you can also see over the Southland Plains in an impressive 360 degree view.
One of Invercargill’s architectural treasures is a 40-metre high water tower. Invercargill’s water supply originally came from here but is now only used as a back up. You can no longer go inside the tower but it is still worth a stop to photograph this beautiful red brick building against a blue summer sky. Even after dark, the lighting around the tower makes for an awesome night shot.
Just minutes from the city centre, your kombi trek can continue. Oreti beach is one of the only beaches in New Zealand that vehicles are allowed to drive on (but not our kombi’s)!! This 26km stretch of beach is the location that local hero Burt Munro tested and raced his Indian motorcycle on in 1957. Burt set a NZ Open Beach record of 131.38 mph here and topped that in 1975 by pushing it to 136 mph. That record still stands today! This beach was also the prime location for the film The World’s Fastest Indian which tells his story.
Every year in February, Invercargill hosts the Burt Munro Challenge where motorcyclists arrive from all over New Zealand, and even internationally to take part in a series of challenges over the weekend to honour Burt’s kiwi ingenuity, his determination, and his love of speed! Friday evening at twilight is when the Indian Motorcycle Beach Racing is held which always gathers large crowds to watch the speed racing.
On summer evenings you can witness stunning sunsets on this long flat beach which seems to go on forever! Another awesome photo just waiting for you here.
Bill Richardson Transport Museum
Invercargill was home to another unique character by the name of Bill Richardson who had a lifelong love of collecting and restoring vehicles throughout his years. His family have continued the legacy by turning this one-of-a-kind collection into a transport museum. There is an entry fee here but it is well worth a visit even if you’re not a vehicle enthusiast as there are various collections of all things retro.
For those of us who are kombi lovers, there is more than one here to admire, just saying! You need to allow a few hours to wander through this museum to take it all in. Finish off with some coffee and cake in the attached cafe, The Grille.
Walk the Estuary Walkway
A popular board walk giving you a different view of our city is a loop track of just under 5km around the Estuary with the name of Pleasure Bay Lagoon. It’s about an hour’s return walk and you can also cycle it. You can see two viewpoints of the city from here with the sea one side and the lagoon the other.
Another shorter walk leads to a high viewing spot where you can get that camera or phone out again to provide you with more memorable footage of your visit down south!
If walking is your thing, then there are a number of other great walking tracks around the city – you can see many different choices here.
Let’s Take a Trip!
Invercargill is a perfect place to start your kombi road trip of the South Island, New Zealand. There are so many amazing places to fill your day with astonishing views, family fun and cultural experiences. Just to add an extra incentive – most of them are free of charge!
Let us help you start your journey by finding the perfect kombi for you! Try out our Kombi Quiz and start your adventure of a lifetime.