Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand and is known for its sweeping landscapes, unique museums, and incredible food. Now, it may not be the most-visited part of New Zealand (we’re talking to you Auckland and Queenstown!), but there are so many things to do in Invercargill for tourists and locals alike.
Whether you want to spend a lazy afternoon strolling down the immaculate Oreti Beach or would rather sample the world’s most delicious oysters while watching the sunset, you’ll find plenty here to set your soul alight.
Ready to explore the top things to do in Invercargill for the whole family?
Let’s dive in.
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The Best Things to Do In Invercargill
1. Marvel at the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Invercargill, you can’t beat Aurora Australis. Thanks to the city’s low pollution levels, extreme southern location, and unimaginably clear skies, Invercargill is one of the top places in New Zealand to spot the famous pink and green lights.
Before we move on, if you’re wondering what causes this stunning display, it’s essentially down to high-energy solar particles interacting with the earth’s magnetic field. This radical interaction then produces a field of glowing gas that happens to look really aesthetic. These are the same as the northern lights, only these are the version found nearer the South Pole.
Now, before you get too excited about this scientific phenomenon, it’s worth noting that the southern lights won’t always be visible. However, you can give yourself the best chance of catching them by visiting Invercargill during the winter months. This is between March and September (for our Northern Hemisphere readers).
If you can, it’s also worth traveling to Stewart Island, Lake Tekapo, or The Catlins for minimal light pollution.
2. Pay a Visit to Transport World
You don’t have to be a vehicle aficionado to appreciate the impressive collection on display at Transport World. Owned and curated by Bill Richardson, this niche museum displays a private collection of over 250 vehicles that range from iconic Model Ts to Vintage 1930s V8s.
Although this attraction is geared towards adults with an interest in heritage automobiles, there’s still plenty on offer for kids here. The designated LEGO room will keep little ones occupied for hours, while the wearable art collection actively encourages imaginative play.
One of the best (and cheapest!) things to do in Invercargill for families, this spot is a must-visit.
3. Check Out Dig This – A Totally Unique Activity in Invercargill
If you’re looking for weird and wonderful things to do in Invercargill, then you need to check out Dig This.
Unlike typical playgrounds that offer swings, slides, and seesaws, Dig This is all about heavy machinery and destruction – the good kind, of course!
If you’re wondering what the concept is here, then let me fill you in. This heavy equipment playground essentially invites guests to bulldoze and excavate to their heart’s content. It’s certainly bizarre, but you’re unlikely to find anything similar elsewhere!
Don’t have a machinery license or any prior experience on a construction site?
Never fear! The folks at Dig This are love training newbies and will turn you from novice to expert in no time.
Ideal for everyone from tiny tykes to big kids, this is one of our favourite things to do in Invercargill by a mile.
4. Relax at Oreti Beach
With its long, sandy shorelines and breathtaking sunsets, it’s unsurprising that visiting Oreti Beach has made it onto our list of the top things to do in Invercargill.
It’s colder than your average tropical offering, but this Invercargill hotspot still manages to maintain decent temperatures during the spring, summer, and autumn months.
If you’ve got the kiddos in tow, then get ready for some serious sandcastle building. For adrenaline junkies, hit the waves for windsurfing and swimming before dialling things down with kayaking or trail walking along the Oreti River Walkway.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to slather on that sunscreen – seriously!
5. Queens Park
With its immaculate gardens, art monuments, and beautiful fountains, Queens Park is one of Invercargill’s most relaxing spots. Located in the city centre, this sprawling 80-hectare park is ideal for hiking, biking, picnicking and animal-viewing.
The Aviary and Japanese Garden are must-visit pitstops, but it’s the Garden Steans Centennial Winter Garden that’s not to be missed. Home to exotic plants and bursting with colour and variety, it’s one of the most transportive parts of the city.
Just as a heads up, the park is especially suited to families and young children thanks to its many animal enclosures!
You can easily access the park via Queens Drive, Kelvin Street, or Victoria Avenue, and it’s a mere kilometre from the city centre. This makes it perfect for breaking up a day of sightseeing.
6. Head to the Seriously Good Chocolate Company
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re bound to appreciate a trip to the Seriously Good Chocolate Company in Invercargill.
Not only are all chocolates made onsite, but the care and attention that goes into each truffle is remarkable. These guys pride themselves on creating gourmet chocolates infused with traditional kiwi flavours, and they aim to reflect the culture and heritage of the country through their delicate design work.
Whether you want to tickle your tastebuds with a wine-infused bite or would rather take things back to basics with a signature milk chocolate bar, you’re bound to return for seconds!
Related: Foods you need to try in New Zealand.
7. Sample Bluff Oysters
If you’re a massive foodie, don’t leave Invercargill without sampling Bluff oysters.
Succulent and packed with flavour, Bluff oysters are something that every tourist needs to try when they come to New Zealand.
If you’re wondering what makes these succulent seafood delights so delicious, let us fill you in.
They’re stuffed with vitamins and minerals from the waters of the Foveaux Strait, which gives them a rich, delicate flavour that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you can, visit the Bluff Oyster and Food Festival that takes place during the spring each year. Not only will you be treated to excellent entertainment while you’re here, but you’ll be able to stuff yourself full of oysters.
8. Solve It and Escape!
Are you a fan of riddles, missions, and working under pressure? If you answered “YES” to all three, then you’ll adore Solve It and Escape! This escape room is one of our favourite things to do in Invercargill, as it manages to be highly amusing and exhilarating at the same time.
The concept is simple: use clues, solve riddles, and crack codes to open a series of locks. If you complete everything within 60 minutes, you’ve won!
Whether you’re lucky enough to have a bona fide genius on your team or you’re all terrible with puzzles, you’re bound to have a ball trying to get out of Invercargill’s resident escape room in 60 minutes.
9. Grab a Beer at New Zealand’s Southernmost Breweries
If you’re a craft beer fan, you’re in luck whilst visiting the City of Water and Light.
The Factory Invercargill brews up a range of delicious beers and ciders (which are available online for purchase) and also holds ‘burger and beer’ evenings every fortnight. Recognized as the Southland Brewery of the Year in 2019, you can expect good things from their craft beers!
Whilst in town, we also recommend paying a visit to the newly opened Gadoochi Brewery which you’ll find at the Tuatara Cafe and Bar. They brew a number of their own beers (including porter, IPA, hazy, larger, pale ale, pilsner, and an APA) and ciders but serve up over 20 additional bevvies, ensuring there is something for practically all tastes.
10. Visit Demolition World for a Wacky Only-in-Invercargill Activity
The final spot on our list of things to do in Invercargill belongs to the brilliant yet bizarre Demolition World.
This quirky tourist attraction is in the south of the city and is home to scrapped buildings, rebuilt churches, and rare vintage mannequins that are placed in various scenes across the attraction.
Sound weird? Well, it is. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best things to do in Invercargill!
Despite its slightly creepy vibe, this elevated junkyard is an amazing display of creativity and imagination. Designed by a couple who believed building scraps and recycled materials could serve a higher purpose, you’ll spot everything from classic school scenes to an old-fashioned candy store at this one-of-a-kind spot.
Awesome Things to Do Near Invercargill
11. Explore Riverton
Okay, so Riverton may not be in Invercargill, but we felt it deserved a spot on our list of the best things to do in the area. Offering excellent coastal views, hilltop lookouts, and several challenging treks, Riverton is one of the places near Invercargill that’s ideal for a day trip.
Start by visiting the Mores Scenic Reserve for unspoiled landscapes and beautiful views from Howells Hill. Then, you can explore one of the many uphill tracks for a spot of cardio. Our recommendations? The Kings Track, Mores Lookout Track (the tree-top views are sensational), and the Mores Coastal Loop Track for unbeatable Instagram shots.
If you do visit Riverton, be aware that several areas are Wahi Tapu (areas of spiritual value to the native Ngai Tahu Iwi). Therefore, be respectful and keep only to designated, marked areas.
12. Marvel at Gemstone Beach
Though it’s 55-minute drive from Invercargill, Gemstone Beach is well worth the drive.
This rugged beach is different from other New Zealand beaches, as it’s littered with colourful gemstones – funny that!
Gemstone Beach is forever changing as storms and currents shift sand and stones around. You can, however, expect to see jasper, garnet sands, epidote, rodingite, fossil worm casts, sapphire and idocrase on the shore on any given day.
Head to Orepuki (where you’ll find this unique bay) and be sure to have your camera at the ready.
We hope that this list of the best things to do in Invercargill has inspired you to visit this hidden gem of a city.
Whether you’re inspired by the natural beauty of Queens Park or want rather keep things metropolitan with a visit to Transport World, there are endless possibilities for travellers in this lesser-known part of New Zealand.
Do you have any things to do in Invercargill that are not to be missed?
Let us know in the comments below!
Related: Things to do in Dunedin with kids.
Unless otherwise stated, the above photos are care of Great South.