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Southland - New Zealand’s most southern region - is a sparsely populated region famed for native bird sanctuaries and an untouched natural environment. A quarter of Southland’s land area is protected as part of the Fiordland and Rakiura national parks, and conservation and sustainability projects are key regional activities.


View Southland region maps   

Maps and local travel information for Southland.

Southern Hospitality

Invercargill, the largest city in Southland, is a laid-back country town with a Scottish heritage. A stop-off point on the Southern Scenic route, Invercargill offers legendary southern hospitality and a base to explore beautiful wild destinations like the Catlins coast and Curio Bay.

Bluff, a fishing port south of Invercargill, is the source of the Bluff oyster - a traditional New Zealand delicacy that’s harvested from the chilled waters of the southern ocean. Southlanders celebrate the oyster season in May with the annual Bluff oyster and seafood festival.

Stewart Island - New Zealand’s third largest island and a haven for native bird life - lies on the other side of Foveaux Strait, a ferry ride from Bluff. Rakiura national park, covering almost 85 percent of Stewart Island, has fantastic coastal views and walking tracks, and some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds.

Uncovering Stewart Island's hidden gems


Southland - Catlins coast
Southland - Catlins coast

Māori Culture / Heritage

Māori knew the Southland region as Murihiku or ‘tail end of the land’. Stewart Island was Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui or ‘anchor stone of Maui’s canoe’. These names recall the story of how Aotearoa New Zealand was formed.

According to Māori folklore, the great Polynesian navigator Maui fished the North Island up from the ocean. Maui’s canoe - Te Waka a Maui or the South Island - was anchored by Stewart Island.

Southland Māori were hunter-gatherers in pre-European times. As it was too cold to grow kumara (sweet potato), they relied on seals and giant moa birds as the main food sources.

European sealers arrived in the 1790s, followed in the 1820s by whalers who established whaling stations. Riverton - 38km from Invercargill - was one of the first European settlements established in New Zealand.

Southland - brown kiwi
Southland - brown kiwi


Southland’s precious and unique environment - including Fiordland and Rakiura national parks which cover more than a quarter of the region - is the subject of some innovative conservation initiatives.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) works extensively on pest eradication and breeding programmes for endangered birds inside the national parks. Ulva Island, off Stewart Island, is a predator-free open sanctuary for many native New Zealand birds.

Sustainable Tourism South promotes protection of the environment in the tourism sector. This regional initiative encourages Southland businesses to consider the natural environment and resources, while ensuring long-term economic and socio-cultural benefits.

The Lodge at Tikana, in Browns - a short drive from Invercargill - is involved in the sustainable tourism project and was the first South Island accommodation awarded Qualmark Enviro-gold status.

Southland - Paterson Inlet
Southland - Paterson Inlet

Nature / Wildlife

Southland is famous for its untouched natural environment. Its protected national parks and marine reserves are home to a wide range of native birds, plants and marine life.

Stewart Island, home of Rakiura national park, is a haven for native birds such as the iconic kiwi, kereru (native wood pigeon), bellbird, tui and rare saddleback. About 20,000 kiwi live on Stewart island - the world’s largest kiwi habitat - offering the best opportunity of seeing kiwi in the wild.

Ulva Island - a 10-minute water taxi ride from Stewart Island - has been a DOC-managed open sanctuary since 1997. Native flora and birds including South Island saddleback, mohua, rifleman and Stewart Island robin flourish on this predator-free sanctuary.

Curio Bay, on the Catlins coast, has a 180-million-year-old fossilised forest. The petrified stumps, fallen trees and fern imprints are easily accessed at low tide, or can be viewed from a platform above. The bay is a nesting site for New Zealand's unique hoiho / yellow eyed penguin, and dolphins and seals often visit.

Southland - South Island saddleback
Southland - South Island saddleback

Adventure / Outdoors

Southland region has many diverse hiking routes from short walks to multi-day treks.

Rakiura track on Stewart Island - a 36km circuit that takes about three days to walk - follows the open coast, climbs over a 300m high forested ridge, and traverses the shores of Paterson Inlet.

Tuatapere Hump Ridge track is a three-day trek along rugged coastline, through podocarp and beech forest, and past sandstone outcrops. Walkers can travel the track unguided or with a guide.

Southland’s 28 top fishing rivers and streams include some of New Zealand’s best trout fishing destinations. Mataura river, with the highest trout population and catch rates of any New Zealand river, is among the world’s best.

Pioneering spirit behind Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track

Southland - Lonnikers Bay
Southland - Lonnikers Bay


  • Southland was home to speed legend Burt Munro, who once held the world land speed record.
  • Anthony Hopkins portrayed Burt Munro in the movie The World’s Fastest Indian which was mostly shot in Southland.
  • Southland has the longest summer daylight hours in New Zealand.
  • Curio Bay has an 180-million-year-old petrified forest.