Top things to do in Southland

Southland offers rugged scenery, native wildlife, motoring history and stand out local produce.

Here are the top 10 things to do in the beautiful Southland.

1. The Catlins Coast

The Catlins is a must-do where you’ll find a world of waterfalls, coastal walks and dramatic scenery. Learn more about the region’s rich heritage and unique Jurassic forest at Tumu Toka Curioscape(opens in new window). Journey through podocarp forests, along stunning coastlines, to hidden lakes and breathtaking waterfalls. This wild coastal stretch is home to an array of wildlife including sea lions, Hector’s Dolphins and rare but distinctive Hoiho, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin.

2. Stewart and Ulva Island

Stewart Island boasts over 240 km of walking tracks. From short walks to week-long adventures, you can explore the beaches and rainforests at your own pace. The island is home to New Zealand's largest and most diverse bird population – spot wild kiwi in their natural habitat! There are a range of tour companies that can show you the hidden gems of the island, including Stewart Island Experience(opens in new window)Ulva’s Guided Walks(opens in new window)Ruggedy Range(opens in new window), and Beaks and Feathers(opens in new window).

3. Southland Cycling

Discover the stunning surrounds of the Southland region by bicycle. Take the Around the Mountains cycle trail(opens in new window) and ride through alpine landscapes, historic towns, and past beautiful farmland and lakes. Be sure to stop and enjoy the local hospitality along the ride to savour delicious food and local stories. For an off-road cycling adventure take the stunning Welcome Rock Trail(opens in new window), set on private land in the high country of Northern Southland.

4. Motoring Mania

Southland has a deep passion for all things wheeled. It all started with Burt Munro setting a world land speed record on his Indian Scout motorbike, now displayed at E. Hayes and Sons Motorworks(opens in new window). Invercargill also boasts the impressive Bill Richardson Transport World(opens in new window) (the largest private collection of its type in the world), Classic Motorcycle Mecca(opens in new window) a world-class display of over 300 motorcycles and artwork and Dig This(opens in new window) - where visitors can try operating heavy machinery in a giant adult-sized sandpit.

5. Lake to Coast Water Adventures

Take a thrilling jetboat ride across New Zealand’s deepest lake, Lake Hauroko and down the Wairaurahiri River to the southern coast with Wairaurahiri Jet(opens in new window) or Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet(opens in new window). Spend a relaxing day at sea and catch your own fresh blue cod dinner with one of the many fishing charters operating off the coast of Bluff and Stewart Island.

6. Savour the South

Alongside the welcoming locals, you will find a plethora of fantastic local craft produce. Try the dram of Hokonui Moonshine in Gore. Savour handmade gourmet chocolates from the Seriously Good Chocolate Company(opens in new window). Visit Bluff, one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand, and experience the world’s best seafood at Oyster Cove Cafe(opens in new window). Bluff is particularly famous for its Oysters that are slowly grown in the pristine waters of the Foveaux Strait.

7. Wild Kiwi Spotting

Kiwi spotting on Stewart Island is a unique experience found nowhere else in New Zealand or the world! Considered a rite of passage for New Zealand visitors, a voyage over the Foveaux Strait to Rakiura/Stewart Island is a must. On Stewart Island humans are outnumbered 50 to 1 by kiwi and this southern sanctuary offers a unique kiwi spotting experience as the birds are practically on your doorstep. There are a number of guides ready to take you on an epic kiwi spotting adventure including Kiwi Wilderness Walks(opens in new window)Ruggedy Range(opens in new window) and Stewart Island Experience(opens in new window).

8. Farm Experiences

Southland spreads right across the lower coastline of the South Island and has a collection of rural destinations waiting to be experienced. From the majestic wilderness of Western Southland where you can partake in Orepuki Horse Treks(opens in new window) to the high country stations in Northern Southland where you can learn to crack a whip and perfect your target shooting at Real Country(opens in new window). Or experience a day in the life of a farmer at Dairy Pryde Farm Tours(opens in new window). No matter your outdoor preference, there are authentic rural experiences for everyone in Southland. 

9. Great Walks

There are few places that have such varied landscapes nestled together like Southland, right on the edge of New Zealand. Soon to be home to five of the ten New Zealand Great Walks, Rakiura, Kepler, Milford, Routeburn, and Hump Ridge tracks are perfect for the hiking inclined traveller. There are also plenty of short walks, coastal walks and night walks. Or waterfall trails for the photographer, night walks for kiwi spotting and exclusive coastal walks for the beach lovers.

10. Southern Scenic Route

The Southern Scenic Route(opens in new window) is ranked as one of the top 10 drives of the world. Over 600km of natural and cultural attractions laid out one after the other – wildlife viewing, short walks, mountain biking, surfing, fishing, hunting, boating, camping, tramping and caving – making it an ideal drive for those with the time to explore.

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