Southland is a place of many memorable features

Eight heritage trails have been developed that navigate and tell the story of Southland combing the majestic physical environment, the people, the culture and the rich history. These heritage trails, along with visiting museums around the region, are great ways to explore and experience the heritage of the south.

Fairlight Station Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

Settlement and development

Māori first occupied Murihiku about a thousand years ago, followed by European sealers, whalers and traders from Australia from the 1820’s. After the discovery of gold in 1861, settlers largely from Otago and elsewhere in New Zealand largely colonised Southland. The purchase of Murihiku in 1853 for European settlement brought Southland under the control of Otago’s new provincial government. The regions became separated and Southland elected its own council in 1861.

Shortly after Southland separated from Otago, the discovery of goldfields saw Otago grow and before long miners came to explore Southland’s rivers. Gold was discovered in the Waikaia River, on the beaches west of Riverton at Orepuki, at Preservation Inlet and on Stewart Island. The gold rushes greatly increased Southland’s population. Most of the miners in Southland came via Otago from Britain in the 1860’s and around 30% of all incoming miners hailed from Scotland and a similar proportion from Ireland.

The development of dairying during the late 1870’s saw dairy farmers flock to Central Southland and by 1901 the province had 23 dairy factories. In Eastern Southland freezing works were developed as farmers began raising sheep for meat as well as wool.

Source: Murihiku: The Southland Story. (P. 80).

Eastern Southland Gallery

The architecture

Invercargill’s architecture was modernised during the 1930’s with the reworking of old facades, producing Art Deco buildings. The prosperity from the farming industry was responsible for the city’s quality Victorian buildings built in the 1880’s and 1890’s. At the turn of the century, Southland’s timber and coal industries contributed to the growth of the city and the many examples of Edwardian architecture are testimony to this prosperity.

Southland museums

Southland boasts many museums that are scattered throughout the region.  Most are run by volunteers and tell the unique story of their community.  Art enthusiast will enjoy the Eastern Southland Art Gallery. The Croydon Heritage and Aircraft Company located at Mandeville airfield is New Zealand’s oldest aerodrome, with a focus on restoring planes from the 1930’s. Visitors can watch the restorers at work or take to the skies in a Tiger Moth. Another must-see is Te Hikoi Southern Journey in Riverton. Just 25 minutes from Invercargill, the interactive displays and adventurous characters tell the story of how Maori and European ancestors adapted to survive in Southland.

Southland heritage trails

Invercargill heritage trail

This half-day tour is best undertaken by vehicle, with stops to view the spacious parks and Edwardian architecture. The tour includes the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, the Civic Theatre and Anderson Park. Click here for brochure.

Bluff heritage trail

From the old town wharf and war memorial to Stirling Point and the statue of Bluff’s most famous son, Sir Joseph Ward, this 20km trail is guaranteed to be a half-day well spent.

Winton heritage trail

Winton is probably the oldest inland town in Southland. The 10km trail can be driven in 15 minutes but allow extra time to fully appreciate the 14 sites including a stroll through the Ivy Russell Reserve.

Takitimu heritage trail

This 40km route is dominated by the spectacular Takitimu Mountains and foothills. Visit the 12 heritage sites between Wreys Bush in the east and Birchwood in the west.

Northern Southland heritage Trail

Visit 15 heritage sites spanning a distance of 110km between Kingston and Josephville Hill. Along the way enjoy an expanse of plains, crossed by rivers, surrounded by majestic mountains. 

Catlins coastal heritage trail

Situated in South Catlins, this trail covers 70km and features 13 heritage sites. The scenic beauty and rich history of south Catlins can be explored amongst isolated beaches, rugged coastline, native forest and wildlife.

Riverton-Aparima South Coast heritage trail

This trail takes you on an 80km journey around the South Coast from Waimatuku to Orepuki. The trail includes Te Hikoi – Southern Journey, Templeton Flaxmill and Howells Memorial.

Gore heritage trail

This trail is designed as a walking tour and takes you around the historic sites of the town of Gore.