For a region famous for its dramatic landscapes, it is not hard to find many free things to see and do. So, if you feel a little adventurous but frugal, we’ve got you covered.

Usually, we recommend starting the day with freshly made coffee from one of Southland's amazing cafes. Still, today is about free things, so pour yourself a brew at home and remember that the first commercial instant coffee was invented in Invercargill by David Strang.

The trip to Stirling Point is relatively short (about 25 mins from Invercargill) and is home to one of New Zealand’s most famous landmarks – the Stirling Point signpost!  Depicting distances to cities around the world, this is almost a postcard opportunity!  There are also a few short walks near the point and up Bluff Hill to get a good dose of activity included in your day.

Florence Hill Lookout, The Catlins
Florence Hill Lookout, The Catlins

The Catlins

The Catlins, the spectacular coastal stretch between Balclutha and Invercargill, boasts a rugged beauty and untouched quality that is magnetic. Here you’ll find a world of native forests fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy…

Other options are to day trip around the Catlins area, firstly stopping at Waipapa Point Lighthouse, which was built after NZ’s worst maritime disaster, the SS Tararua sinking in 1881. This is often an excellent spot to see sea lions playing in the waves or nestled into the grassy hillside just having a rest.  More photo opportunities lie ahead at the wild Slope Point – the southernmost point of mainland New Zealand, a quick 10-minute walk through farmland, there is a monument and signpost signifying the end of NZ. Curio Bay is the perfect spot for lunch – whether that’s your picnic or you can dine at Niagara Falls Cafe, which does a delicious seafood chowder.

Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls! The Catlins is home to many waterfalls, and they are free to see! The impressive McLean Falls is a 20-minute walk in and well worth the view, or for something a little easier, Pūrākaunui Falls is only 5 minutes and a very easy stroll. The lesser-known Matai Falls is equally impressive and a short easy walk from the main highway through the Catlins. 

Riverton, Western Southland
Liz Carlson

Riverton

Thirty kilometres from Invercargill, the seaside town of Riverton (Aparima) is one of the most popular towns in Western Southland and is a great stop on the Southern Scenic Route. The township is nestled at the western end of Oreti…

The beaches and coastline of Western Southland make for a busy day out, whether relaxing on the sandy beach of Monkey Island or getting in a spot of surfing at Colac Bay or SUP boarding at the gentle Taramea Bay in Riverton. Rough weather can produce some hidden treasures at Gemstone Beach, with the tide bringing in a new surface – at the very least, you’ll rustle up some interesting stones. Still, some have been lucky to find the rare and elusive Orepuki Sapphire.

Southland has a multitude of parks and gardens to enjoy. A must-visit when in Invercargill has to be Queens Park, a magnificent public park in the heart of the city. The park sprawls across 80 hectares of beautifully kept gardens, wildlife habitats, sports areas, and much more! Travelling around Gore and Eastern Southland, make sure to go to Dolamore Park & Camp, located 11km from Gore in the Hokonui Hills. The park covers 95 hectares of native podocarp forest, lush lawn areas and a range of exotic plantings, such as over 500 Rhododendrons, making a spectacular spring show.

Rainy day and looking for some inside fun? Go check out Southland's latest museum: He Waka Tuia, which is a collaboration between the Invercargill Public Art Gallery and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. The museum has an exciting programme of events, changing exhibitions and touring art. Join in with kids activities and cultural days, hear from experts, and much more.