The history of Murihiku Southland is rich and varied with each part of the region embracing their own unique past. Throughout the region, Southland history is being preserved and celebrated. View lighthouses and whalers' sites, moonshine distilleries, and Victorian hotels whilst paying homage to the ancestors who made our country what it is today. Southland’s living history showcases both interactive modern museums, and outdoor experiences left to be reclaimed by the land. History enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice in Southland with a line-up of options ranging from Waikaia’s Switzers Museum or Tumu Toka Curioscape at Curio Bay that harbour wonderous treasures. Which historic adventure will you relive today?
He Waka Tuia in Invercargill is Southland’s together space, the 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 that are delivered in innovative and experimental ways.
Make your way to Bill Richardson Transport World. Bill Richardson poured decades of care into restoring classic trucks, and he loved showing people around his collection as it grew. Bill Richardson Transport World has grown into a family legacy celebrating a love of everything wheels. Bill’s family have infused his own astounding collection with automotive loves of their own, to create a truly world-class experience.
After you have had your fill of exploring, enjoy lunch in the Museum's own Grille Cafe. Popular with both locals and visitors, the cafe is famous for its fantastic service and great-tasting food, try some Southern delicacies while you are here!
In the hub of Invercargill, you will find Classic Motorcycle Mecca. Classic Motorcycle Mecca has established itself as a two-wheeled utopia for motorcycle enthusiasts since its inception in 2016. While here you will discover the largest and most diverse display of classic motorcycles in New Zealand, with more than 300 motorbikes that hail as far back as 1902.
Check in for your night's stay at the Victoria Railway Hotel. The Victoria Railway Hotel of Invercargill offers modern, stylish, and comfortable hotel accommodation with a touch of old-world charm. The hotel is an Invercargill icon, situated in the heart of the city with a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category 1 Registration.
The Lignite Pit & Secret Garden Café which is approximately 20km east of Invercargill, this café, camping & garden combo is one of the best-kept secrets of the South. Hidden from the view of the Gorge Road, is a landscape that has been transformed from a disused mine to a tranquil garden. In the gardens explore a number of paths that wind themselves around the lake and explore the native flora, fauna and aviaries dotted around the place.
Drive an hour down the road to Tumu Toka Curioscape. Tumu Toka Curioscape is a world-class interpretive centre intended to educate and share the special stories of Curio Bay; its wildlife, its people, and its history. Curioscape’s Gateway Experience presents interactive touch screens, allowing you to tailor your own individual experience – plus an immersive theatre that is a must-see.
Enjoy lunch here in the conjoining cafe, otherwise drive 10 minutes down the road to the local Niagara Falls Cafe. This old school building has been renovated into a mecca of local produce, arts, and crafts. With their approach to producing quality foods, it is no wonder this cafe comes highly recommended.
Take another short drive to Waikawa Museum & Information Centre. Home to interesting information about local history and historic artefacts from the deep South. This museum is the perfect place to learn about early agriculture, shipping disasters, gold mining and sawmilling.
Finish off your history education with a stay at The Headmasters House. Freshly renovated with vintage elements. You cannot miss the opportunity to spend time here with beautiful views, a spa pool and 2 pet alpacas.
Drive to Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore. Nicknamed the ‘Goreggenheim’ by Saatchi & Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts, the Eastern Southland Gallery features the internationally renowned John Money Collection as well as the largest holdings of works by major New Zealand contemporary artist Ralph Hotere.
Make your way to the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre. Tucked away at Mandeville in rural Southland is one of New Zealand’s gems. Here the golden age of flight can be relived in the nationally significant museum; dedicated to preserving and celebrating New Zealand’s civil aviation heritage, both the stories of pioneer aviators and their equally colourful machines.
If you are ready for a bite to eat, stop in at Miss Cocoa. Housed in the historic former Mandeville Railway Hotel building, this cafe provides tasty food and amazing coffee. Located right next to the airfield, it is a prime spot to watch the vintage Tiger Moths take off.
Drive to Waikaia to visit the Switzers Museum. Explore your way through the museum. As you walk around, learn that Waikaia owes much of its history to gold which was discovered here in 1862. At the peak of the rush, Switzers (the town’s original name) had a population of around 2,000 including a large number of Chinese miners. At Switzers Museum, Waikaia’s heritage is proudly displayed. Adjoining the Museum is a bottle house constructed of 20,000 wine bottles.
Head to Piano Flat to explore the area for yourself. It has been described as a New Zealand gem that is yet to be discovered. Tucked up in the mountains of Southland’s far North, it is the ultimate holiday camping destination. Piano Flat is home to a number of recreational activities, including tramping, fishing, hunting and 4-wheel drive excursions. There are several walks in the area that range in length from 30 minutes to full-day hikes, so you can choose one that suits both your fitness level and your time constraints.
Round off the day with a stop at the infamous Waikaia Pub. The Waikaia Commercial Hotel opened in 1881 was constructed with lumber wagoned from Tapanui, as well as timber from Switzers' first school and church. As soon as you walk in, you're surrounded by a welcoming environment, and the pub exudes all the friendliness you'd expect from a tiny rural town. Old wool presses serve as bar tables, while farm tools and artefacts adorn the walls.