Invercargill offers visitors an interesting tour of heritage sites and diverse open spaces. This half day tour is best undertaken by vehicle, with stops for walking in gardens, bush and the Invercargill city centre. The tour can start at any point.
In the early days, Invercargill’s importance as a commercial centre increased as bush was cleared and farming extended into the Southland Plains. This prosperity was responsible for the wealth of quality Victorian buildings built in the 1880s and 1890s. At the turn of the century, Southland’s timber and coal industries contributed to the growth of the town, and the many examples of Edwardian architecture are testimony to this prosperity. The large number of Art Deco style buildings indicates that the Depression of the 1930s arrived later in Invercargill than in other centres. The wool boom of the 1950s led again to economic prosperity, with the erection of buildings in the style of the modernist movement. It is this variety, proximity and coherence of historic architectural style that makes Invercargill unique.
In 1856, the Governor of New Zealand, Sir Thomas Gore Browne, gave approval for the establishment of a principal town in the south. Sir Thomas suggested it be called Invercargill – “Inver” meaning the meeting of the two waters (Oreti and Makarewa Rivers) and “Cargill” after Captain William Cargill, Superintendent of Otago. When JT Thomson, chief surveyor of Otago, arrived at the location previously chosen for the town, he rejected this site in favour of its present location. The mouth of the Otarewa Creek (Otepuni) ws suitable for a wharf and was linked by Tweed and Clyde Streets to Tay Street, where Kelly’s huts already stood at the corner of Dee and Tay Streets (see plaque on the Bank of New South Wales). JT Thomson proceeded to lay out his plan for Invercargill, a “mile” square with four reserves just inside the boundaries. A fifth reserve ran down the Otarewa Stream. Just over the northern boundary, deep in the heart of the Taurakitewaru wood, he reserved 200 acres (80 hectares) for Queens Park. JT Thomson was appointed as the first Surveyor General of New Zealand in 1876. This heritage trail explores some of JT Thomson’s legacy, including the 40metre wide streets in the City Centre, the grid street layout and the town belt reserves. For a full description of the 18 points of interest, including map and site information, pick up the Invercargill Heritage Trail brochure from the Invercargill i-SITE.
108 Gala Street