Free Things to Do in Southland

Queens Park - Brook Sabin
Great South

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

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

Stirling Point Bluff, New Zealand

The trip to Stirling Point is quite 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 is also a few short walks that are near the point and up Bluff Hill to get a good dose of activity included in your day.

Waipapa Point Lighthouse - The Catlins - Anke Ruwette
Great South
A must stop along the Southern Scenic Route: Waipapa Point Lighthouse - The Caltins

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 a good spot to see sea lions playing in the waves or nestled in to the grassy hillside just having a rest.  More photo opportunities lie ahead at the wild Slope Point – southern most 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 own picnic or you can dine at Curioscape who do a very good seafood chowder.

McLean Falls - Waterfalls
NZ Pocketguide

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 very easy stroll. The lesser known Matai Falls is equally impressive and a short easy walk from the main highway through the Catlins. 

Monkey Island/Te Puka o Takitimu & Beach
Visit Monkey Island/Te Puka o Takitimu & Beach

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

Walker at Dolamore Park Eastern Southland - NZPocketGuide
Take a short walk at Dolamore Park in Eastern Southland

Southland has a multitude of parks and garden 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 so 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 which make a spectacular show in spring.

He Waka Tuia - Invercargill - Museum
He Waka Tuia

Rainy day and looking for some inside fun? Go checkout 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.