Southland Scenic Highlights
In Southland, the scenery gets under your skin and into your soul. The vast skies, wild coastal forests and extraordinarily green rural landscapes will stay with you forever.
Southland Scenic Highlights Overview
Southland has the longest daylight hours in New Zealand, so you'll have more time to enjoy yourself. Summer is the perfect time to discover Southland's gardens. The clarity of light in the deep south makes the colours glow.
Winter often produces more sunny days than summer—wrap up warmly and visit the Cathedral Caves on the Catlins Coast. For all kinds of snow fun, visit the Waikaia Valley and catch a ride in a snow cat or try cross country skiing.
The Pride of Invercargill - Queens Park
Queens Park sprawls across 80 hectares. Highlights include a beautiful and varied rose garden, a rhododendron dell, an azalea garden, dramatic tree lined walkways, bush paths through a selection of native plants, a Japanese garden, rock and herb gardens. An indoor Winter Garden features tropical and flowering plants and cacti are displayed in an adjoining house.
Queens Park also has an impressive bird aviary, animal enclosures, children's play areas, extensive sporting facilities and cafes. Also prominent on the grounds is the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.
Oreti Beach and Sandy Point
Ten kilometres west of Invercargill, Oreti Beach was a key location for the film 'The World's Fastest Indian', which tells the story of Southland's motorcycling hero Burt Munro. At around 26 kilometres in length, the beach provided Munro with a testing and racing site for his modified Indian motorcycle. In February 1957 Munro set a New Zealand Open Beach record of 131.38 miles per hour at Oreti Beach; in 1975 he raised this to 136 miles per hour.
At the southern end of Oreti Beach is Sandy Point, a natural playground for walking, mountain biking and horse riding. In geological terms, Sandy Point is very young. The peninsula of sand, gravel and water-borne silt probably appeared some 4,000 - 5,000 years ago, when sea levels were higher.
Long before the site of Invercargill was developed, the rich natural resources of Sandy Point supported an important Māori settlement called Oue. The arrival of sealers and whalers brought change, although the whaling station established there in 1836 was short-lived.
Sandy Point's ancient sand dune forest of wind-sculpted totara and matai is rare and nationally important. Other native podocarps include rimu, miro and kahikatea. Native forest walks reveal a rich wildlife community from the shaded, ferny floor upwards.
Cathedral Caves and McLean Falls
At low tide you can visit Cathedral Caves, a series of majestic sea caves that have been formed by wave action over thousands of years. The journey to the caves begins with a walk through the forested Waipati Beach Scenic Reserve to Waipati Beach. A short walk north along the beach leads to the caves. The two main caves join together within the cliff, and one has a 30 metre high ceiling—test your singing voice, the acoustics are great.
To ensure the safety of visitors, the access gate to Cathedral Caves opens two hours before low tide and is closed again two hours after, depending on daily sea conditions. Access to the caves is across private land, so there is a small charge.
There are many waterfalls in the Catlins region, and McLean Falls is one of the best. A bridal veil-like cascade over dark mossy rocks, the falls plummet more than 20 metres into a deep gorge.
Catlins River Walk, Purakaunui Falls and Jack's Blowhole
The Catlins River Walk, which begins near the Tawanui camping area, leads through native silver beech forest alongside the Catlins River. The five hour walk is a chance to see rare forest birds such as the mohua (yellowhead). With any luck you'll also see native parakeets. Beautiful lichen, fungi, moss and liverworts are a feature of the forest floor.
Not far from the Catlins River is Purakaunui Falls—a magnificent waterfall surrounded by bush that cascades 20 metres over three distinct tiers. The waterfall is a short walk from a side road off the main Waka - Invercargill highway. Other waterfalls are McLean Falls and Matai Falls.
Another spectacular sight in this area is Jack's Blowhole, which is located in Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve. A large cavity that's 55 metres deep and 200 metres from the sea, the blow hole was formed after a large subterranean cavern caved in. At high tide during a swell, waves are compressed through the underground tunnel and explode out of the blowhole.
At Lake Wilkie you can see the succession of forest development from lake edge to mature forest finishing at the reflection lake. During summer the red brilliance of flowering rata is stunning.
Useful Southland Links
To help plan your Southland holiday choose from the main categories below:
- Southland Accommodation
- Southland Tours
- Southland Attractions and Activities
- Southland Transport
- Southland Cuisine and Dining
- Southland Shopping
- Southland Visitor Information
Southland Region Information
Key information and facts about the Southland region.
Major activities and attractions in the Southland region.