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NZ Southland Information

Around 90,000 people populate the southernmost point of New Zealand, the region of Southland. The English settled the area in the 1850s. The towns of the region grew in response to a port being established at the town of Bluff. This development allowed for the growth of what would become the region’s largest town, Invercargill, and the region’s second largest town, Gore. Southland also encompasses the beautiful Fiordland National Park, a world heritage site.


Visitors to Fiordland National Park are usually coming from the direction of Queenstown. This is the region of New Zealand best known for the national pastime of “tramping.” Going “tramping” means to go on a multi-day hike, camping overnight at different locations. Tramping in New Zealand is highly organized and controlled by the Department of Conservation (DOC) for both the safety of those doing it, and the preservation of the land. The Milford Track, a 3-day walk of medium difficulty, books out months in advance during peak periods. Other, less well-known tramps are available in this region, particularly in Te Anua, and all provide spectacular views.


Fiordland National Park is the location of the Milford Sound, the most famous of many fjords in the region. Boat cruises allow tourists to view the sheer rock faces and pristine waters. Many of the cruises allow their passengers to explore the fjord in sea kayaks and it is not uncommon to spot pods of dolphins. A number of cruise options are available, the best of these being the overnight cruises that give passengers the chance to view the fjords at both sunset and sunrise.


While it is off of the traditional tourist route in New Zealand, Southland has much to offer those who are interested in seeking out something a little different. The main town of Invercargill has excellent amenities because it is the primary center for a large farming community. The town is clean and open. Those travelers who have come down the western coast of the South Island will note some of the first traffic lights they have seen in a while. Elegant historic architecture combines with beautifully kept gardens and makes Invercargill a pleasing and relaxing visit.


Most visitors to Invercargill do so for the purpose of visiting the Catlins. This untouched stretch of nature is rarely seen by tourists, so be prepared for a lack of restaurants. With little population, the forest and coastline dominate the scenery here. A 180 million year old fossilized forest can be viewed at Curio Bay. Nugget Point lays claim to a wide variety of rarely seen marine life including three species of penguins, sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. The area is also home to a rare breed of dolphins called Hector’s Dolphins. Ongoing studies are being made of the dolphins, and the local researchers are open to talking to the visitors who find their way to this remote point. Surfers looking for something new will do well in the Catlins. Its isolation means that there are a number of undiscovered hot spots.

NZ Southland references

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