190km (118 miles) S of Queenstown; 217km (135 miles) SW of Dunedin
Asked to name seven great things about Invercargill, most people hesitate and scratch their heads. The 53,000 residents of this southernmost city would be justifiably indignant. They'll quickly tell you that people from Invercargill are among the friendliest in the country, that the city has the best seafood, and that it makes a perfect base for exploring some of the country's finest scenery in Fiordland, the Catlins, and Stewart Island. Nor should we overlook the fact that Southland is the capital of country music in New Zealand; that it has the best cycle velodrome in the country; that it offers the lowest education fees in New Zealand; and it was the location for the hit movie The World's Fastest Indian, the story of Invercargill motorcycle legend, Burt Munro.
Originally settled by Scottish immigrants, the city's prosperity has been founded on the lush grasslands of Southland, and today several million sheep and cattle graze the flat pastures that surround it. Invercargill is the province's major service center, with more than 1,000 motel and hotel beds.
This once swampy bogland first attracted Europeans keen to establish a flax-milling industry. It was surveyed in 1856 by New Zealand's first surveyor general, J. Thomson, who wisely mapped out the main streets (named after Scottish rivers) 40m (130 ft.) in width, still giving the city its distinctive spacious character. Southlanders continue to be seen as a hardy, practical, gregarious lot, and they'll make sure your stay here is a memorable one.