Truly off the beaten track


Truly off the beaten track

Located, unsurprisingly, at the very bottom of the South Island, this remote region stretches from Fiordland in the west, across open plains to the rugged coastline of the Catlins in the east. It is also the gateway to New Zealand’s third-largest island, Stewart Island/Rakiura.

Southland region marker

Southland is an agricultural powerhouse with thriving dairy and energy industries. The region has a strong Scottish influence with Southlanders having a reputation for being both hard-working and friendly. An abundance of seafood including lobsters, and in particular Bluff oysters, is also a notable highlight.

The region is known for its bird and marine life including sea lions, penguins, dolphins, whales and, on Stewart Island, kiwis. In fact Stewart Island is the most likely place in New Zealand to spot a kiwi in its native habitat.

Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Invercargill, the main centre in the region.

Drive times

  • Dunedin to Invercargill: 205 km / 127 miles – 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Queenstown to Invercargill: 187 km / 116 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Te Anau to Invercargill: 160 km / 99 miles – 2 hours
  • Invercargill to Bluff: 28 km / 17 miles – 25 minutes
  • Invercargill to Curio Bay: 88 km / 55 miles – 1 hour 15 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Invercargill Airport is a 5 minute drive from the city centre and services a limited number of domestic routes.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Invercargill (IVC): 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Invercargill (IVC): 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Invercargill (IVC): 1 hour 25 minutes

Stewart Island Flights provides services between Dunedin and Stewart Island.

There are currently no international flights into Invercargill. The closest international airports are in Queenstown and Dunedin.

If there was one word to sum up Southland’s weather in general, that word would have to be ‘extreme’. Being this far south, the region is first to feel the brunt of weather systems moving over the country from the west and south with the Foveaux Strait between Stewart Island and the mainland frequently experiencing strong winds. On average, Southland receives less sunshine than the rest of New Zealand.

Summers (December – February) could be described as warm, not hot, with an average high of just 18 °C / 64.4 °F and an average low of 10 °C / 50 °F. One positive however is that being this far south, the days are long with the summer sun setting well after 9pm.

Winter (June – August) is the least windy time of year but temperatures plummet with inland areas particularly hard hit and snow reaching low levels on the inland hills. In winter, the average high is 10 °C / 50 °F and the average low is -1 °C / 30.2 °F although temperatures at the coast are a little more moderate than inland. That said, Invercargill’s lowest ever recorded temperature was a bone chilling -9 °C.

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Southland

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Southland region.

Explore the Catlins

Straddling the border between Otago’s Clutha district and the Southland region, the Catlins is a stunning natural area with thick podocarp forests, hidden lakes and waterfalls and a rugged scenic coastline. A particular Southland highlight is Curio Bay where, at low tide, you can explore the fossilised remains of an ancient forest. You can find out more about this area on the official Catlins website.


Visit Stewart Island/Rakiura

If you think that Southland sounds remote, wait until you step foot on Stewart Island. Located 30 km / 19 miles off the coast, this 1,746 km² island has a permanent population of less than 500, most of whom live in the eastern settlement of Oban. 85% of the island is a national park which is home to numerous walking tracks including the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. You can read about this and other tracks on the DOC website.

Stewart Island