Kia ora: Riverton

It's a quiet place to get away from it all - and packed with interest, says Elisabeth Easther.

Riverton's stunning beaches, surf spots, history and laid-back atmosphere make it the perfect place to get away from it all . Photo / Thinkstock
Riverton's stunning beaches, surf spots, history and laid-back atmosphere make it the perfect place to get away from it all . Photo / Thinkstock

Where is it? 30 kilometres west of Invercargill on State Highway 99, along the Southern Scenic Route, in Western Southland between Invercargill and Te Anau.

Origin of name: Captain Howell, the founder of Riverton, called it Little River Town which, over time, became Riverton, although the original Maori name is Aparima.

Population: 1800.

Town slogan: The Riviera of the South.

Town mascot: The monster paua shell on Main St is almost 3m tall and the perfect background when posing for a holiday snap. Upload and onward.

Race relations: Historians say the mingling of the races happened much more pleasantly down this way with sealers and whalers taking Maori brides and getting on much more peacefully with the locals than up north.

Famous locals: Jack Hinton won a VC for bravery after leading a wartime assault in Greece in 1941; there's a memorial for him at Colac Bay. Selwyn Toogood's grandmother lived in Riverton.

Infamous locals: Ned Cosgrove, Riverton's Ned Kelly, robbed the More family's payroll run in the 1930s. An engine driver was delivering the men's pay - £426 for 46 workers.

Best websites: tehikoi.co.nz; riverton-aparima.co.nz and riverton.co.nz.

Biggest business: Farming, fishing and tourism.

Sources of pride: Art, culture, heritage and hospitality. People visit for those things and they're why they stay.

Town fiestas: The Riverton Heritage Harvest Festival offers fascinating talks, displays, competitions and activities.

Here for a short time: Visit Te Hikoi - Southern Journey at the museum. Or go to Howells Point and Riverton Rocks for great beaches and fantastic geology. From the top of Mores Reserve you can see right across Southland and to Stewart Island.

Best reason to stop: The stunning beaches, the surfing, the history and the laid-back atmosphere.

Best place to take the kids: It's not open yet but The Geology Science Centre Discovery Depot at Te Hikoi will be amazing when it opens next month.

Cheap thrills: Marvel at Gemstone Beach. Anyone can go there and the sharp-eyed will leave with free treasure.

Best playground: Taramea Bay has two playgrounds, one with a flying fox and a huge whale.

Best walk: Long Hill - up through bush it's 90 minutes of easy walking. In the 1880s, 500 Chinese gold miners toiled up here and you can still see the remains of their handmade water races. Mores Reserve also has some lovely walks, short and long, from 15 minutes to a couple of hours,

Best view: From Mores Reserve you can enjoy views across Foveaux Strait all the way to Stewart Island. Or look the other way and gaze right across Southland.

Best surfing: Colac Bay. The swell here rocks, but mind you don't surf into them - the rocks that is.

Best place to pull over: Stop at the Riverton Rocks, which are thought to come all the way from Gondwanaland. There's also lava from volcanoes that have blown up from under the sea. Riverton is a geologists' dream.

Best swim: Riverton Rocks. Good for kids and nanas too. Colac Bay is a safe swimming beach and also good for surfing and windsurfing.

Best museum: Te Hikoi - Southern Journey contains fascinating interactive displays and movies that tell the stories of the area, from Fiordland to Stewart Island, from sawmilling to the lives of the Chinese settlers. Your adventure begins with the viewing of a movie in a replica of a sailing ship, then you'll enter the museum as if you've been on a voyage, like the sealers and whalers. Dr Hamish Campbell, senior scientist with Geological Nuclear Science reckons Te Hikoi is the best museum in New Zealand.

Cafe culture: There are three cafes on the main street. First Inn Cafe does the best homemade pies - check out the venison or the seafood. Mrs Clarks (est 1864) does delicious coffee, with people coming from all over Southland to enjoy a cuppa. The Postmaster Bakery does the best custard squares.

Best food: Beach House Cafe is an award-winning restaurant famous for blue cod, Bluff oysters, seafood chowder and steaks. The sea views alone are worth the trek.

Wet your whistle: You can also choose between the Beach House Cafe, three pubs and an RSA.

Best biking: Cycle the road from Riverton to Colac Bay, it's relatively flat with stunning sea views the whole way.

Best adventure: Jetboat the 68km down the Wairaurahiri. You'll cross the deepest lake in New Zealand, Lake Hauroko, and the longest steepest river, with grade-3 rapids that'll take you all the way to Foveaux Strait. A lake, a river and the sea all in one trip. Humpridge Jet will see you right.

Sweet dreams: Riverton has great B&Bs - all very reasonably priced - and the motels are actual houses, most of them across the road from the beach.

In a nutshell: Riverton's a quiet town. You don't visit looking for a wild time, you come here to get away from it all.

Locals say: You'll come to visit but you'll end up staying.

Visitors say: Riverton, you're a little gem.

Thanks to Carole from Te Hikoi for sharing her relish for Riverton.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 27 Nov 2014 14:44:46 Processing Time: 807ms