Kia Ora: Winton

Winton's a great place to visit unless you are a duck, finds Elisabeth Easther.
The Takitimu mountain range. Photo / Tourism Southland
The Takitimu mountain range. Photo / Tourism Southland

Origin of name: Named for Thomas Winton, a local stockman in the 1850s.

Population: 2211.

Civic icon: The water tower.

Town motto: The Heart of Southland

Claim to fame: Winton is one of Southland's oldest inland towns.

Get this: There are at least 19 other Wintons in the world

Famous locals: Dan and Bret Frew (FMX and BMX masters) plus a couple of deputy prime ministers grew up here, namely Sir Brian Tallboys from the 1970s and Bill English who's still at it today.

Infamous local: Minnie Dean, aka the "Winton baby farmer" was the only woman to be hanged in New Zealand. She is buried in Winton.

Big business: Dairy, sheep, beef and deer farming keep the town humming, as does Craigpine Timber.

Source of pride: Everybody is so flipping friendly.

Town fiestas: The Winton Open Day each November is chocka with stalls, music, entertainment and community spirit. Farm Jam, created by the aforementioned Frews, is held every second year, and described as the ultimate dirt jump event for people who love bikes, barbecues, mullets, mud and motocross. Also in November is the Southern Artisans Christmas Fete. In February Winton is gripped by garage sale fever, with about 80 yard sales popping up.

Local flavour: In recent years the dairy industry has attracted workers from the Philippines and the Netherlands making for a diverse mixture in town.

Minnie Dean's gravestone.
Minnie Dean's gravestone.


Here for a short time: Check out the gardens running down the middle of the wide main road, simply stunning and a real highlight for many visitors.

Best reason to stop: For many it's a handy stop between Milford Sound, Queenstown, Stewart Island and the Catlins, with lots of locals operating Air B&B if you fancy sleeping over. Also, there are few better places to have your tractor repaired.

Best place to take kids: The Ivy Russell Reserve is a sweet nature park with creek that kids (and dogs) love. Or play a few rounds of laser tag, run by the Salvation Army if you pre-arrange it.

Best park: The Oval is a wee park in the middle of town, with a band rotunda, beautiful gardens and big trees.

Best playground: The John St playground has all the basic fun stuff with a skate park in the pipeline.

Best walks: Winton Walkway is an 8.5km loop track around the outskirts of town, popular for walking, running or cycling with a good mixture of rural, residential and urban, bush, river and cows.

Or take a trot around DoC's Forest Hills Walkway, it takes about three hours to walk the loop. It's popular with runners but there are a few quite steep bits.

Best views: Either from the Forest Hills track looking over the Southland Plains or just out of Winton, heading towards Ohai, you'll be able to gaze across to the snow-capped Takitimu Mountains

Best swim: The Oreti River is good for splashing - but only during summer, mind - and a particularly popular spot is under the bridge at Lochiel. Or take a dip in the community pool at the college.

Best museum: Known as the Small Central Southland Museum, this private collection can be viewed by appointment and contains Noeline and Duncan McGregor's collection of family heirlooms, divided up into kitchen, bedroom and school. There's even a rabbiter's hut.

History buffs love: The 5km Winton Heritage Trail is made up of 14 buildings of interest. It starts at the Post Office and ends virtually at the cemetery -- much like life. You can drive it in 15 minutes but you'll get much more out of it if you walk.

Top shops: The Big White Shop rolls the biggest ice creams in New Zealand, although that statement has not been confirmed by independent research. And people travel from all over to shop at the Winton Salvation Army Family Store, rated one of the best in the land.

Souvenir hunters: There are two pretty homeware stores in town - Country Matters and With Grace.

Cream of the coffee: You'll be guaranteed a decent fix at The Magnolia Tree or Adagios.

Baked: The Bakery is a boutique bake house where the cream buns are legendary. They also do a mean pie and a grand rocky road.

The RSA in central Winton.
The RSA in central Winton.


Best food: Adagios serve dandy all-day breakfasts, with chef Ken using all local ingredients as much as is possible. The Middle pub is famous for foot-long cheese rolls or you could stop at The Magnolia Tree and find out why people adore their seafood chowder.

Wet your whistle: There are three pubs locally known as Top, Middle and Bottom and if you're in town when the rugby is on, you can't go past the garden bar at the Top, where there's also a roaring fire on cold winter nights.

Best adventure: Make friends with a local and the next thing you know you're out hunting, kayaking and 4WDing.

Best kept secret: You can buy a roomy 3-bedroom house on a half-acre section for less than $300,000. What are you waiting for Auckland?

Wildlife: Deer, pigs, ducks and dairy beasts.

Safety warning: If you are a duck, do make a detour and avoid Winton at all costs because the locals really embrace duck shooting season.

Thanks to Darren Frazer for spilling the beans.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT?
In the Southland district of the South Island, 31km north of Invercargill.

- NZ Herald

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