Invercargill is a treasure trove of all things vintage
Whether you swoon over historic architecture, get hot under the hood for antique cars, or happily spend hours thrift shopping, Invercargill is a delight for anyone with an appreciation for all things old.
Established in the mid-19th century, this proud Southland city retains many of its original heritage buildings and harbours a deep respect for its history in the fields of agriculture, technology and innovation. The cityscape features an impressive number of Victorian and Edwardian builds, many lovingly restored, the result of its economically prosperous early years. There are also some Art Deco gems, alongside charming mid-century houses.
Those who love vintage fashion and antique homewares are sure to unearth some quality finds, while motorsport fans will relish the niche museums for which the city is famous.
68 Dee St
This cavernous central city store specialises in antiques and collectibles. The space is chock-full of china, paintings, records, furniture, bric-a-brac, jewellery and so much more. Give yourself plenty of time to explore. Opening hours are changeable, so call ahead if you can.
Victoria Railway Hotel
3 Leven St
With its grand edifice and classic charm, this boutique hotel is perfect for those who love to stay somewhere a little bit special. Built in 1896, Victoria Railway Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and has NZ Historic Places Trust Category 1 Registration. It's in the centre of town, perfectly placed for exploring Invercargill.
Bill Richardson Transport World
491 Tay St
Possibly Invercargill's most well-known attraction, this family-owned museum is a love letter to all things with wheels. The late Bill Richardson was a pivotal figure in the region, and his family continue his legacy — sharing their impressive automotive collection, which features more than 300 vehicles (some dating back to the early 20th century) and supporting the development of the city.
Invercargill has several very good opshops — and there are plenty of treasures to be found. Due to the age of the city and the climate, they're a great place to pick up a hand-knitted jumper or New Zealand-made coat. Many of the second-hand shops are conveniently in the same part of the city, Yarrow St, and the Hospice Shop at number 117 is particularly good for tablecloths, china and glassware.
First Presbyterian Church
155 Tay St
With ornate brickwork, an unusual square tower and an imposing sprawl, this eye-catching church is a sight to behold for fans of old architecture. Quite unique for New Zealand, it was designed in the Italo-Byzantine style by local architect John Bair and built between 1912 and 1915 from local red bricks.
Classic Motorcycle Mecca
25 Tay St
Another tribute to motoring, the collection of bikes here spans everything from Vespas to Harleys and everything in between. Spread over several floors and two buildings in a painstakingly restored heritage space, Classic Motorcycle Mecca can be found right in the heart of Invercargill. Take your appetite with you, as there is an excellent onsite cafe.
Invercargill Water Tower
101 Doon St
Possibly the most iconic building in Invercargill, and considered by many an architectural treasure, the Invercargill Water Tower does what many of the world's best structures do — combine design with function; the ornate brick exterior and domed roof enclose what was originally the city's main water supply.
88 Tay St
A rather evocative paint job and well-maintained frontage give this old theatre a majestic appearance. Built in 1906, this grand dame enjoyed a $15.8 million facelift during 2004 and 2005, and has state-of-the-art equipment inside. It is considered one of the country's best spots for enjoying live performances — it can even be hired out for events.
St Mary's Basilica
65 Tyne St
A surprisingly dramatic building for a small New Zealand city, this church opened in 1906 and was designed by Dunedin-based architect F W Petre. Built from red brick, it features an imposing copper-clad dome and ornate stained-glass windows.
Invercargill Heritage Trail
For those who want to see it all, I recommend following the Invercargill Heritage Trail — a half-day tour that takes you around 18 of the best historical sites in the city.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com