Southland is located on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. It is the most southern region in New Zealand, and is also a district. The regions borders extend from Fiordland in the west to the Catlins in the east; and from the Darran and Eyre Mountains to the north and the Foveaux Straight to the south. Stewart Island/Rakiura is also a part of the Southland region.
The region covers over 31 000 square kilometres, which includes 3 400 square kilometres of coast land. It is one of New Zealand’s least populated areas, with a population of 93 500, according to the 2006 census. The Southland region contains only seven towns with a population of more than 1000 – Invercargill, Gore, Mataura, Winton, Riverton, Bluff and Te Anau. Furthermore, the very large Fiordland geographic area has virtually no permanent residences; even the Maori people avoided the area as a permanent settlement.
Southland had two national parks within its boundaries, Rakiura National Park, which covers eight five per cent of Stewart Island, and Fiordland National Park; at 7 860 square kilometres, Fiorldland is the biggest national park in New Zealand. Fiordland’s terrain is an interesting mix of mountains, fjords and glacial craters that were formed by glaciers over 75 000 years. Both parks are managed by the Department of Conservation. Southland also has New Zealand’s highest waterfall, the Sutherland Falls, and the deepest lake, Lake Hauroko.
The climate of Southland is varied. Typically, residents are subject to weather that is a lot cooler and wetter than the rest of the country, due to the region’s distance from the equator. The individual climate depends mainly on the geographic location – the coastal areas of Southland have a temperate oceanic climate, while the interior could be said to have a continental climate, and the mountains of Fiordland typically endure a wet mountain climate.
Southland is characterised by historic coastal villages and peaceful inland towns that compete with the natural environment; lush green mountains and valleys, rich plains, waterfalls, forest and the incredible Milford Sounds, a series of fjords and other sea inlets which stretch along the Southland coast. The coastline and islands feature beautifully rugged beaches and bays.
Things to Do:
- The magnetic latitude location of Stewart Island makes it a perfect location for viewing aurora australis, also known as the Southern Lights – in fact, it’s Maori name, Rakiura, means ‘the land of the glowing skies.’ The Southern Lights display usually occurs during autumn and spring. Stewart Island is also known for its well maintained hiking tracks.
- Oreti Beach, ten kilometres south of Invercargill, was an important location for motorcycling champion Burt Munro, also known as the World’s Fastest Indian. The 26 kilometre stretch of smooth sand provided him with a testing and racing site for his Indian motorcycle, and was also a key location for the film starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.
- The Croydon Aircraft Company in the township of Gore offers tourist the opportunity to take a trip in restored 1930’s bi-planes. Visitors can also watch these planes being restored in hangars.