Invercargill is New Zealand's southernmost city, and by virtue of its heritage, Scotland's too. The city is the heart of the Southland province, and serves as a stopover point on one's way to Stewart Island and Fiordland. Invercargill is one of the few NZ cities to have an inner city airport.
The first thing you'll notice about Invercargill is that it has unbelievably huge streets but almost no traffic. This is because 150 years ago, the city planner was anticipating a population boom of over 100,000. Today there are barely half that number living in the city.
The end result being 40 metre wide streets so long and empty that cruise control becomes a viable option.
If you fly into Invercargill, you will also notice how perfectly ordered and well-laid out (some would say ‘anal') the street plan is.
Post-Scottish colonial. Hence there are a number of Presbyterian churches and pipe-band competitions.
One of the few places you can ask for Aberdeen Sausage without getting your face slapped.
Blue Cod, Bluff Oysters and Rock Lobster. ‘Nuff said.
But if you stumble out of the pub at 11 pm looking for cod ‘n' chips, or a hamburger, then good luck, because there's hardly anything open.
As for the subject of alcohol and pubs, the Invercargill Licensing Trust, started in 1944, was the first of a small number of local licensing trusts throughout the country. It controls the issuing and operation of liquor licenses in the region, and thus generates quite a bit of money which it injects back into the local culture.
The downside is that it has something of a stranglehold on the liquor business, not to mention any half-decent attempt at ‘nightlife'. Only pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol. And though it is perfectly legal for them to do so in the rest of New Zealand, supermarkets are not allowed to sell alcohol, not wine, not beer.
And those little liqueur chocolates are out too.
The city's official website defines it as ‘temperate'. Collins Shorter English Dictionary defines ‘temperate' as ‘having a climate somewhere between tropical and polar'. That pretty much sums up Invercargill weather in both the summer and winter seasons respectively. Take a look at New Zealand on a world map and find its southernmost point. Head south from there, and you will have found the southernmost point of the world - Antarctica. That's winter.
At the other extreme, summers in Invercargill can be a blast, in spite of how cold the winters are and the city's proximity to penguin country. Temperatures can soar up to 30°C and the sun doesn't go down till well after 9 pm.
Invercargill is blessed with some great parks, the undisputed king of which is Queen's Park. Queen's covers over 80 hectares and has a variety of botanical interests. The roses are quite something.
Adjacent to Queen's Park, is the Southland Museum and Art Gallery whose newest addition is a tuatara1 display. Or more often, a tuatara conceal.
While Invercargill itself is a great place to go driving around, the surrounding province is just as pleasant, and the roads almost as vacant.
Ten minute's drive out of the city and you'll hit Oreti, a several-kilometre stretch of beach, backed by large sand dunes and battered by some ferocious winds. Toheroa2 can be found here in early winter, buried in the sand.
Other driveable destinations (within an hour or two) include Bluff, home of the afore-mentioned oysters and Southland's sole port, Gore and Riverton, a charming little seaside town.