Go-To Guides

Fiordland, Southland & Clutha

The 3400-kilometre stretch of coastline in New Zealand's southernmost region isn't just the longest of any region in the country. It is one full of dramatic wonder.

Wild, beautiful and remote, Fiordland (Ata Whenua) is one of the greatest examples of what New Zealand looked like before humans arrived. Its network of deep fiords wind between towering peaks wrapped in ancient rainforest and never-ending waterfalls. Visitors can explore the sprawling national park and some of its most isolated corners by scenic flight, multi-day cruise, and even on foot via three of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

As well as the home of Bluff oysters, a unique snack involving white bread and cheese, and an accent with a pronounced postvocalic 'R', Southland (Murihiku) is the launching pad for Stewart Island/Rakiura, our third-largest island, and the one of the only places you're likely to see kiwi in the wild.

Further along the untouched eastern coastline sits the rugged Catlins where you can wander between amazing wildlife, lush forest, cute coastal settlements, and beautiful beaches where sand is interchanged with stunning gemstones. Take the road inland to Clutha (Mata-au) for its rich gold mining heritage and floating road to a chocolate shop.

See & Do

Visit an island swarming with kiwi, tick off five bucket list walks, and explore a winding network of remarkable fiords.

New Zealand's forgotten paradise

The drama of the landscape in the deep south is unrivalled; carved by the elements and glaciers over millions of years. Forget the wild west; an hour from Invercargill you'll find Jurassic forests, almost-tropical looking white sandy beaches, sacred waterfalls, dramatic cathedral caves, eco retreats, rugged horse riding and rare wildlife. The Catlins is New Zealand's forgotten paradise. Read more

Nugget Point is a highlight of any trip to the Catlins. BROOK SABIN

Nugget Point is a highlight of any trip to the Catlins. BROOK SABIN

The clear blue waters and sandy beaches of Stewart Island give a tropical feel. BROOK SABIN

The clear blue waters and sandy beaches of Stewart Island give a tropical feel. BROOK SABIN

The national park swarming with kiwi

Stewart Island/Rakiura is one of New Zealand's most interesting destinations. Around 400 locals call our third-largest island home, laid-back Kiwis who share their southern abode with more than a few real-deal, feathered kiwi. Our newest national park, Rakiura, comprises more than 80 per cent of the island, and the park's Rakiura Track is an accessible way to explore a rugged environment of bush and beach. Birdlife includes NZ's best opportunity to see kiwi in the wild and plenty of pelagic species including shags, petrels and albatrosses. Read more

New Zealand's most magical flight

Hop aboard one of Milford Sound Scenic Flights and you'll not only visit the insanely gorgeous Milford Sound, but weave through its green arteries in a tiny plane, coming into land at the country's most scenic airport. You can experience the natural wonder in the most spectacular way; with a flight and boat cruise all in the space of a few hours. From thundering waterfalls to mighty peaks and the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins, it's hard to know where to look. Read more

Follow State Highway 1 south and you'll end up at Stirling Point. TRUPTI BIRADAR

Follow State Highway 1 south and you'll end up at Stirling Point. TRUPTI BIRADAR

A road sign worth stopping for

Wherever you live in our amazing country, find State Highway 1, follow it south and, when it stops, you're at Stirling Point. Literally the end (or the beginning) of the road, this is where the famous AA road sign stands, backdrop to umpteen selfies and corrected in 2018 to point in the right directions for Wellington and Cape Reinga at the other end/beginning of the highway. If it's a nice day you get a lovely view across Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island/Rakiura. Read more

The South Island's greatest road trip

On the South Island there is one road trip to rule them all. It offers mountains, untouched beaches, rare wildlife, lush rainforest and a collection of towns that are full of rustic charm. It's called the Southern Scenic Route. This 610-kilometre journey starts in Queenstown, meanders down Lake Wakatipu before flirting with Fiordland. It then weaves through the lesser-known gems of Western Southland, before some unexpected delights in Invercargill. The journey continues up through the Catlins, before ending in Dunedin. Read more

Insider tip: If you visit Nugget Point in summer, you may see elephant seals on the rocks below, as well as the resident New Zealand fur seals.
Pamela Wade, travel writer

Doubtful Sound is often shrouded in cloud. BROOK SABIN

Doubtful Sound is often shrouded in cloud. BROOK SABIN

The hidden fiord better than Milford

While Milford Sound is sometimes known as the eighth wonder of the world, there is another fiord of greater beauty. Doubtful Sound was named Patea by early Māori, meaning 'place of silence'. And it's so remarkably unspoilt you'll be witnessing the same scenery that greeted Captain Cook in 1770. Getting there is quite an adventure. You'll first board a ferry across Lake Manapōuri, before tackling one of the least-known roads across the Southern Alps: the Wilmot Pass. It's then all aboard a second ferry to explore the remarkable fiord, carved by glaciers over millions of years. Read more

FIVE GREAT WALKS

Kepler Track

One of three Great Walks within Fiordland, the Kepler was built to take pressure off the Milford and Routeburn. Many trampers say it rivals them both. This alpine crossing takes you from the peaceful, beech-forested shores of lakes Te Anau and Manapōuri to high tussock-lands and over Mt Luxmore. Eye-popping sights include towering limestone bluffs, razor-edged ridges, panoramas galore and crazy caves. The Kepler is a truly spectacular way to appreciate the grandeur of NZ's finest and most vast wilderness.

Rakiura Track. BROOK SABIN

Rakiura Track. BROOK SABIN

Rakiura Track

Following the Foveaux Strait coast and shore of Paterson Inlet on tranquil Stewart Island, this leisurely loop offers a rewarding combination of waterside scenery, notable native trees and ferns, and historic relics of bygone days. Bird-watchers in particular will love it here, with a diverse range of species to be seen and heard. These include big-winged coastal birds such as sooty shearwaters and mollymawks, as well as little blue penguins; beaky waders in the inlet such as dotterels, herons and godwits; and forest birds such as kiwi, bellbirds, parakeets, kererū, kākā and tomtits.

Hump Ridge Track. LIZ CARLSON

Hump Ridge Track. LIZ CARLSON

Routeburn Track

NZ's second-most popular Great Walk traverses the mighty Southern Alps linking Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. It passes through ice-carved valleys and beech forests on its way, and although there is plenty of decent climbing to be done, a well-benched and graded track enables trampers of average fitness to achieve significant summits. Harris Saddle, Conical Hill and Key Summit offer unforgettable vistas, although close-range sights such as thundering waterfalls, weird rock formations, alpine tarns and peculiar plant life will likely stir your spirits just as much.

Routeburn Track. BROOK SABIN

Routeburn Track. BROOK SABIN

Milford Track

A fitting flag-bearer for NZ's wilderness tramps, the Milford is every bit as special as you ever heard it was. It delivers everything you want in a mountain-region tramp: a boat trip across a glacier-gouged lake, riverside ambles, a wetland boardwalk and an achievable climb to an unforgettable pass that opens not only a door to sheer peaks and a whole new valley, but a window on the era of the pioneer explorers. Then there's the Sutherland Falls, and Milford Sound itself. The Milford Track equals magic.

Hump Ridge Track

In 2019, Tuatapere's 61km Hump Ridge Track was declared the 11th, and newest, of New Zealand's Great Walks. The track first opened in 2001, as a multi-day hike, and is run privately on behalf of a local charitable trust. In 2022, after upgrades by DOC, the walk will be officially rejigged as a four-day, three-night walk. The track is accessible right now, and fully walkable in three days. It winds through enchanting mossy forest, over several swing bridges, follows untouched beach along the south coast and climbs over rough ground to soak in breathtaking views across Fiordland, Southland and Stewart Island/Rakiura.

Read more

The mountain to rival Roy's Peak

People swoon over the Instagram-famous mountain overlooking Lake Wānaka – but one of tallest peaks in Dusky Sound is infinitely better. Mt Pender, part of the Jurassic expanse that is Fiordland National Park, overlooks Dusky Sound. One way to do the scenery justice here is by helicopter trip with Southern Lakes Helicopters. Flying across a land full of beautiful mountains, icebergs sitting in emerald lakes, ice-carved fiords and primeval forest you'll land on rock barely the size of a car, with magnificent views to the valley below. Read more

Mt Pender overlooks Dusky Sound. BROOK SABIN

Mt Pender overlooks Dusky Sound. BROOK SABIN

The Clutha Trail winds along the Clutha Mata-Au River. BROOK SABIN

The Clutha Trail winds along the Clutha Mata-Au River. BROOK SABIN

The cycle trail with secret lagoons

The scenery feels otherworldly on the Clutha Gold Trail. The glacial blue of the river contrasts starkly with the barren mountains, with dramatic schist outcrops around every turn. The 73-kilometre cycle track from Roxburgh Dam to the historic mining town of Lawrence is comfortably done over two nights/three days – although there are many options for a day trip. The trail is drenched in gold mining and early Māori history, and before reaching the tiny town of Beaumont, you'll find a series of protected lagoons. Bring your togs; on a hot day, it's the perfect place for a dip. Read more

Insider tip: Fiordland's 28km Lake 2 Lake trail winds along the shores of Lake Te Anau to Lake Manapōuri. The scenic trail is rated a 'Grade 2' easy ride.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

Key Summit is one of the scenic stops you can make on the drive to Milford Sound. BROOK SABIN

Key Summit is one of the scenic stops you can make on the drive to Milford Sound. BROOK SABIN

A journey as beautiful as the destination

It is known as SH94, but this is more than a simple stretch of road. Getting to Milford is a four-hour journey from Queenstown, and the best scenery starts as you enter Fiordland National Park. The first major stop is Eglinton Valley, carved out by an ancient glacier. The Lake Gunn Nature Walk feels like you're walking through a land before humans arrived, and it’s worth putting three hours aside for the return journey to Key Summit which has magnificent views of the Hollyford Valley. Lake Marian Falls Track is one of the journey's best hidden gems before you enter the spectacular 1.2km Homer Tunnel and make the steep zigzag down the Cleddau Valley. Read more

Hidden Gems

Hang ten with some of the world's rarest dolphins, hop between tiny southern towns, and take control of a bulldozer.

Take control of heavy machinery

At Dig This, on a big, blank site near the outskirts of Invercargill, you can learn to handle bulldozers, diggers or skid steers in just half an hour. Or at least have great fun trying. Nobody can resist the primitive pleasure of smashing something to smithereens. Especially if that’s an actual car. In a remarkably short time you might also be have enough skill to stack tyres and even delicately place a basketball on top of a road cone, using only the dinosaur-like maw of the digger. Read more

Learn to drive and use heavy machinery at Dig This Invercargill. BROOK SABIN

Learn to drive and use heavy machinery at Dig This Invercargill. BROOK SABIN

Te Anau's glowworm experience floats into a hidden grotto. REALNZ

Te Anau's glowworm experience floats into a hidden grotto. REALNZ

Te Anau's magical glowworm experience

Te Anau's cave system is one of the best places to see glowworms up close. With RealNZ you'll embark on a scenic cruise and then be guided through 12,000 year-old caves to experience the shimmering lights. You'll traverse a winding network of limestone passages and float past whirlpools, and by roaring underground waterfalls. But once past the roar of cascading water, you'll drift peacefully through the darkness into a silent hidden grotto where you'll find hundreds of sparkling glowworms above you. Read more

An island teeming with wildlife

Ulva is a 267-hectare island in Paterson Inlet, about five minutes by boat from Golden Bay, which is just over the hill from the township of Oban on Stewart Island. Ulva Island has never been milled for timber, and has been pest-free for almost 20 years, so the bird life is teeming. You can go here independently on the little ferry, or take a guided tour, depending on whether you want to hear all the stories, or just concentrate on spotting the birds. There's less than five kilometres of track to walk around, so the secret is to take it slowly and let the birds come to you. Read more

Hector's dolphins at Curio Bay love to play in the waves alongside surfers. GREAT SOUTH

Hector's dolphins at Curio Bay love to play in the waves alongside surfers. GREAT SOUTH

The secret beach to surf with dolphins

As well as a nesting spot for rare yellow-eyed penguins, Curio Bay is where you're likely to see a South Island Hector's dolphin. The world's smallest dolphin is only most commonly found around Banks Peninsula, the West Coast, and Catlins. During summer and autumn, the bay's resident population of around 20 Hector's love to eat, play and raise their young in the shallower waters. And as we found out, one of the world's rarest dolphins also love to play in the surf. Read more

Clutha's floating road

The village of Tuapeka is home to "The Punt", which essentially consists of two old boats, joined together with a plank, that you drive your car on. The well-worn appearance is due to its age; it was first installed in 1896 as a way of connecting a remote gold mining camp to the other side of the river. Two large cables are suspended across the fast-flowing river. The punt is attached to both wires, and once your car is onboard, the puntman turns the boat slightly with a rudder, meaning the side of the boat catches the current. Because it's attached to a wire, it can't go backwards, so instead slides across the river. Read more

It takes just four minutes to cross the river. BROOK SABIN

It takes just four minutes to cross the river. BROOK SABIN

The Cathedral Caves are found at the northern end of Waipati Beach. BROOK SABIN

The Cathedral Caves are found at the northern end of Waipati Beach. BROOK SABIN

Southland's epic sea cave

The Catlins is home to one of the longest sea caves in the world, formed over millions of years. Bring a torch when you visit the Cathedral Caves, and you can head as deep as you dare — you may even spot a penguin seeking shelter. The caves are open between October and May, with a $10 access fee to walk across Māori land. Read more

Lady Bowen Falls is the largest permanent waterfall in Milford. BROOK SABIN

Lady Bowen Falls is the largest permanent waterfall in Milford. BROOK SABIN

Milford's giant waterfall

Lady Bowen Falls in Milford Sound is one of only two permanent waterfalls here, and also can take the claim for being the tallest too. The stunning feature that tumbles down from the mountains clocks in at a whopping 162 meters high. Most visitors only get to experience the falls at a distance by way of boat, but the 30-minute return walk, which reopened in 2018, will get you up close and personal. Be sure to bring a raincoat even on a sunny day. Read more

Some of colourful rocks you might find on Gemstone Beach. BROOK SABIN

Some of colourful rocks you might find on Gemstone Beach. BROOK SABIN

Flying low and fast through Fiords is exhilarating. BROOK SABIN

Flying low and fast through Fiords is exhilarating. BROOK SABIN

The road to Nugget Point is spectacular. BROOK SABIN

The road to Nugget Point is spectacular. BROOK SABIN

Stewart Island is full of secluded bays and dense rainforest. BROOK SABIN

Stewart Island is full of secluded bays and dense rainforest. BROOK SABIN

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Some of colourful rocks you might find on Gemstone Beach. BROOK SABIN

Some of colourful rocks you might find on Gemstone Beach. BROOK SABIN

Flying low and fast through Fiords is exhilarating. BROOK SABIN

Flying low and fast through Fiords is exhilarating. BROOK SABIN

The road to Nugget Point is spectacular. BROOK SABIN

The road to Nugget Point is spectacular. BROOK SABIN

Stewart Island is full of secluded bays and dense rainforest. BROOK SABIN

Stewart Island is full of secluded bays and dense rainforest. BROOK SABIN

Easy walks for little legs

The deep south feels untouched and remote like you have stumbled across something magical. One of the best ways to explore is to get out and walk, and there are plenty of shorter options for families if your little ones aren’t up for the full Great Walk experience. You can complete a day walk on the Milford Track, follow winding trails through beautiful forest, take a loop past historic artefacts, and head off on a charming coastal track suitable for off-road strollers. Read more

Foveaux Walkway is an accessible family-friendly trail. JENNIFER PARKES

Foveaux Walkway is an accessible family-friendly trail. JENNIFER PARKES

All-frills trekking

Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s four-day, three-night Hollyford Wilderness Experience takes travellers on a all-inclusive whistle-stop tour of the ancient and virtually untouched valley. There are easy wanders through breathtakingly beautiful forest, jet boat rides instead of navigating uneven ground, lessons on Māori history and mythology, and showstopping helicopter rides down the wild West Coast and into Milford Sound. Plus hot showers, hearty cooked breakfasts and cloud-like beds. Read more

Lesser-known tiny towns

Head west from Invercargill on a loop to discover some of Southland’s little gems. In Tuatapere, marvel at the magnificence of Te Waewae Bay’s long curve of sandy beach — the end, and the beginning, of the Hump Ridge Track. After seeking out the glowworms in Clifden Caves, stop in quaintly-named Nightcaps or keep going for a look at even tinier Mossburn, an ideal base for fishing, hunting, tramping, or cycling. In Lumsden a visit to the Route 6 Café is a must to enjoy the US diner theme. Beautiful scenery continues as you drive towards Mandeville, home of the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre. Read more

A world-class art gallery in Gore

Looking cutely historic and dinky from the outside, the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore is actually only one of those things. Inside the curving brick walls of the town’s original 1909 library, now affectionately nicknamed the ‘Goreggenheim’, are light and airy rooms filled with strikingly modern art. You'll find the largest permanent Ralph Hotere exhibition in NZ, works by artists like Rita Angus and Theo Schoon, and indigenous art from West Africa and Australia. Read more

Insider tip: Streets Alive is a walking street and mural art trail around Gore's central business district. Download the free trail map for your own self-guided tour.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

More than a gateway to the Catlins

Instead of only pausing for a coffee and comfort stop, why not stop for a couple of nights and use the Balclutha area as a base for some rewarding day trips well off the beaten track? The town has grown up on both sides of the Clutha River, with one of New Zealand’s most distinctive bridges linking the two parts of the town. One of the best ways to see the river is to head for Naish Park and take the Blair Athol Walkway. It’s a 90-minute walk there and back alongside the river. Balclutha is only a few kilometres from the sea and a stretch of coastline often overlooked by travellers. Read more

The iconic Balclutha Bridge was built in the 1930s. MARTIN HAYWARD

The iconic Balclutha Bridge was built in the 1930s. MARTIN HAYWARD

Southland's best heritage museum

There are many delights to be enjoyed in the “Riviera of the South”, but Te Hikoi Southern Journey Heritage Museum has to be one of the best. Housed in a striking building on the shore of the estuary, the displays inside are impressively high quality. There are plenty of things to read, touch and marvel at. You’ll learn about early Māori occupation, and then Europeans busily farming, flax milling, fishing, whaling and logging, and hundreds of Chinese mining gold. The war displays are especially well presented – and moving. Read more

More spots for history buffs

Elsewhere in Southland you can learn about the Catlins' 180 million-year-old petrified forest and a former gold mining town. The small but interactive Tumu Toka Curioscape Gateway museum does a bang-up job of explaining how vast tracts of mātai and kauri forests were buried under the seafloor. At Switzers Museum, there are around 2200 objects related to farming, the region’s gold mining past and Chinese settlement, as well as 2800 bottles — not including the 20,000 used in the construction of the attached bottle house. Read more

Insider tip: The Lost Gypsy is a gallery of obscurities in Papatowai. Admission to the bus gallery is free while the small theatre experience is $8.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

Sailing with a side of history

Lake Te Anau is a place of grandeur; it’s the largest of the southern glacial lakes and is framed by the Southern Alps. One of the best ways to experience it is with Fiordland Historic Cruises on Faith, a remarkable wooden motor-sailer built in Scotland in 1935. The boat once hosted Sir Winston Churchill (you’ll hear about its fascinating history onboard), and it runs three scenic cruises a day, which includes canapés and drinks. You can even help hoist the sails, and captain the boat.

Guests are treated to drinks and canapés onboard Faith. BROOK SABIN

Guests are treated to drinks and canapés onboard Faith. BROOK SABIN

Paddle up close to Lady Bowen Falls. BROOK SABIN

Paddle up close to Lady Bowen Falls. BROOK SABIN

The best way to see Milford 

There are lots of different ways to see Milford Sound, but none match going on a kayak tour with Rosco's Milford Kayaks. You’ll come within metres of enormous mountains that launch out of the sea, and the thunderous Lady Bowen Falls. You’ll also have a chance to get up close with the fiord’s wildlife, such as seals, penguins and sometimes dolphins.

A flight you'll never forget

Most of Fiordland National Park is off-limits, simply because you can’t reach it. That is, unless you take to the sky. On Te Anau’s waterfront, you’ll find the Wings & Water float plane, which offers incredible flights into the heartland of the national park. Depending on the flight you pick, you'll see hundreds of islands sitting in the middle of giant fiords, glaciers, mountain lake, and terrain so beautiful — it’s often in movies. It’s a flight you’ll never forget — and even better — for many, it’s their first experience taking off and landing on water. Read more

Eat & Drink

Hunt down Invercargill's best sweet treats, join a sustainable fishing experience, and sit down for mouthwatering steamed buns in the mountains.

Seriously good chocolate

Invercargill is home to the southernmost chocolate company in the world, and it's true to its name: The Seriously Good Chocolate Company. Take a factory tour, a chocolate making course, or just head inside to buy a few treats; the chocolate café even sells seriously good cheese rolls, a staple of the south. Read more

The first timer’s guide to dining in Invercargill

You’d be doing yourself a disservice not to explore all of the hidden gems within Invercargill’s local food scene. From casual fare to steak and seafood, this southern city leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to a great experience dining out. From the flavours of Mexico to a relaxed tapas bar and bistro, Invercargill manages to strike the perfect balance between great food and ambience without becoming fussy or over-the-top. Read more

Amigo's is a favourite for Mexican cuisine. NEAT PLACES

Amigo's is a favourite for Mexican cuisine. NEAT PLACES

Gravity Fishing offers bespoke adventures around Rakiura/Stewart Island. LIZ CARLSON

Gravity Fishing offers bespoke adventures around Rakiura/Stewart Island. LIZ CARLSON

Much more than a fishing trip

After noticing the decline in fish populations and unsustainable systems of commercial fishing companies, third-generation Ngāi Tahu fisherman Nate Smith began offering premium hook and line-caught seafood. Gravity Fishing now offers single- and multi-day tours, taking small groups out around Rakiura/Stewart Island to learn all about the hook to table movement. During the experience, guests learn about and ethical and sustainable fishing and foraging practices before heading back to land to enjoy their freshly catch. Read more

Hit the hot tub or sauna before or after dinner. BROOK SABIN

Hit the hot tub or sauna before or after dinner. BROOK SABIN

Five-star fare in the mountains

One of Fiordland's best dining experiences involves a hot tub overlooking the Southern Alps. It's called the "Dine & Dip", and sees you first arrive at the five-star Fiordland Lodge for canapés in the luxurious lounge overlooking Lake Te Anau, next to a roaring fire. You're then invited for a three-course Trust the Chef menu — where you're taken on a sensory journey using local ingredients. The evening ends in one of the lodge's luxurious hot tubs. And you don't need to be staying the night to enjoy this — it's open to anyone.

Very nice buns

Who doesn’t love a good bao? For those of you wondering what this three-letter creation is, it’s a Chinese steamed bun filled with gloriously yummy things like pork and veggies. Te Anau has a food truck called Bao Now, right in the centre of town, and we think it’s easily the best bao you can have in New Zealand. Dishes include steamed buns with buttermilk fried chicken, pickled red onion, cucumber and aioli. The pork belly variety even has crackling. It’s the perfect treat after a big walk exploring Fiordland’s stunning scenery.

Bao Now also serves dumplings and sushi bowls. BROOK SABIN

Bao Now also serves dumplings and sushi bowls. BROOK SABIN

The Batch Cafe is known for its cheese rolls. BROOK SABIN

The Batch Cafe is known for its cheese rolls. BROOK SABIN

The search for Southland's best cheese roll

They are known as the 'sushi of the South'. Hot cheese rolls in Southland are what baguettes are to the French — iconic. So, Stuff Travel ate our way around the region’s best spots and found a clear favourite: The Batch Cafe in Invercargill. Not only is each roll stuffed with an indulgent amount of cheese, but they have a few secret ingredients. We asked what they are, and were told it was a closely-guarded secret. You’ll have to visit and try and guess.

Southland's best pies

They are so good, you’ll often find queues out the door. Fat Bastard Pies is an institution in Invercargill, and on its busier days can sell more than a 1000. The central city shop has a flavour to suit every taste, including “the big nude seafood” with fish, mussels and prawns, veggie Thai curry and lamb — alongside the traditional favourites like steak and cheese. Pro tip: Don’t leave your pie run too late, or you might miss out.

A chocolaterie worth travelling for

Lawrence was once the centre of the Otago Gold Rush, but today it's another kind taking the village by storm: a sugar rush. The Lawrence Mint is a chocolate shop with a difference. It's all about small-batch handmade creations, and in a tiny town of around 500 people, it has a steady stream of devotees worshipping at the altar of cocoa. The fudge and cheesecakes are also exceptional. The shop is currently relocating around the corner so it is only open for pickup collections, including catering and picnics. Read more

The Lawrence Mint is home to a revolving array of sweet treats. BROOK SABIN

The Lawrence Mint is home to a revolving array of sweet treats. BROOK SABIN

Industry's doughnuts are quick to sell out. NEAT PLACES

Industry's doughnuts are quick to sell out. NEAT PLACES

Decadent treats for the sweet tooth

You won’t want to miss the delectable sweet treats crafted by local makers dotted all across Invercargill. Industry is a top-notch spot in the industrial side of the city where the caramel doughnuts are a hot favourite — just get in quick before they sell out. The Batch's decadent dark chocolate peppermint cremes taste even better than they look, while The Pantry's bestselling slice is a chocolate-heavy take on the traditional Hello Rosie dessert. Read more

Three of Invercargill's best cafés

There's more to New Zealand's southernmost city than cheese rolls and fresh oysters. Dee Street's Black Shag Boutique Café is a favourite for specialty coffee and is as well known for its art as it is for its food. The Grille Café is found inside Bill Richardson’s Transport World — dine while admiring the motoring-themed decor. Buster Crabb is the spot to sample Southland chowder or truffle oil gnocchi which is probably the best this side of Rome. Read more

DEEP SOUTH DELICACIES

Bluff oysters

Bluff’s world-famous bivalves are the purest expression of the ocean, unless you fancy knocking back a tall glass of seawater (not recommended). Harvested from the cool waters of Foveaux Strait from March to August every year, the oysters are considered to be among the best in the world, praised for their meatier texture and stronger flavour. When visiting the region in season, fresh Bluffies can be found at Fowlers Oysters, where you can enjoy them by the dozen, or battered and deep-fried.

Bluff oysters. ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

Bluff oysters. ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

Stewart Island tītī/muttonbird

It looks like a bird but tastes like a fish; muttonbird certainly isn’t for everyone. The rich and oily seabird has been hunted by Māori for hundreds of years. Today, descendants of Rakiura Māori have rights to gather tītī or sooty shearwater chicks from 36 sites around Stewart Island from mid-March to the end of May. Stewart Island’s Church Hill Restaurant is one spot where you can find the delicacy in season. Queenstown's Amisfield is known for serving the seabird whole.

Hokonui moonshine

Gore’s famed Hokonui Moonshine Museum might currently be closed for renovations, but you can still wrap your palate around the region’s illicit whisky distilling and bootlegging history at the Gore Visitor Centre. The McRae clan led Southland’s illegal whisky production from the 1870s. You can now legally purchase the ‘Old Hokonui’ whisky made to the original recipe or a honey and mint-infused liqueur.

Hokonui moonshine. SOUTHLANDNZ

Hokonui moonshine. SOUTHLANDNZ

Southland cheese rolls

Affectionately known as ‘Southland sushi’, the cheese roll involves a rolling white bread into a cheesy tube and then lightly toasting. The famed snack is said to date back to the 1930s when it started to appear in South Island recipe books. It can now be found in cafés, bars and restaurants across the region with posh 21st century variations incorporating everything from Worcestershire sauce to onion soup powder and creamed corn.

Fiordland crayfish

Given its clear underwater environment and abundance of sea life, it’s no surprise Jacques Cousteau once called Fiordland ‘the last frontier’ of diving destinations. Crayfish or southern rock lobsters are found up and down the wild and rocky coastline. The spiny creature is often considered to be the sweetest and most succulent variety of cray. While you can easily find the delicacy in cafés and restaurants in town, the freshest way to sample the goods is on a charter experience.

Read more

Stay

Find luxury on a sheep and deer farm, hike to one of Fiordland's most isolated huts, and spend the week cruising on a catamaran.

Luxury on a sheep farm

Two hours south of Queenstown, there's a luxury estate situated within a sprawling 2000-acre sheep and deer farm. Cabot Lodge sits at the top of a hill within Cathedral Peaks Station, and with Fiordland National Park to your left, Lake Manapōuri straight ahead and the Kepler track to your right, the view takes centre stage. Deluxe suites are spacious, with an open fireplace, large walk-in wardrobe, writing desk, king-sized bed, and claw foot bathtub. Guests are welcome to look around the working farm, learn about the homegrown honey and meet the resident miniature horses. Read more

Cabot Lodge sits at the top of a hill within Cathedral Peaks Station. SUPPLIED

Cabot Lodge sits at the top of a hill within Cathedral Peaks Station. SUPPLIED

Cascade Creek overlooks native bush. BROOK SABIN

Cascade Creek overlooks native bush. BROOK SABIN

Go off-grid in a log cabin

One of the country’s best off-grid escapes is nestled in Clutha, overlooking a vast swathe of native bush. Cascade Creek Retreat is a luxurious log cabin, complete with two outdoor baths to luxuriate in under the stars. The lodge has no mobile coverage, tv, or wi-fi and is powered by solar — meaning it's the perfect place to switch off. Grab a wine, jump into the bath, then finish the night next to the roaring fire, it doesn’t get any better. Well, actually, it does: you can even get a three-course meal cooked for you by a private chef.

One of Fiordland's most remote huts

Hankinson Hut is the oldest and one of the most isolated huts in Fiordland National Park. It has long been a shelter for intrepid adventurers and deer hunters. But now, it's easily accessible to the public. Ordinarily, a journey to the hut is an arduous three to four-day walk on a "very challenging" track. However, a Te Anau-based adventure company has found a way to get people to this magical little spot in just a few hours. The journey with Fiordland Outdoors Co. starts with a scenic 40-minute cruise, a short wander, a second boat ride and another short walk through Jurassic Park-esque forest. Read more

Spend the night in a train carriage

Te Anau Lodge, which was previously the Sisters of Mercy Convent in the mining town of Nightcaps, is now a two-minute drive from the centre of Te Anau. The lodge boasts nine bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms but further digs for the night including a handsome train carriage, a short walk from the main property. The carriage has since been converted into luxury accommodation. As well as antique decorations, there is tiny kitchen, cute seating area, a claw foot bath and a comfy queen-sized bed. Read more

The Captain Cook cabin on the Fiordland Jewel. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

The Captain Cook cabin on the Fiordland Jewel. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

Once-in-a-lifetime luxury catamaran

Arriving by helicopter on the Fiordland Jewel feels like a scene from a James Bond movie. And that's only the beginning of the world-class adventure on the 24m-long luxury catamaran through the jade-green waters of Fiordland. There's absolutely no chance of being bored here. Between kayaking, gentle hikes through the early history of New Zealand, watching dolphins, seal pups and squadrons of seabirds, guests on the vessel also get to sample a bounty of kaimoana from the pristine waters. It's the perfect way to explore this spectacular part of Aotearoa. Read more

Escape to New Zealand's Narnia

The best way to explore the spectacular Purakaunui Bay coastline is during a stay at Skylark B&B. The accommodation is at the heart of a 1400-acre sheep and beef farm, perched high upon a hill with postcard-worthy views of Catlins Lake and the wild Pacific Ocean beyond. By day, this is the perfect spot to watch the sun rise and fall from your bed, while by night you’ll be mesmerised tracking stars across the sky. The small but perfectly formed self-contained unit sleeps two with a panoramic vista perfectly framed by two large floor-to-ceiling windows. Read more

An incredible (and affordable) mountain escape

In the beautifully rugged mountains of Southland, you can experience a world-class view and exceptional outdoor bath – all for less than the price of a three-star hotel. You’ll need to head to a high country farm known as Welcome Rock. It's a gentle two-kilometre walk to Slade Hut, which sits just a few hundred metres away from the highest point on the farm. The hut is basic — you need to bring sleeping bags and toilet paper —but this priceless experience will only set you back $138 per couple. Read more

One of NZ's most spectacular stays

Many Kiwis don't realise you can spend the night in Milford Sound in a series of chalets surrounded by rainforest, framed by enormous peaks. Milford Sound Lodge is also home to the Pio Pio restaurant, some of the best hotel food in NZ. That’s a remarkable achievement considering its remote location. The lodge sits next to the Cleddau River, which provides an almost hypnotic trickle to fall asleep to. If you don't have the budget for a hotel room, there are also campervan sites within the grounds. Read more

Fiordland Jewel in Doubtful Sound. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

Fiordland Jewel in Doubtful Sound. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

The view is the star at Welcome Rock. BROOK SABIN

The view is the star at Welcome Rock. BROOK SABIN

Hankinson Hut is rarely used because it’s so remote. BROOK SABIN

Hankinson Hut is rarely used because it’s so remote. BROOK SABIN

Milford Sound Lodge sits next to the Cleddau River. BROOK SABIN

Milford Sound Lodge sits next to the Cleddau River. BROOK SABIN

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Fiordland Jewel in Doubtful Sound. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

Fiordland Jewel in Doubtful Sound. FIORDLAND DISCOVERY

The view is the star at Welcome Rock. BROOK SABIN

The view is the star at Welcome Rock. BROOK SABIN

Hankinson Hut is rarely used because it’s so remote. BROOK SABIN

Hankinson Hut is rarely used because it’s so remote. BROOK SABIN

Milford Sound Lodge sits next to the Cleddau River. BROOK SABIN

Milford Sound Lodge sits next to the Cleddau River. BROOK SABIN

Sponsored Picks 

Start living on Te Anau time

Kepler Track. DOC

Enjoy an extra hour of daylight in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland.

Kepler Track. DOC

Kepler Track. DOC

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You're due south - our guide to Southland and Clutha

Nugget Point. SUPPLIED

Top reasons to stay awhile in the Southland and Clutha regions.

Nugget Point. SUPPLIED

Nugget Point. SUPPLIED

Visuals: Brook Sabin

Words: Brook Sabin, Trupti Biradar, Stephen Heard, Siobhan Downes, Juliette Sivertsen, Lorna Thornber, Alan Granville, Pamela Wade, Sharon Stephenson, Jill Worrall, Jennifer Parkes, Liz Carlson, Brett Atkinson, Neat Places, Lee Kenny, Natalie Crockett, Colleen O'Hanlon

Editors: Trupti Biradar, Stephen Heard

Stuff Travel's Go To Guides are created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand