There's no 'ta-dah!' in Invercargill, but give us a chance

Invercargill's new branding might help bedazzle the Southland city.
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Invercargill's new branding might help bedazzle the Southland city.

OPINION: Okay, sure, fine. We'll grant you this. Invercargill's charms don't particularly include the vista from the back end of a hotel.

From that lofty perspective (and a lot of people seem to regard Invercargill from a lofty perspective anyway) it's possible to look out over the unprepossessing roofing and fancy you can hear the mournful tune of the Coronation Street cornet.

So the initial disappointment felt by Stu Koch and Bex Rowling of Hamilton, when their Air New Zealand "mystery trip" deposited them at one of the city's older hotels, is understandable.

A couple take a stroll in Queen's Park.
JOHN HUNTER

A couple take a stroll in Queen's Park.

Especially when it was, inexplicably, touted as four-to-five star. (The fact a $40 million new one is in the offing is neither here nor there. Yet.)

READ MORE:
* Couple left disappointed after Air NZ 'Mystery Break'
* 15 things no-one told be about living in Invercargill

They fled, sharpishly, to Queenstown, full of disappointment and reproach.

The view from the Invercargill hotel Bex Rowling and her husband stayed as part of an Air NZ 'Mystery Break'.
FACEBOOK/BEX ROWLING

The view from the Invercargill hotel Bex Rowling and her husband stayed as part of an Air NZ 'Mystery Break'.

A scintillating first impression isn't likely to be high up anyone's list of Invercargill's virtues as a holiday destination. But just because Invercargill's charms don't necessarily emerge with a visual ta-dah! upon arrival it doesn't mean they aren't there.

So if you had, as they did, just a few days and a rental car, what might you rewardingly get up to?

Most locals would immediately steer you towards the twin developments Transport World, with more than 300 vintage trucks including the world's most comprehensive Henry Ford collection, and Motorcycle Mecca, an equal-sized collection of motorbikes.

Bill Richardson Transport World also has an ever-growing collection of spectacular wearable art.
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/STUFF

Bill Richardson Transport World also has an ever-growing collection of spectacular wearable art.

Transport World also has an ever-growing collection of spectacular wearable art.

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Why? Well, because it does. We pretend it's more for the womenfolk but, strictly between us, the men seem to find time to stray thataways too.

As befits the hometown of Burt Munro, there's an equally crucial third stop. E Hayes & Sons is home to Munro's original (World's Fastest) Indian bike and many other vintage contraptions. It's also a really large, really old hardware store so evocative of older New Zealand that it's also become an attraction of the most basic nuts-and-bolts level.

Southland Museum and Art Gallery Tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with a tuatara at the museum.
KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF

Southland Museum and Art Gallery Tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with a tuatara at the museum.

You can hardly promote a town on the basis of "come and see our hardware shop". We know that. And yet the place thrives on word of mouth really.

New Zealand is also where you can get up-close and personal with dinosaur DNA. Tuatara aren't lizards, they have a more direct descendency to the ancient thunderers and they're plentiful at the city's Southland Museum, which pioneered their breeding in captivity.

The museum's in Queens Park. Other towns have parks too, though if you'll forgive us, many of them are of a scale Invercargill people would tend to call centre plots.

In some parts of Europe, Queens Park would be an independent state.

It has the diversity to gain a five-star rating from the New Zealand Garden Trust and a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence 4.5 rating, which breaks down to 116 excellents, 53 very goods, seven averages, and not a soul rating it poor or terrible.

A great deal of what's best about Invercargill is what it nestles up to. Raw-boned old port town Riverton is but half an hour's drive away. 

This is fighting talk, we grant you, but rawer-boned Bluff is closer still. Stewart Island rewards the placid visitor as much as the intrepid, and there's a very short trip to Ulva Island, an open sanctuary so teeming with birdlife that more than anywhere else you're ever likely to see will introduce you to the way New Zealand was before people showed up.

Invercargill also has an uncommon brace of community funding organisations, the Invercargill Licensing Trust (a biggie, of its sort) and the Community Trust of Southland, which together have provided a sports stadium, cycling velodrome and other facilities way out of scale with many you'd expect in provincial New Zealand. And they tend to be plenty busy.

So what have you heard? Invercargill gets cold? It's spring. We have heat. We have fabric softeners. And remember the rectal thermometer argument; just because somewhere's warm doesn't mean you want to spend your holiday there.

 - Stuff

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