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Invercargill:  Green Acres, New Zealand Style

(Reprint from News: January 16, 2002)

January 14, 2002


After waiting for a week in Dunedin, I left to search for sunnier climes.  As I was checking out of the Acadian Motel, the friendly owner apologized profusely for the weather and assured me that Dunedin is actually a wonderful city, which I assured her it seemed to be.  Hopefully, I'll see the "real" Dunedin the next time I visit New Zealand. 


I continued heading south that morning and drove through an area on the southeastern coast known as the Catlins, which is one of the most remote places in New Zealand.  There aren't a lot of people in the Catlins and the highway becomes a dirt road (or "unsealed" road, as they call it here).  Since my car isn't insured on unsealed roads, I was a little apprehensive about driving through the Catlins but the road is pretty wide and there wasn't a lot of traffic, so I didn't have any trouble.  Since I'd been dealing with a lot of crowds all through New Zealand for the previous month, the Catlins were a nice break and, probably for the first time, I felt like I was seeing the real New Zealand.


The sun finally emerged late that afternoon as I pulled into Invercargill (pop. 50,000), a farming city on the very southern tip of the South Island and about as far south as you can drive in New Zealand.  Invercargill is the butt of a lot of jokes in New Zealand since it's a pretty rural area and there are a lot of farms in this area -- definitely life in the slow lane.  A few days earlier, I had talked to some adventure-seeking teenagers and when I said I was going to Invercargill, they asked me one question:  "Why?"  


Here's the theme to Green Acres.  Those younger than about 30 have probably never seen this show (which is fortunate).

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Invercargill was a nice change of pace, though, because every city that I'd visited in New Zealand up until now boasted a myriad of adrenalin-pumping experiences, including jet-boat rides, white-water rafting, hang-gliding, bungy-jumping, sea-kayaking, and a lot of other hyphenated thrill activities which can whittle down your wallet in no time flat.  The most exciting thing to do in Invercargill was visit the Southland Museum (which I did) and walk around the beautiful downtown area (which I also did).  More than any other place I've visited yet in New Zealand, Invercargill reminded me of a large Midwestern farm town, something like a Bismarck or Wichita, which was all the more reason to like it.  


Invercargill isn't real exciting, but it seems pretty down-to-earth and the folks there take life a little slower than elsewhere in New Zealand.  During my two days there, I got a good feeling for the town and, although it's the antithesis of all those New Zealand action-adventure towns, I liked Invercargill a lot.  The thrill-seekers can stay in Queenstown or Wanaka, as far as I'm concerned -- I'll take Invercargill any day.  

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Above left:  After a week of rain, I left Dunedin and headed south.  This is Nugget Point on the southeastern coast of the South Island... and yes, it's a real nugget.

Above center:  Driving across the Catlins, probably the most remote part of New Zealand.

Above right:  Only 4 million people live in this country but there are 48 million sheep.  I think I've seen most of them.


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Above left:  Invercargill is about as far south as you can go in New Zealand.  With a lot of farmland nearby and all the John Deere Tractor places, it feels like a Midwestern city.  And, like a lot of Midwestern cities, there isn't a whole lot to do in Invercargill -- but maybe that's why I liked it.

Above center:  The Southland Museum in Invercargill is the best museum I've visited so far in New Zealand.

Above right:  Getting some Fish and Chips from a seafood market in Invercargill.


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Above left:  Literally the end of the road.  This signpost is in Bluff, a few miles south of Invercargill and as far south as you can drive in New Zealand.

Above center:  Surfer dude along the highway.

Above right:  The sausage capital of New Zealand?  This is my kind of town!


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