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Otago, Invercargill, and Stewart Island Travel Guide

  • Photo: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Plan Your Otago, Invercargill, and Stewart Island Vacation

The province of Otago occupies much of the southeast quadrant of the South Island. During the first three decades of the 1800s, European whaling ships cruised its coast and ventured ashore, yielding a mixed response from the Māori, who had been living here for hundreds of years.

In 1848 Dunedin was settled, and all the land from the top of the Otago Peninsula south to the Clutha River

and sections farther inland were purchased from the Māori. By the mid-1860s Dunedin was the economic hub of the Otago gold rush. Dunedin's historical wealth endures in such institutions as the University of Otago, the oldest in the country.

Invercargill, to the south, was born out of different economic imperatives. After the Dunedin settlers bought swaths of Southland for their sheep, they needed a local port to bring in more stock from Australia. The town of Bluff, already familiar to sealers, was selected as an ideal location. Invercargill became the administrative center to the port and then to the whole region. Until recent years, the town's economic focus remained that of raising sheep and other livestock and crops; it is now becoming a more diverse metropolis.

Hanging off the bottom of South Island, Stewart Island is a study in remoteness. Commercial-fishing settlements give way to bushland that the kiwi bird still haunts. At night, the birds can be seen wandering the beaches. On some nights the aurora australis, the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of the northern lights, light up the sky.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Bird-Watching See yellow-eyed penguin or an albatross on the peninsula or a kiwi on Stewart Island. Predator-free Ulva Island is often called the jewel in the crown of New Zealand's national parks.
  2. Kiwi Sports Rugby is what puts New Zealand on the world stage, and for many kiwis it’s a passion, even religion of sorts. Super-rugby’s Highlanders and provincial team Otago ruck and maul at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium; the All Blacks play some international fixtures here, too.
  3. Pubs and Clubs Thanks to the presence of 20,000 university students, Dunedin is full of funky bars, late-night pubs, value-for-the-money cafés, and rocking music venues.
  4. The Southern Sea The lower coast of the South Island is wild and woolly, bordering the great Southern Ocean that swirls around the base of the globe. Head south along the Catlins section of the Southern Scenic Route for ocean views, diving seabirds, and sandy beaches.

When To Go

When to Go

Dunedin gets more visitors in summer, but during the university vacations it's quieter. Inland Otago remains dry year-round, and you can expect...

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Travel Tips

Otago, Invercargill, and Stewart Island Travel Tips

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