Last Saturday I made a dash down south. Way down south. So far you could see that flag they’ve stuck down in Antarctica to let you know you’ve gone about as far as is humanly possible, and from here on in the weather can only get better.
For anyone who wanted to make a joke or two about the geographically-disadvantaged, Invercargill has been a never-ending source of inspiration and, I’ll be honest, I’ve shared in making the odd jibe against the place too, and that has nothing to do with the fact that I dated a girl from there (yeh, yeh not related ok). So now that I’ve matured a bit, I like to think of myself as a reasonable and open-minded individual who asks questions before shooting.
So it was time to actually the visit the place so at the very least I could make jokes about the place with the respectable degree of a qualified opinion.
So I booked, and before I knew it we were winging our way from Christchurch to Invercargill on a reasonably-priced Grabaseat flight (a reward for misspent time online). A short one hour flight (after we were forced to switch planes) gets you direct to Invercargill from Christchurch airport on a Bombardier Q300. Flying down, it’s a good idea to try and get seats on the right side of the plane because on a clear day you get an amazing view of the Southern Alps and Central Otago.
The first surprise was leaving the plane via an air-bridge. We were expecting to be dashing across a paddock, dodging sheep and quad bikes, to get to the terminal. Round one to you Invercargill. Round one to you. We were greeted by single-digit temperatures, made worse by a frigid wind-chill of factor 10 (actually I don’t know what factor it was, I just added that for effect so hopefully you’re suitably impressed). Of course, it is winter and Christchurch isn’t a whole lot better this time of year. But you just felt like you were that much closer to a polar ice cap.
From Invercargill airport it’s a pleasant 20 minute walk alongside the estuary, into the central business district. Don’t expect a whole lot of tall buildings but there are a bunch of traffic lights and some heritage buildings that are worth photographing. We loved the old-school parking meters too, so quaint. We only had a few hours before our flight back so we had to stick to the main drag of Dee Street.
We hit the museum slash art gallery, which you can’t miss simply because it’s styled like a massive white pyramid and sits in Queens Park. Trust me, it stands out. I still haven’t decided if it’s in a good way. We were there to visit the Tuataras but were regaled by stories of shipwrecks and castaways on the nearby islands including the Auckland group (nowhere near Auckland) which were harsh environments for anyone stupid enough to try and live on them (such as the radio watchers during WWII who were there because the Germans were seeking to claim them, imagining that they were idyllic islands of the Pacific; for some strange reason they chose not to fight for them).
Eventually hunger got the better of us and while we know that scallops are typical fare down this way, we were after something a little less feisty. You generally can’t go too far wrong with Irish pubs so we dropped into Waxy Osheas. Good solid pub food complemented with a Pitch Black beer, brewed right there in Invercargill. Once again, a pleasant surprise and another tick in the right column for visitors coming to this maligned part of the country.
It was time to go so we made our way back to the airport having satisfied the ‘stay in a place for longer two hours before you can officially say you’ve visited it’ rule. Tick. I have to say we came away impressed. It’s possibly because our expectations were really low, so don’t take this review as anything remotely scientific.
Invercargill wouldn’t be at the top of our winter escape destinations (or even in the top ten) but it gets more bad press than it really deserves. I know how that feels; Christchurch is often criticised by those north of the Bombay Hills for being cold, grey and unfriendly. But I know it’s a lot better than that. So I can appreciate when a town gets more stick than it should. Sure it had more than its fair share of mullets and moustaches (and even a few on the men) but maybe that’s just character and every town needs some of that.
In summary all I can say is that Invercargill is possibly better than you imagine. Like the ad says: know me before you judge me. And Invercargill, you taught me that lesson well.