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8 fabulous gardens & parks in Southland: what to see

  • 4 minutes

Southland, New Zealand

Spring through to autumn what to see and do among cool climate gardens and parks

Cool climate with a brisk winter deepening the sparkle to spring blooms. Autumn is glorious with the leaf colour of gold, bronze and tints of yellow making for great photo moments. For locals and visitors you have a choice of wide open spaces where cultivated areas tempt you to slow down and relax.

For rose lovers the cool climate is ideal to plan a spring visit. Stop and smell the Southland roses. Then there is the vegetable tour. Southland has reimagined the vegetable. Plants as a sustainable and enduring food source is the new cool.

Roses in full glory Queens Park Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand
Roses in full glory Queens Park Invercargill, Southland
  1. Queen’s Park Invercargill Southland

Queen’s Park is officially a Regional Park indicating the gem located in the heart of Invercargill. Walking trails, glorious gardens, playgrounds and even an 18 hole golf course. For rose lovers there is the treat of Jessie Calder’s Old Rose Garden in Queens Park with the largest public collection of heirloom roses in New Zealand. Every rose is lovingly labelled, your list of rose plants has suddenly got much bigger.

What to do nearby

  • Invercargill heritage city walk
  • Visit Gore museums & galleries for the day
  • Gardens nearby
  1. Dolamore Park Gore Southland

Over 95 hectares of native podocarp forest, sweeping lawns, cultivated gardens framed with stone wall terracing makes Dolamore Park very special. Then there is a lush display of colour in spring as 500 mature Rhododendrons make a spectacular show. For visitors there are unlimited tent sites on grassed areas, 22 powerpoints for campervans to hook up to and electric BBQs. These are free to use. There are also kitchen and shower facilities. A free campsite in spring surrounded by cancopody of colour from rhododendrons is the icing on the cake. And it’s free. Open Year round, no dogs allowed.

What to do nearby

  • Selfie against Gore’s humongous brown trout sculpture
  • Visit Mataura to gawp at industrial activity and its impact on the environment
  • Visit Hokonui Moonshine Museum where bootlegger stories are narrated
Gore public spaces, extensive lawns, New Zealand
Gore public spaces, extensive lawns
  1. Lignite Pit Secret Garden

A Southland gem, the conversion of an industrial coal pit into a garden, lake, cafe and gift shop. Disused mines offer the magic of transformation into cultivated spaces where the sheer mine walls, and excavations create contours and shape for the glorious created garden. The 16 acre lakeside garden still features walls of lignite and retains the original pit. A waterfall flows over into the pit, while boardwalks and bridges link the walkways together. A cafe overlooks the garden with its classic New Zealand menu. The cafe has an adjoining gift shop home to Woolez handmade has a number of home made knitted and crocheted products, spinning wheels, weaving looms and wools from Ashford Handicrafts. The grounds are available for private bookings for weddings and other family celebrations.

@Lignite Pit Secret Garden
@Lignite Pit Secret Garden
  • Cafe open: September to May, Wednesday to Sunday 11.00am – 5.00pm
  • Campgrounds: open year round
  • Powered sites: 4
  • Non-powered sites: several
  • Facilities: Toilets, shared kitchen

What to do nearby

  • Gore, world class Eastern Southland Gallery
  • Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre largest collection of de Havilland vintage aircraft in the southern hemisphere
  • Anderson Park for its homestead and intriguing balance between native and exotic plantings.
  1. Marshwood Gardens

Stock up on salvias at Marshwood gardens, a plant person’s garden brimming with salvia’s and perennials. There is an extraordinary selection of rare or hard to find plants in the nursery. The plants are characterised as hardy. Propagated outside these beauties tempt browsers to pop a plant or several in the car boot. Who says plants can’t fly home with you has not visited this very special garden and nursery. Marshwood does not accept credit cards. And remember to check out the apple trees planted by the Open Orchard Project. For overseas visitors stroll in the gardens and get inspired with the planting themes, the swaths of colour and sheer delight of a cool climate summer.

Facilities: Does not have a cafe or public toilets.

What to do nearby

  • Doyenne of public gardens, Queens Park is a must do in Invercargill
  • Visit Riverton Tudor Park Gardens and smell the roses
  • Invercargill Steans Centennial Winter Gardens hot houses
@Marshwood gardens
@Marshwood gardens
  1. Food Forest Garden Tours

Riverton South Coast Environment Centre is the epicentre for all things plant supporting the environment and human health.  Tours of the Guyton’s Food Forest Garden are available seasonally, with bookings made through the Environment Centre or through the booking site. Riverton Community Forest Garden started life as an empty public space behind the Anglican church is a diverse permaculture food forest with a selection of vegetables and fruit trees.

What to do nearby

  • Chill out watching fishing boats return from a day at sea
  • Explore rock pools on the Riverton beach
  • Balancing rock, Riverton selfie
@Tudor Park Gardens
@Tudor Park Gardens
  1. Tudor Park Gardens

Tudor Park is home of the former president of Heritage Roses New Zealand with the iconic blooms in full glory over the 6 acres of spectacular gardens. A beautiful classic garden with structured walks leading the eye to pergolas and open spaces. The arbours, bridges and seats make for a beautiful restful place for visitors to savour Southland magic.

  • Open: 10.00am to dusk
  • Admission fee: applies
  • Dogs: prohibited
  • Cafe: Not on site, group booking catering on request
  • Toilets: Yes

Accommodation available.

What to do nearby

  • Riverton Te Hikoi Museum
  • Blue cod fish n chips on the beach
  • Aparima South Coast Heritage Trail
  1. Wilson’s Vege Stall

You are reading it correctly, a roadside stall is on the list. Wilson’s stall at Wilson’s Crossing on SH6 began in 1975 with a wheelbarrow filled with swedes at the roadside. It’s a great way to observe the importance of horticulture for Southland and get a famous swede or seasonal fresh fruit in the backpack. Throughout the year the roadside shop sells locally sourced produce. And the famous Swede Man statue is definitely worth a photo moment.

Vegetables, swedes, New Zealand
Vegetables, swedes

A handy local tip is Southland swedes can be eaten raw. That could be a challenge for visitors. The reliable brisk winters with frosts coating the earth converts starch into sugar making swedes sweet. Keep us posted on what you think.
Opening season from February to mid September

What to do nearby

  • Selfie with a swede (vegetable not a person)
  • Winton is picture postcard small town, definitely worth a stroll down the main street
  • Op-shop shopping in Winton
Heritage roses, New Zealand
Heritage roses
  1. Southland Community Nursery

Rare, threatened native plants can be the quiet, small survivors. The Southland Community Nursery is dedicated to the survivor ensuring the genetic diversity of the plants endemic to the region thrive. The nursery has an excellent reference to natural landscapes where plants and wildlife can be observed.

The nursery is open most Fridays (except public holidays), from September to June. The nursery is open by arrangement, it contains extremely rare plants endemic to the region, many of which are grown by volunteers at the on-site Southland Community Nursery. Show up on a Friday from September to June and you’ll be put to work potting up, weeding or seed collecting.

Getting there


  • Southland Gardens, there are two weekends when all gardens are open to casual visitors, one held in November and the other in March.
  • For dedicated gardeners there is Castlemaine Garden, Folster Garden, Brookhaven Garden, La Marque Garden and Seven Elms exquisite gardens each with their own personality.
  • Other notable gardens are Maple Glen Gardens with 25 acres of garden, nursery and woodlands. Open Saturdays & Sundays 9.00am – 5.00pm
  • Get inspired with gardening and decorative ideas on a shoestring. Found objects, someone’s junk makes someone’s craft, a discarded buoy, driftwood and quirky justpositiones Marilyn and Alan Clark created their garden in Bluff is a treasure trove of wow moments.Open by appointment.
  • South Coast Environment Society, was formed in 1996 to operate the Environment Centre in Riverton. The Environment Centre is on the main street in Riverton on the Southern Scenic Route, and we provide services to the wider South Coast of New Zealand. The Centre was established to provide a base for and support three existing Riverton environmental groups (Riverton Organic Group, Riverton Organic Food Co-op and Estuary Care Society) and promote environmental awareness. Since then the Society has provided constant and reliable management for the Centre, making it the oldest continuously running Environment Centre in New Zealand. Our programmes also reach people and organisations outside our home area, including overseas. The initial three environmental groups are still going strong, and an impressive array of other projects and initiatives have been able to develop that otherwise would have been difficult to facilitate. Take a tour of the centre on the video below (or here on YouTube)


Unique journey, the adventure is worth it.

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