Quiet towns near the Southern Ocean are worth the journey. New Zealand agricultural growth on the back of sheep is evident along with a surprise or two.
Southland is not awash with tour buses. Quiet side roads and plenty of space to relax is a hallmark of the district. From a world class art gallery to a quirky museum focused on bootlegger history manufacturing moonshine whiskey Gore is charming. The main street lined with mature trees is a picturesque town where it is easy to spend several hours or even a few days delving into local attractions. The best time to visit is spring to early autumn. For souls willing to rug up the toasty delights of Gore will make the journey worthwhile.
Who turned up and settled in Gore?
- A mere 65k from Invercargill, on the banks of the Mataura River another homage to long dead Governors of New Zealand is Gore. The Matura River and water transport options encouraged sawmiller Daniel Morton to open Long Ford House. Opportunity knocked for Daniel with a stable, beds and liquor licence for travellers.
- Named after Thomas Gore Browne, Governor of NZ 1855-186. At least the town is not called Browne.
- Ronald Bannerman, a flying ace during World War I. Bannerman Park in north Gore recognises his achievements. Sadly Ronald did not get a town named after him.
- Whisky lovers and the story of bootleggers, The Hokonui Moonshine Museum celebrates the area’s whiskey making during the Prohibition era. Visitors can buy Old Hokonui whiskey, made to the original recipe. Mary McRae moved from the Scottish Highlands to the South Island of New Zealand in 1872, settling in the Hokonui Hills with her seven children and the rest is history.
- Blue Sky Meat company (Clover Exports Ltd) is the only horse slaughterhouse in NZ licensed to export horse meat for human consumption. Although it’s acknowledged eating meat should not be defined by NZ lamb and beef.
What to do, highlights
- Gore Historical Museum, custodian of local stories and records
- Eastern Southland Gallery, a New Zealand world class art collection
- Mataura River is the Brown trout capital of the world according to GO GORE publicity
- A bottle of Hokonui whiskey at the Hokonui MoonshineMuseum where bootlegger stories are narrated
- Hokonui Pioneer Village with diamoras and interactive exhibits of daily life in the nineteenth century
- Nearby Manderville houses the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre largest collection of de Havilland vintage aircraft in the southern hemisphere. The four main aircraft on display are the Fox Moth, Dominie Rapid, Dragonfly and the Tiger Moth
- June and the annual Tussock Country-New Zealand’s Country Music Festival and NZ Gold Guitar Awards
- NZ Line Dancing Championships. A perfect reason for a winter break in the chilly South. Note both festivals are indoor events.
- Hokonui Moonshiners Festival is held every second year with pop up food stalls, entertainment, live music and of course, Old Hokonui Whisky.
Where to take the best selfie
- Gigantic brown trout at Gore’s town boundary entrance
- Romany sheep (Gore’s main street)
- Hokonui Museum with diomara of bootleggers in background
- A tiger moth WWI plane in background
- Glorious autumn foliage makes for an ideal photo moment
- Old Mandeville Airfield, Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre is where visitors can watch restored Tiger Moth, Fox Moth and other 1930s bi-planes. There are flights available for visitors (remember to wear warm clothing)
- Bannerman Park, in autumn lots of gorgeous fiery coloured leaves to jump in. The resident deer are an attraction
- Brown trout fly fishing, a study in patience for kids
- Feed the Ducks at Hokonui Pioneer Village
What keeps the place going?
- Agribusiness however there has been a consistent decline in population since the 1970’s. The loss of the iconic Creamoata brand of oatmeal and mascot Sergeant Dan was a blow to employment. The District Council works actively to promote Gore resulting in a stable rural population in recent years. The Romney sheep was the backbone of the rural economy for many years and there is a statue to the breed in Gore’s Main Street.
- Gore is a place of surprises for families and kids alike. From tame deer in a public park to vintage aircraft. Visitors will enjoy browsing the second hand stores, art galleries, museums and spending time outdoors exploring the rivers and reserves nearby. Recommended time in Gore from several hours to a day or two. Gore is a great day trip option from Invercargill.
The journey is worth it.