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9 Riverton, Southland holiday family ideas, activities

  • 4 minutes

Just past Invercargill you could be excused for simply zipping past another small town on your way to the big ticket visitor destination of Stewart Island. Stop, take a breath, let the kids out of the vehicle and explore Riverton. From fossicking on a beach for gemstones to one of Aotearoa’s well known sustainable horticultural programmes there is something to spark the interest of all ages groups and interests.

Riverton street art, New Zealand
Riverton street art
  1. Photo moments

Selfie moments are not corny when on holiday with the kids. Family members can add to their instagram accounts with a shot next to the monster paua shell on the main street. It is a massive 3 metres. And shoppers rejoice there are several exquisite jewellery stores in the town supporting local artisans converting paua into decorative objects.

  1. Forest Garden

Environmental junior proponents in your family have the acclaimed Forest Garden and Heritage Orchard Project. For a small town Riverton has created a template for engagement with sustainable practices and support for native habitats.

A Wild Forest Food Garden @Organic Dairy & Pastoral Group
A Wild Forest Food Garden @Organic Dairy & Pastoral Group
Colac Bay @Worldwide Elevation Map Finder
Colac Bay @Worldwide Elevation Map Finder
  1. Colac Bay

Grab a bakery item, perhaps the iconic cheese rolls of Southland and picnic at Jacob’s River Estuary or Colac Bay and watch the local surfers. Colac Beach is home to the surf club where holidaymakers are invited to join a lesson and give surfing a go.

  1. Te Hikoi Museum

Te Hikoi Museum introduces visitors to the southern narrative with well thought interactive displays that engage all age groups. The stories range from sawmilling to the lives of the Chinese settlers. Younger visitors will enjoy the immerse experience of films and narratives of a replica sailing ship of sealers and whalers. The Maori heritage is captured with descriptions of the substantial Māori pā called Aparima. The inhabitants were attracted by the harbour and ample seafood.

Te Hikoi Museum @Safe Space Alliance
Te Hikoi Museum, New Zealand @New Zealand Te Hikoi Museum @New Zealand
  1. Southland Community Environment Centre

Southland Community Environment Centre calls Riverton its heartland. The Centre focuses on the environment and human health. Go shopping for holiday snacks and groceries for the road. Perhaps the kids will volunteer to join the local gardening programme weeding the adjoining backyard plot.

Southland Community Environment Centre @The Standard
Southland Community Environment Centre @The Standard
  1. The Good Studio

The Good Studio is a great place to acquire a unique locally crafted gift for yourself or someone important to you. Every holiday needs a fabulous gift shop and Riverton delivers. Check out your next shopping destination in Southland and make room in the suitcase, The Good Studio – Riverton Art and Gift Gallery. If there is not enough room The Good Studio offers shipping services.

  1. Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum

History buffs have a must visit museum. With its working machinery and the importance of flax as Aotearoa’s natural fibre, the Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum is fascinating. A restored 105-year-old working flax mill and museum showcases 1860s to 1970s flax processing technology in particular flax milling in Southland. “The working museum, with its still operational stripper and scutcher provides outstanding insight into this once highly significant industry.” – New Zealand Historic Places Trust. For opening hours check with Museum is 100% volunteer run by the Templeton Flax Milling Heritage Trust (a charitable community trust).

Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum @Alys847
Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum @Alys847
  1. Harvest Festival

Kids, all age groups love a festival and if your holiday dates align you have a date with the Riverton Heritage Harvest Festival which offers fascinating talks, displays, competitions and activities. The small town buzzes with visitors intent on having good fun and biting into the crunchy sweet crispness of a Southland apple.

Riverton Heritage Harvest Festival @rivertonenvironmentcentre
Riverton Heritage Harvest Festival @rivertonenvironmentcentre
Gemstone beach @Southland NZ
Gemstone beach @Southland NZ
  1. Gemstone beach

Nothing feels better than discovering a special object. Gemstone beach is just that place for kids and anyone who enjoys fossicking this is the place to be. It could be brisk (translate as cool) however the sheer pleasure of wandering on the stoney beach for the glistening stones that will become part of the story of a great holiday.

Getting there


  • Riverton lies 38 km west of Invercargill, close to the sea on both sides of the estuary of the Aparima River (also known as the Jacobs River). It is the oldest Pākehā settlement in Southland and Otago. Before the arrival of Europeans, it was home to a substantial Māori pā called Aparima, the inhabitants attracted by the harbour and ample seafood. In the mid-1830s, Captain John Howell established a whaling station there. He took a Māori woman of high rank as his wife and thereby acquired a lot of land. Farming has been the most important economic activity in the district, but there has also been timber and flax milling, gold mining and fishing. Chinese miners worked at Round Hill – about 300 were there in 1888. The port was active for commerce until a railway opened to Invercargill in 1879. From Riverton Te Ara NZ History


The journey is worth it.




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