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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Riverton: best things to do and see

  • 2 minutes

Southland, New Zealand

Riviera of the South, the marketing name sums up the place

Riverton there are plenty of things to do. Riverton is a perfect mix of culture, history, and adventure. From various galleries, historic sites, two heritage trails as well as the fantastic Te Hikoi Museum. There’s a reason Riverton is called the “Riviera of the South” as it is surrounded by bays and beaches and makes for a perfect family day out, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, horse riding, and walking.

@Wairaurahiri Jet
@Wairaurahiri Jet

What to do, Highlights

  • Jetboat the Wairaurahiri River
  • Galleries and artist studios attracted to the natural beauty of the region
  • Jacobs River Estuary; wild wetlands area, native and migrant water fowl and lush flora
  • Harbour; with many fishing and charter boats
  • Mores Reserve; offers several short walks and great views over Southland and Foveaux Strait/Te Ara a Kiwa towards Stewart Island/Rakiura

There are also good restaurants close by, and the Taramea Bay fish and chip shop serves fresh blue cod worthy of Riverton’s status as a fishing harbour.

Jet boating the Wairaurahiri River visitors traverse the deepest lake in New Zealand, Lake Hauroko, and the longest steepest river, with grade-3 rapids to Foveaux Strait. A lake, a river and the sea all in one trip.

Howell’s Point (known by the locals as the Point); headland on the northern shoreline of Foveaux Strait a great place for walking, picnicking and bird watching. It has views of Taramea Bay, Invercargill, Bluff and Stewart Island/Rakiura

Riverton street art whale mural, New Zealand
Riverton street art whale mural
Jack Hinton
Jack Hinton


  • Jack Hinton WWII veteran awarded a Victoria Cross


  • The black box in the local museum, Minnie Dean’s box for carrying dead babies
  • Ned Cosgrove, robbed payroll of local business in 1930’s

Where to take the best selfie

  • The Big Paua; a large Paua Shell made by a local company Fiordland Souvenirs which is still trading
  • Jet boating the Wairaurahiri River
  • Your fish n chips at Gemstone Beach
Gemstone Beach, Riverton Southland, New Zealand
Gemstone Beach, Riverton
@Te Hikoi Southern Journey (Riverton Museum)
@Te Hikoi Southern Journey (Riverton Museum)


  • Gemstone beach to find the prettiest pebbles or Howells Point for rock pools
  • Te Hikoi Southern Journey Museum, geology centre
  • Taramea Bay playgrounds with a huge whale to clamber over and under
  • Riverton Rocks for geology, rock pools, lava
  • Jet boat with family on Wairaurahiri River on a braided river

Quirkly facts

  • Southland’s oldest Pākehā settlement, Riverton/Aparima
  • Southland first school was opened in 1837, and within a few years there were three, including one for Māori.
  • Southland’s first hospital opened in 1861.
  • Southland’s (1861) first recorded horse race was held at a newly built track on the edge of town.
Riverton street art mural, New Zealand
Riverton street art mural

Who turned up and settled in Riverton?

  • An estuary, access to the sea, the Aparima River contributed to the establishment of a substantial Maori pa, Aparima. In the 1830’s Captain John Howell established a whaling station. Married a local by the 1880’s European settlement saw the growth of settlement known as Jacobs River or Riverton. The local port traded in flax, timber, gold and fish. The confirmation of the name (1858) to Riverton reflected the town’s location on the junction of the estuary of the Aparima River and its confluence with the Pourakino. The town today is named Riverton / Aparima.
Riverton street art, New Zealand
Riverton street art


The Riviera of the South (reflecting the arts, culture and depth of natural beauty of the area)


Riverton Heritage Harvest Festival (mid November)

Social media

Things to do in Riverton, New Zealand


5,777 (2019)

What keeps the place going

Farming, fishing and tourism.

Getting to Riverton


Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Invercargill & Southland Region nearby attractions and events.

  • The harbour is still quite busy, because, along with Bluff, it is a safe harbour for access to New Zealand’s south / west seas. It is also popular for water skiing, rowing, fishing and catching the occasional flounder.
  • This area was known to the Maori as Aparima (named for the Kati Mamoe mother of Hekeia, for whom the Longwood Range is named). Europeans who settled the area in the 1830s called the settlement Jacob’s River. The name Riverton was later adopted by the residents, and their choice was ratified officially in March 1858. One hundred and forty years later, with the passing of Section 450 Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998, the town was given the dual names of Riverton / Aparima.

Aparima River

  • Formerly known as Jacobs River, this 104-km river starts its journey in the hills between Mossburn and Ōhai, and flows into the sea through a large estuary at Riverton (still named for Jacobs River). It is Southland’s whitebait river. In the whitebait season which opens on 15 August and runs until November 30. Fish caught in the Aparima River are brown and rainbow trout, flounder and mullet in the estuary.
  • Early Maori and European interaction



On the grassed plateau above the estuary channel stands a stone memorial to Riverton, whaler and runholder, Captain John Howell, who, while in the employ of Johnny Jones, was dispatched with three ships to establish a whaling station at Aparima in either 1835 or 1836 to replace the abandoned station at Preservation Inlet. The settlement became known as Jacob’s River due to a local Maori living at the mouth whom the whalers called Jacob.] Jones’s purchase of all that land from Colac Bay to the New River, and extending some fifty miles inland from the Ngāi Tahu chief “Bloody Jack” Tūhawaiki was formally acknowledged in October 1838 At about the same time Howell secured the Pākehā tenure to the area by marrying Kohi-Kohi the daughter of Patu and Pipikihau, the local Kati Mamoe chief based at Raratoka Island or Centre Island in the Foveaux Strait. Wikipedia


Unique journey, personal stories, the adventure is worth it.

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