Invercargill’s history trail

The South Island town of Invercargill, the furthest south-west of any in New Zealand, has a collection of historic buildings great enough to support a walking trail. Its location on the Southern Scenic Route links it to places like Queenstown, Dunedin and Te Anau, but this place is well worth a stop. Built on the fortunes created by farming, timber and coal, the town developed rapidly in the 19th century and such prosperity led to the construction of many beautiful Victorian buildings. Here are some historical buildings in Invercargill, NZ that are worth seeing.

Historical Buildings in Invercargill: Invercargill Water Tower by stanw CC SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Invercargill Water Tower: Photo by stanw / CC SA 2 .0

Historical Buildings in Invercargill

The Water Tower

One of the most distinctive historical buildings in Invercargill to look out for is the Water Tower, which dates from 1888. In those days, many homes were built out of wood and fires were common. Water towers helped to increase water pressure but were often unpopular eyesores. A brick disguise was the answer. Over 300000 bricks were used to create the structure; it has a cupola on top which actually is a replica of the original. It’s currently not possible to take a tour inside the water tower while earthquake risks are being assessed but the exterior is still worth a look.

The First Presbyterian Church

South of the tower, on Tay Street, you’ll find the First Presbyterian Church. Designed by architect J T Mair, the church celebrates its century this year. It has an impressive 32 metre high bell tower giving it an Italianate style and its million bricks feature an intricate design by bricklayer Arthur Sefton. Stained glass windows complete the picture and the place is well worth a short detour.

St Mary’s Basilica

Its Catholic rival, St Mary’s Basilica, is ten years older and just as pretty. The copper dome makes this an instantly recognisable local landmark and it too has stained glass; look for the rose window with an angel, restored in 2001.

Along Don Street

In the middle of town, Don Street is home to a number of buildings in an eclectic range of styles, featuring everything from the arts and crafts of Tudor House and the Alexandra Building to the Art Deco/Nouveau of the Law Courts and Public Trust buildings. Architecturally, this variety makes this the best place in town. Look out for the quirky umbrella sculpture put up to mark the millennium which doubles as a sundial and planetarium.

Historical Buildings in Invercargill: Invercargill's Railway Hotel
Invercargill’s Railway Hotel

Along Dee Street

Heading down Dee Street, note the original kerbstones, the oldest European feature in the town, as well as the last remaining patch of cobblestones. At the junction of Tay Street you’ll find Bank Corner and the Troopers’ Memorial commemorating soldiers that fell in the Boer War. Another must-see among the historical buildings in Invercargill is the Railway Hotel, built in 1896 and, following a recent refit, still in use as travellers’ accommodation to this day.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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