Invercargill: Tuataras and Indians

When I first started planning our trip around South Island, Invercargill was just a one night stop between Dunedin and Te Anau. Until my beloved leaned over my shoulder as I was staring at the map and exclaimed, “Invercargill? That’s where Burt Munro is from! Are we going there? Can we see the Indian?” The excitement was palpable.

In preparation for this portion of our trip, we re-watched The World’s Fastest Indian, in which Anthony Hopkins does a bang-up job of bringing Burt Munro and the 1960s to life, and we were ready.

We devoted the morning to the Indian. We visited E Hayes and Sons, which turned out to be a large hardware store resembling a Home Depot—if Home Depot’s shelves of merchandise were intermittently punctuated with amazing displays of old motorcycles, cars and machinery. Here are just a few photos of what’s on display.

The place was awesome. The staff are very friendly and tolerant of tourists wandering around buying nothing. Eventually I dragged my beloved away (“I could spend the whole day there,” he said) in order to visit the Southland Museum, where there were more Munro/Indian exhibits, and where they have the world’s most successful tuatara breeding program. Tuataras are reptiles native (and unique) to New Zealand. They are the only remaining species in an order that flourished in the time of the dinosaurs. It was a cold day, so no tuataras were visible in the museum’s tuatarium (yes, that’s what it’s called!). We reluctantly decided that we weren’t going to be lucky enough to see any of them when the tuatara curator, Lindsay Hazley, appeared and fished several tuataras out of their burrows and brought them around to us to see and touch! He told us that they were juveniles (“only in their early 20s”), and that the Southland Museum has over 80 tuataras. Their skin was dry and paper-like to the touch, and their spiny crests aren’t bristly at all. I was too overwhelmed to think to take any pictures, but here’s a Wikimedia picture of Henry, the museum’s oldest tuatara at over 111 years old.

Henry at the Southland Museum

On our way out of town, we stopped at Oreti Beach, where Burt Munro practiced speed runs, and where you can still race your car or motorcycle on the sand.



  1. Che

    Looks like a lovely trip. Hope you enjoyed the nz ambience. There were only 3 traffic lights on sth island outside christchurch when I was there – admittedly a while ago. Still, kind of hope there are not many more today :)

  2. Katja (Post author)

    There are quite a few more than three, but we still found it very laid back and relaxed driving compared to the US (even the laid back and relaxed Rocky Mountain West).


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *