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Invercargill Trip Report

Charlotte, North...
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Invercargill Trip Report

Hello all! I recently spent three weeks in New Zealand, two of which I spent entirely in Invercargill. I led a Habitat for Humanity work team to help build a house there… so I’m offering not just my opinion, but the collective opinions of a fairly large and diverse group.

Accommodations: seemed to be quite a few decent motels around town, but we stayed at the YHA Invercargill Tuatara Backpackers. This hostel was an absolute delight, and I would recommend it to all ages. They have a very good café attached in the foyer as well as internet stations you can use for NZ$5 / hour. The café closes at 3 or 4pm, and the internet stations close down when reception closes – I think at 8pm. After that you can use the private terminals upstairs, but they are coin operated and only accessible to guests. The middle floor lounge is very nice and hardly used, with a kitchen on the top floor that is top-notch among hostels. Rooms are a bit bare (in terms of decorations / furnishings)… but they are always kept spotless and straight. Bathrooms are a bit dated with some cracked tiles and such… but again, spotless. Water pressure is great, never had problems with hot water… plenty of space in baths, kitchen, storage… I loved the place. This was the best hostel I saw in all of New Zealand, and you don’t have to be a 20-something to enjoy it – plenty of older folks and married couples stayed there and seemed pleased.

Restaurants: I was amazed that every meal I had in Invercargill wasn’t just decent, they were all good to great. I mean seriously, the quality of food was shocking everywhere… and every cook had such an eye for presentation. Some specifics:

O' Shea's Irish Pub: A tad over-priced, but the food was good, the drinks great, and it had a beautiful old pub feel. If you like Irish pubs, you’ll love this place. Good mix of New Zealand food, Irish pub fare, and some tourist-conscious diversity in the menu.

Canton Chinese: the sign just said “Canton” – it might have had another name however. Went for a big lunch one day… very good, modestly priced, could have fed a horse with all the food we got. I especially enjoyed the giant lazy-susan on 8-person tables… made sharing food super fun and easy.

Louie's: we heard this was the place to go for tapas, but the menu didn’t really seem to focus much on tapas. I was the only one who actually DID get tapas, and I enjoyed mine – very good but not great. Seemed to be about as close as you can get to fine dining in Invercargill.

Vinne's: my favorite restaurant in Invercargill. The meals were downright cheap considering how much food we got. The risotto was to DIE for, and the pasta and fresh seafood were unexpectedly nice. It’s a small place, and the night my group walked in… there was another group of 12 there and we took up the whole place. One waitress and one chef still got all our meals out in an hour… and everything was perfect. Seriously, we had her come out and take a bow.

Hell's Pizza: I thought it was unique to Invercargill until we saw a few more locations elsewhere… supposedly it’s a NZ chain for pizza. Anyway, they seem to cater to a rowdy young crowd (at least in Invercargill) but they do make darn good pizza. I would order take-out (or takeaway as the kiwis call it) but definitely the best pizza I found in town. They had one that’s really popular with several meats and bbq sauce… amazing.

The Fat Indian: Indian cuisine, I didn’t go but most of my group did. They all came back raving, it’s this tiny little place hidden in the alley next to the Tuatara, but modestly priced and they loved it.

Thai Dee: Same as above, I didn’t go but the group came back very pleased and with a low bill.

We ate at other places too… like those Turkish places you seem to find in every New Zealand city. The one on Dee St. looks nicer and has a friendlier owner, but the one near the Starbucks has better food. Kiwis seem to REALLY like mayonnaise, every sandwich place, notably Subway, went very heavy on it. Oh, and they put hard-boiled eggs on a lot of sandwiches too! There were plenty of options within the CBD… if you’re staying at the Tuatara… there are at least 20 good choices within a 4 block walk.

Nightlife: Go to a bar or go see a movie… not much else to do. The movie theater is REALLY nice though!

Things to do: Bluff was great but it’s windy and cold up there! Southland Museum was a bit small but worth a visit (especially to see the Tuataras!). Queens Park is amazing if you get a nice day to walk around. If you’re a Burt Munro / World’s Fastest Indian fan be sure to check local hardware stores… I can’t recall which one, but his original bike and the movie replica are hidden in one of them! I think they are being moved into a soon-to-be-completed museum dedicated to that event however. Oh, and go see the Habitat house on Mavora Crst!

Things to not do: Don’t get run over by a teenager driving their pimped out car on Dee St… the fake street racing they do is hilarious but dangerous to pedestrians!

Overall: Invercargill is a great but often overlooked city! The weather can be miserable and change quickly a lot of the year… but I can’t really complain about more than that. I would recommend it to people looking to have a “base camp” for exploring Southland… Stewart Island, Bluff, the Catlins… all easy day trips. So bring your rain coat… but don’t miss this pleasant little place!

New Zealand
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1. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

But did you get to meet Tim!

Welcome home nestorcua! Great report, can't wait to hear more.

New Zealand
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2. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

Your report made me feel homesick!! Did you try any of the local deliacies; blue cod, muttonbirds and cheese rolls? Guess you missed the oyster season?

Charlotte, North...
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3. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

I didn't try the items you listed... I would have gone for the oysters but autumn is their season so I missed it. I did try whitebait... and to be honest... I was disappointed! Perhaps I had poor preparations of it, but the fish basically seemed shredded like in a cheese shredder and put into a pancake-type fritter. The fritter must have been egg based, and it tasted like an overcooked omelet both times. Big let-down. :-/

On the bright side, green lipped muscles were a pleasant treat - every place I tried had great preparations at very reasonable prices. I tried some Crayfish up in Kaikoura and it was to DIE for... although I liked it a lot better boiled and with butter than oven cooked with lemon.

Oh, and I looked for Tim but couldn't seem to track him down. Oh well, maybe next time. :-)

Charlotte, North...
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4. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

Ooops, read that too fast. I DID try the cheese rolls, they were great! We have a similar rolls at some Jewish bakeries near Philadelphia... so I'm familiar with them. They were like tasting part of my childhood again!

We had food prepared by locals a lot because we were volunteering and while they all seemed to make the same things that were very heavy on carbs... buttered rolls, biscuits, anzac cookies, mousetraps... but they were all FANTASTIC. You kiwis really know how to cook, it was one of the biggest misconceptions I had going into the trip!

New Zealand
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5. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

"fish basically seemed shredded like in a cheese shredder"

Hahahahahah---- so they didn't dehead and gut them for you?

You do realise that they aren't shredded that is their size- tiny, tiny fish. While I can understand your response to them, these little delicacies are selling in the Nth Island for $120 a kilo!!! AND you have to know how to cook them. In a fritter is fine as long as the egg doesn't take over. 1 lightly beaten egg with 1 huge cup of whitebait does the trick you probably had 2 beaten eggs whipped to within their life with a small cup of WB (and paid a fortune for the priviledge) I also can take them or leave them, they're OK as long as I'm not paying for them.

The best way to have them is actually no egg, lightly tossed in flour and pan fried into crunchy sweet morsels served over a advocado half with lemon infused olive oil drizzled over! Yummy!!

Charlotte, North...
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6. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

You're kidding me... they that small! I had no idea, I thought I got the scraps or something! Haha, that's hilarious... I feel like a proper idiot now! :-)

I think I got the two (maybe even three!) egg version of the patties... and the eggs were overcooked for sure. :-/ But I like your idea for cooking them... sounds MUCH nicer! Am I invited over to your house next time I'm in-country? :-)

New Zealand
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7. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

I laughed even louder that time!

Whitebait are the juveniles of five native fish species. They breed in the wetlands and the juveniles then spend a lot of time at sea. It's when they head back to their natural habitats to breed that the whitebaiting nets are out to catch them- it's a very short season and a lot of disputes break out as people fight to retain their whitebait stands. Stands are built out into the waterway and a very fine tube shaped net is attached, there are guage screens fixed from the bank to the mouth of the net so the whitebait are directed into it. You can also have a mobile net with a long pole that you scoop along against the water flow. When there is a good whitebait "run" on word soon gets around, people call in "sick" ,dozens of kilos of the tiny fish can be caught at a time.

My grandfather used to overcome the regulations (1xstand=1xregistered fisher) by placing a couple of his grandchildren on each of his unregistered stands that he had built and camouflaged along the river bank. We were to stand guard (you're not allowed to leave nets unattended) and look like we knew what we were doing if rangers went by in their boats- on land we had little chance of pulling the wool over their eyes. Little did he know that he lost quite a few when we got bored and used to have competitions on how many we could swallow alive! YUK!

He used to raffle off his big haul down at the pub and drink away the profits! Another highly illegal operation- he was a true blue rough & ready kiwi bloke!

New Zealand
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8. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

Here's a picture of the them;

…govt.nz/Explore/Hunting-and-Fishing/Whiteba… (whole-New-Zealand-except-West-Coast-of-South-Island).asp

Charlotte, North...
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9. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

EEEwwwwww you mean THAT'S what I was eating? Yuk!

I read a few more articles and saw more pictures... supposedly using only egg whites helps the egg not overpower the fish, I had the whole egg for sure!

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10. Re: Invercargill Trip Report

No that would make it a meringue! Just add a dollop of whipped cream and you'd have dessert.

Some do use egg white (beaten) but I think it's too bland and you feel like you're eating fluff and empty air!

You'll also now understand the absurb comment about gutting & deheading them- we used to close our eyes so we couldn't see them looking at us!

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