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Museums, Galleries & Architecture

It's hard to miss the big white pyramid of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, 108 Gala St. (tel. 03/219-9069; www.southlandmuseum.com), near the main entrance to Queens Park. A wide range of exhibits brings the region to life. The biggest attraction of all, the Tuatarium, should not be missed. Here you'll find the fascinating tuatara - strange prickly reptiles that are descendants of the dinosaurs and now exceptionally rare. The museum breeding program is the only one in the world. As tuatara are nocturnal, they may be hard to spot during the day. The highlight is Henry, now over 100 years old, who, along with the successfully breeding Albert and his concubines, Mildred and Lucy, may show his face. Another excellent museum attraction is the comprehensive audiovisual program on New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands, an area of international importance because they have some of the world's last remaining areas of vegetation unmodified by humans. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm; Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free but a charge may apply to some exhibits.

Reportedly the largest collection of Ford vehicles on the planet, Transport World (www.transportworld.co.nz; tel. 3/217-1600) showcases a 1940 Dodge Airflow fuel tanker (built for the Texaco Oil Company in 1939), seemingly every Ford truck that ever graced our trucking fleets, and seven rare examples of the eight production models made before the model T Ford which was released in 1908 (the missing car is the Model B). The museum is a work in progress and, as its owners are avid collectors, it is likely to be ever thus. Open year round to the public it has a café and a Lego World on-site to keep the little kids busy, while the big kids go car crazy over things with wheels, like a replica of the 1896 Ford Quadricycle—a star turn. It's at 491 Tay St., Hawthorndal and its open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is NZ$25 adults.

Anderson Park Art Gallery, 91 McIvor Rd., Waikiwi, Invercargill (tel. 03/215-7432) is housed in a fine Georgian-style residence set on 24 hectares (59 acres) of landscaped gardens. You'll find this architectural delight 7km (4 1/3 miles) north of the city, just a short drive east along McIvor Road, which runs off North Road. It's open daily from 10:30am to 5pm. Admission is free, except during exhibitions.

Speaking of things old, Invercargill Heritage Trail is an excellent brochure produced by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and available at the visitor center. It highlights 18 of the city's finest architectural specimens, including St. Mary's Basilica, on Tyne Street, and the town's famous 43m (139-ft.) red-brick Romanesque water tower. There is a similar brochure for nearby Bluff; and the Invercargill City Spirit Walk brochure details a 1-hour walk through the inner city, following history in sculptures, landmarks, and information panels.

Parks & Gardens

The main entrance to Queens Park is near Southland Museum and Art Gallery. This cool green 80-hectare (200-acre) oasis is a perfect place to wander and it features some beautiful trees. You'll find formal rose gardens, a rhododendron walk, an iris garden, a Japanese garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a walk-through bird aviary, duck ponds, a winter garden, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course. The aviary has a good parrot collection and is best visited in early morning or late afternoon, when the birds are most active.

Maple Glen Gardens and Nursery, in nearby rural Wyndham (tel. 03/206-4983; www.mapleglen.co.nz), is a remarkable private garden and exotic bird haven that every gardener should see. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm. A guided walk costs NZ$8 per person.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.