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Seven Cultural Experiences Found Around the South Island that Aren't Just Going to a Gallery

Visit New Zealand's one and only castle and help deliver the mail by boat.
By Lauren Harrigan
October 10, 2018
By Lauren Harrigan
October 10, 2018

The South Island is known for its breathtaking scenery. However, if you're a culture junkie, there's no end to the beautiful experiences you can have — and not just in a gallery. Whether you're into history, art, language or music, you're bound to find something (and often with a good feed to go with). We've curated a selection of experiences in the South all cultural but none that require the four walls of a gallery.



This little hotel is a gem in Queenstown's tourismscape. Perched on three acres of spectacular alpine hillside, with views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, The Sherwood is a true community hotel, built with the express intention of letting its guests connect with each other and with nature. Kitchen gardens service the holistic, natural dishes in its restaurant and the hotel has a community events schedule to boot. During your stay, attend a poetry slam, take a jewellery class or stretch it out at one of the regular yoga classes. With resident artists and writers and almost nightly live music, here, the culture comes to you

554 Frankton Road, Queenstown.



Fush is not your ordinary fish and chippie. This family-owned eatery in Wigram aims to help diners integrate te reo Māori, one of New Zealand's official languages, into their conversations, by offering bilingual menus and using te reo phrases with customers. The fish and chips joint has even started offering free te reo Maori classes, accessible to anyone with the will to learn. What about the food? It's awesome — the fish comes pan-fried, coated or crumbed; hand cut chips are made from quality Canterbury spuds and the place is fully licensed, too. Have a sparkling with your order or a gin and tonic, and order a plate of shucked oysters or a smoked fish pie. It's all good.

104 The Runway, Wigram Skies.



A phenomenally beautiful space, the neo-gothic former home of the University of Canterbury is the heart of the arts in Christchurch. A community centre with events, stores and exhibitions, the Christchurch Arts Centre has something for everyone. If you're after some pieces for your home, visit Frances Nation, a beautifully considered homewares store inside the centre. Owner Tessa Peach stocks quality goods made from natural materials; they're New Zealand-made, functional pieces you will love forever. It sums up the ethos of the centre, really — full of heart and authenticity.

2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch.



Golden Bay isn't really Golden Bay without The Mussel Inn. Worth the trip to the northwest Nelson region, this is a beloved watering hole for locals and visitors alike. After a day lounging on the beach, sink in for a night of live music and bevs. While there's no knowing who's going to show up on the bill, every week brings a new lineup of artists to the place. That's one of the beauteous things about the Inn. The team also brews its own beers, ciders and soft drinks. We'd recommend the feijoa cider if it's on tap.

1259 State Highway 60, Onekaka, Golden Bay.



Luxe porridge? Fresh produce? People watching? You'll find it all at the Christchurch Farmers' Market, one of Aotearoa's first markets. The best way to experience a new place is to go where the people are — and on a Saturday, they're all in Riccarton buying wholesome seasonal goodness. Held on the doorstep of Christchurch's founding family's home, Riccarton House, and perched beside the Avon River, the market boasts over 80 stalls selling everything from veggies to coffee, cakes to organic dog biscuits.

16 Kahu Road, Riccarton, Christchurch.



If history is your thing, head to New Zealand's only castle. Nestled in the beautiful Otago Peninsula, the castle was built in the 1870s by bank manager and cabinet minister William Larnach to house his large family. Restored to its former glory by the Barker family, the home and grounds are open every day of the year. While it may be considered a 'mock' castle, it's a magnificent site to see with Italian marble, Welsh slate, English floor tiles, Venetian and French glass, Kauri ceilings, rimu floors and honeysuckle panelling featured throughout.

145 Camp Road, Dunedin.



Come summer, there may be no cruisier way to explore the Marlborough Sounds than aboard the Picton Mailboat. Hop aboard and join in on mail day, with commentary from your skipper on the history of the Sounds, the people who have lived there and those who call the area home today. Each journey is different, depending on where the post bags, groceries and freight need to go. Keep an eye out for dolphins and other wildlife, and make a stop at Ship Cove, where Captain James Cook stopped to replenish The Endeavour.


Start planning your trip to New Zealand's south with our guide to the South Island journeys to take here.

Published on October 10, 2018 by Lauren Harrigan
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