Riverton is an idyllic coastal town right at the bottom of the South Island, about 30km west of Invercargill. It is an area of natural beauty with a picturesque harbour, family-friendly beaches, nature reserves and views across Foveaux Strait to Rakiura/Stewart Island. Rich in history, Riverton is the oldest permanent European settlement in Southland and one of New Zealand’s oldest towns.
The town itself straddles a large tidal estuary where the Pourakino and the Aparima Rivers join and flow out to Foveaux Strait. Dolphins can often be spotted playing in the estuary as they travel up for feeding. Travellers from Invercargill enter the township via Palmerston Street, the main street of Riverton featuring a diverse array of art galleries, quirky shops and cafes. This part of Riverton is on flat land bounded by the Northern end of Oreti Beach (North Beach) and the Jacob’s River Estuary. Here visitors will find the award-winning Te Hikoi Museum, the harbour, schools and five heritage listed buildings including Kohi Kohi’s Cottage. This is the oldest wooden cottage in the region, built in 1937 for Captain John Howell.
South Riverton is built on the hills across the bridge on the other side of the river. Right across the bridge, houses overlook the eastern shores of the estuary on the way to Colac Bay and Tuatapere. Left leads to Taramea Bay, beaches and surf spots or travel further along Rocks Highway to Howell’s Point for views of Bluff Hill and Rakiura/Stewart Island. Taramea Bay and The Rocks have long been popular destinations for holiday-makers with safe shallow beaches suitable for families and a long, right hand wave leading onto a sandy beach, perfect for beginner surfers or stand-up paddleboarders. In summer the population swells with holiday-makers and tourists.
Riverton has a population of approximately 2,000 but services a large rural community with farming (dairy and sheep) being a significant industry for the area. Support services such as engineering, contracting, transport and irrigation are important to the local economy. Its diverse local community is made up of workers from the farming, milling and fishing industries, families, retirees, artists and environmentalists. Riverton’s South Coast Environment Centre is the oldest continuously running Environment Centre in the country and is nationally recognised for its environmental initiatives and programmes.