It’s quirky, it’s crazy, it’s dignified and dramatic; Invercargill’s 81 hectares of eclectic public open space is a park like no other. From its surprising tuatara sanctuary to its other-worldly stumpery and stunning Shakespeare summer festival, Queens Park is the day-out destination you never expected to find in our most southern (and secretive) of cities.
Strangely dry, this contorted world of twisted trunks and leaning logs is the creation of Invercargill artist Frank Wells. Hauled from surrounding peat bogs, ancient stumps are welded together in a scene that would not be out of place in a science fiction movie. Enjoy winding your way around the stumpery on dry stone paths which allow you to view the dramatic displays from all angles.
The animal park
Animal lovers, especially those with the grandchildren in tow, will want to high tail it to the park’s impeccably housed and cared for collection of farmyard animals and wild fowl. And that’s not all! With education as well as recreation as its mandate, more exotic animals are also on display so don’t leave until you’ve checked out the wallaby, alpaca and ostrich.
Queens Park offers a feast of sculptures, and because the pieces are dotted around the park, you’ll happen upon them throughout the day. Bronzes, stone carvings and a wild array of mind-bending wooden creations (many in the form of wacky, giant public seats in polished macrocarpa) surprise and delight. If you have time to check out only a couple, make your way to the artful ‘Nor’wester’ by Frank Wells, and Roddy McMillan’s sleek bronze of southern identity Burt Munro of motorbike racing fame.
How to incorporate the boom of a low flying jet into an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes second nature to Invercargill’s Shakespeare in the Park Charitable Trust performers. Bring a deck chair or rug and a bottle of bubbly and catch them in Queens Park (and other locations around the city). It’s quality theatre you’ll want to experience on an annual basis.
Invercargill may be an unlikely spot to find one of the country’s most successful tuatara breeding programmes – but that’s the secret south for you! On the edge of Queens Park, at the rear of the visitor’s centre, museum and art gallery complex, is the glassed-in home of dozens of tuatara. From little squirts to old Henry (who became a dad at the age of 111!) they’re all there for you to see. Reach them by entering the visitor’s centre but if you come after hours, no worries. The reptiles can be viewed from the exterior of the building.
The secret admirer
Eclectic it may be but Queens Park is still home to the traditional, and magnificent displays of flowering bulbs in spring, roses in summer, and dazzling perennial borders are sights not to be missed. And if you want to discover a secret not everyone knows about, stroll down tree-line Coronation Avenue to the Peter Pan statue. No one is quite sure who is responsible, but each day, Peter can be seen clutching a fresh posy of flowers!
The yum factor
Complete your visit to Queens Park with a treat from The Cheeky Llama Cafe and enjoy a coffee while you take in a new view of the gardens. Live music is a feature so phone ahead to check on yet another surprising dimension in this one-stop park destination.