The roads around Invercargill are not all that exciting and the weather is usually horrible, but there are still some great reasons to visit the home town of Burt Munro … apart from the fact his streamliner (pictured above) is on display in the local hardware store!
I was in Mossburn heading for Invercargill a few years ago on a Harley-Davidson Road King riding on a 45-degree angle because of the high winds when I made a decision to turn around.
The official weather forecast for Invercargill at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand was “absolute crap” I think I heard the radio announcer said.
In fact, it usually is with maximums of 18.7 °C in January to 9.5 °C in July. It’s the country’s cloudiest place and second windiest after Wellington.
Also, the road south on the map didn’t look inviting with 100km of straights and only one significant corner. Unusual for New Zealand that a road would go for more than 1km without a twist, but this was ridiculous.
The decision was easy not to go. Yet I felt a hole in my heart for not visiting the home of Burt Munro and seeing his world’s fastest Indian in the glass display case in the local hardware store in the main street.
“Don’t worry, honey. You’ll go one day,” my wife softly yelled in my Bluetooth ear above the roar of the winds.
She was right. A few years later the invitation comes through the electronic mail from Harley to attend the Iron Run rally with a ride from Dunedin to Queenstown via Invercargill.
Strange that Harley would want to go through a town so closely associated with Indian Motorcycle.
Maybe they don’t feel threatened.
Great reasons to ride to Invercargill, no matter what the weather:
The roads from the east and west are much more interesting with rolling hills, wild shorelines and challenging corners. Invercargill itself is on the flat and most roads and streets are quite straight.
Keep going on to the Bluff which isn’t quite the southern most part of the country, but it’s where the fishing boats come and go and you can watch the wild waters of the sea and the rolling horizon to Antarctica.
Those boats are full of famous Bluff oysters which are fat and juicy; just what you need with a beer after a day in the saddle. They hold an annual oyster festival here in May which is just before this area is off limits to bikes because of the climate.
The Burt Munro Challenge has something for every bike fan including hillclimbs, beach races, street circuits, speedway and supercross. It is now held in February which is a much better time weather-wise than the previous date during the November rains. The event started in 2006, a year after the Hollywood film about its namesake and has grown to become internationally acclaimed.
The Classic Motorcycle Mecca has more than 300 bikes on two floors in the town centre. The collection was gathered in just two years by Tom Sturgess who opened a museum in Nelson, but fell sick and decided to sell. Thankfully it was bought by the Transport Museum in Invercargill and shifted to the other end of the island. The collection is estimated to be worth up to $20m and about 20% of the value is in the six Broughs and Vincents and the three Brittens on display. There are also 27 Triumphs, 24 Indians, 20 Harleys and some brands you’ve never heard of before. They range from 1902 to a 2004 S&S chopper and most of them are in working order, some with fuel in their tanks.
It’s not the only motorcycle museum in town, either. There’s also Hammer Hardware where the E. Hayes Motorworks Collection off bikes and cars nestles in between the camping supplies, nuts and bolts, and paint cans of the general hardware store in the main street. Among the bikes are the Munro Special and Burt’s MSS Velocette, plus his original streamliner shell and a good-looking replica. When guys tell their wives they are popping down to their local hardware store in Invercargill, they aren’t gone for five minutes … more like an hour!
Footpath parking. Well, it’s not official, but the people here are so welcoming of motorcycles, you can do just about anything. We rocked up to the Quest Hotel in Dee Street and the manager almost insisted we park on the footpath right out in front of the main door. Secure and undercover. That’s just what Invercargilleans are like!
And that’s the main reason to go to Invercargill. They love bikes, they love tourists and they really love motorcycle tourists! It’s not just because of the renown of Burt and the movie that made him famous. All over New Zealand people grew up riding bikes and they just love them. Maybe just a bit more in Invercargill.