Garston is in the Mataura River valley, between the Eyre Mountains to the west and Garvie Mountains to the east. From Centre Hill, the Southern Scenic Route changes from SH94 to a brief shortcut on SH97 to connect with SH6, which takes you into the Mataura River valley, then on to Queenstown. There are various places you can stop for a coffee once past Centre Hill – Mossburn, Athol and Garston – but Garston is probably the most eye-catching.

The town is tiny with about 100 residents, but it has a historic pub, a cool caravan cafe and a superb antiques store and art gallery. Throw in a honey shop and focus on local history and you’ve got a perfect NZ small town. It also has an oddball claim to fame as the most inland settlement in the country. Trout fishing on the Mataura is also considered to be memorable.

Garston was established as farming developed throughout this part of Southland between the 1850s and 1880s. There is a single street behind the shops with a couple of cute churches. You will see the remains of the railway line that was established in the 1880s between Invercargill and Kingston on the south side of the shops.

Garston was also a gateway to gold mining in the nearby Nokomai and Nevis Valleys, in the Garvie Mountains. Gold was discovered in 1862 and there were 2,000 people in the immediate area at the late 1800s peak. The nearby (now largely disappeared) town of Nokomai had up to 20 pubs. Mining stopped by the 1940s, but the last gold-seeking activity was as late as the 1990s with dredging in one of Nokomai River tributaries.

If you would like to learn more about Garston and the surrounding region, read Lynn Mcnamee’s wonderful article.

6 images

We're on Instagram

Follow Trip Ideas for more great content like this