Riverton – Colac Bay

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Riverton has a hobbit-like quality and atmosphere that screams not just community but belief in itself and its power to influence the world, no matter how little it might be. I always feel like I’ve come home a little when I come here and would dearly love to show it off to as many friends as possible. Riverton, or Aparima, sits upon the Riverton, or Aparima, Jacobs River Estuary which, in turn, is formed by the Aparima and Pourakino Rivers, which lead out into Foveaux Strait. Even in winter, the township’s weather seems mild. If you move through the town on the plateau above the estuary channel, there stands a stone memorial to the founder of Riverton, the whaler and run holder, Captain John Howell. In 1835, Johnny Jones had Howell establish a whaling station at Aparima to replace the abandoned station at Preservation Inlet. In 1838, Jones would purchase from the Ngai Tahu chief, “Bloody Jack, all of the land from Colac Bay to the New River and extending some fifty miles inland. At the same time, Howell secured the Pakeha tenure to the area by marrying Kohi Kohi, the daughter of Patu and Pipikihau, the local Kati Mamoe chief, who was based at Raratoka Island in the Foveaux Strait. It is a pattern of colonialization which occurs throughout New Zealand and, in Ngai Tahu’s case, leads to interesting situations where you have dominant families with strikingly European names, such as Solomon, Stephenson and Howell.



Beautiful Riverton with its gingerbread, cottage-style buildings, including such landmarks as the Court House (now incorporated into Te Hikoi, the Riverton Tourist and Heritage Centre), St Mary’s Church – the work of prominent Invercargill architect, Edmund Richardson Fitz Wilson – Riverton also has wonderful cafes like Mrs Clarks Cafe, run by Pat and Kaz, a place which has won a ridiculous number of awards and has been written up in a silly number of publications for its high reputation for food and coffee. This also true of such venues as the Postmaster’s Bakery and the nearby Beach Café.

The three cafés also like to work in closely with their communities something which includes supporting Riverton’s local artists by hanging their art works, a move also supported by local businesses, like Artisan Hair, run by the award-winning salonist, Trinity. The town has, proportionally, a staggering number of full-time artists living there and much of their work also appears in Riverton Art Centre, a small-town gallery which has its own full-time curator and which punches well above its weight. The end result is that the town has regular exhibitions and film showings which give it a reputation in the New Zealand art world as a town well worth visiting. The Riverton Environment Centre  in turn, carries out a similar function. It was established by the Guyton family and the Guytons make sure that the Centre is seen as belonging to the people of Riverton and its surrounds and is promoted (through participation in expos, launching garden festivals and school visits) as being there to remind the rest of Southland that what they are doing is not some trendy fad from afar but simply doing what their grandparents always did. “By definition of life-style, farmers tend to be environmentalists, for land husbandry comes naturally to them. It’s just a question of reminding them of this fact sometimes,” say Robyn.

Another great asset this community has is Ti Hikoi. It is some time referred to as a mini TePapa, in reference to the status and quality of its exhibits. The facility, which doubles as the local i-Site, has an amazing collection for a small town, covering pre-European to post-World War Two. It provides both material on the people of the region as well as its natural history and geology. With a combination of static displays and video and audio material, it really is quite a treasure and the people have a right to be immensely proud of this facility.

Southern Coastal

This time, I don’t have time to check out the Rocks popular with surfers and, instead, head over the hill to Colac Bay, the location of the popular Pavilion Restaurant and Isobel’s Weaving Studio, situated at Colac Bay. Everything in the Studio is handwoven, knitted and crochet locally.   For sale are jackets, scarves,  hats,  handspun  sweaters and mohair throws, made from New Zealand  wool,  mohair and possum/merino.  The studio is open most days. It is two minutes’ walk away from the Colac Bay Tavern and camping ground, with its distinctive surfer sculpture. Aside from having a pleasant beer garden, the tavern holds live music most weekends and many of the community social events centre around the tavern and its friendly staff. The costal route before you head inland well take you past the black sands and the surrounding hills of Orepuki where, in 1865, gold saw a settlement of 3,000 people spring up, along with the industries to service their needs.  Supplies were imported via the sea and winched ashore in an area known by local Maori as Te Waewae. The island traditionally used for whale spotting by the local tribe, became the site where the winch known as a “monkey” was set up and hence its name: Monkey Island. Gemstone Beach’s name is a tad easier to comprehend, as in the right tide, you can find garnets, jasper, quartz, semi-nephrite, fossils and, occasionally, sapphires and some pretty good fishing, if all the men with their rods out in all seasons and weather is any indicator.

 Riverton Hammer Hard Ware: Situated on the Southern Scenic Route – more then just hardware – general merchants and much more! Finalist in the top shop award – top 5 out of 90 NZ stores. Giftware — Fishing equipment and licenses. — Hunting Licenses — Paint – we tint to your requirements –Outdoor Furniture – BBQs, patio heaters. Garden Supplies including plants — Building Supplies –Keycutting. Come check us out – you can only see one third of the shop from the front – make sure you go out the back!

Store Hours:
Monday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

156 Palmerston St, Riverton Ph: 03 234 9900 Fax: 03 234 9900 Email: rivertonhammer@xtra.co.nz

Riverton Arts Centre: charitable trust promoting the Arts in Riverton & Southland. They present approximately 10 exhibitions & 4 live performances annually from a diverse range of artists. A stage for performances & a small retail gallery with artists work for sale. Open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm. 149 Palmerston St, Riverton-Aparima, Southland. www.rivertonarts.org.nz

South Coast Environment Centre: Aim to provide education in our community, protection of the environment and promotion of sustainability in our area. Includes Organic Gardening, Environment Center seed savers ecosystems Heritage fruit trees organic food.

Te Hikoi Southern Journey: The South’s ultimate heritage attraction, just 25 minutes from Invercargill on the Southern Scenic Route Mueusm & Information centre. 172 Palmerston St, Riverton, Southland, NZ 03 234 8260  Open 7 days a week all year (closed Xmas & Good Friday  10am – 5pm (Winter hours: 10am – 4pm)  Admission charges apply http://tehikoi.co.nz/


Xcell Hair Design (2014) Limited:


Wether a local or travelling though. Treat your self with an award winning team of artists who are passionate about hair. 149 Palmerston St Riverton 03 234 9385

Riverton – Colac Bay

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