Tucked away down at the bottom of the south, Gore is a mecca for fly fishing, and it’s also the official home of country music in New Zealand. Claire Smith visited this pretty riverside town to find out more.
New Zealand is dotted with tiny townships we often drive through on the way to our next adventure. But in doing so, we might just bypass some of our greatest treasures. Each month, MCD highlights one of Aotearoa’s smaller towns so you can plan a stop, show them your support, and discover their hidden gems. This month, we’re checking out Gore.
Tucked away near the bottom of the country, the tiny township of Gore often gets left off the ‘must-see’ list of South Island destinations in favour of tourist meccas like Queenstown, Wanaka and Milford Sound. But with some terrific campsites and loads to see and do, it’s worth planning a stop at this tiny township.
VISIT DOLAMORE PARK
Spanning 95 hectares of native podocarp forest, Dolamore Park is one of Gore’s must-dos. This picturesque park is bursting at the seams with fantastic tracks and walks for all ages and fitness levels. One of the most popular is the Whisky Creek Track. Taking its name from Gore’s whisky making past, this lovely loop track takes around two hours. Along the way you’ll pass through lush native forest and past the Whisky Creek Falls. Start at the Dolamore Park carpark and follow the boardwalk section of the Dolamore track until you reach the Whisky Creek Track signpost.
Dolamore Park also has a fantastic playground if you’re travelling with children. With jungle gyms, slides, a flying fox and a rope climbing wall, they’ll be well and truly tuckered out after a few hours of play. Best of all, the park also has a campground with 22 powered sites, kitchen and shower facilities, and free electric barbecues.
One of the most popular times to visit is around the annual NZ Gold Guitar Awards. Although the 2022 festival was cancelled due to Covid, the 2023 event is set to go ahead in June next year. The vibrant festival attracts amateur country musicians of all ages who compete over three days for the coveted Gold Guitar Award. The event has been running since 1974 and is the biggest and most prestigious country music event in New Zealand. Find out more about the festival at goldguitars.co.nz.
ENJOY A TIPPLE
Held every two years, the Hokonui Moonshine Festival celebrates Gore’s fascinating history of illicit whisky distilling and bootlegging, which took place from the early 1800s until the turn of the 20th century. Can’t wait for the festival? No problem; head along to the Hokonui Moonshine Museum where you can learn all about the Scottish McRae clan’s legendary solution to the local prohibition. A recent addition to the museum is a distillery, which uses the original ‘Old Hokonui’ moonshine recipe passed down through the McRae family. The museum is located at 1 Main Street, with more info available at gorenz.com/visit/things-to-see-do.
About 15 minutes’ drive from Gore’s town centre, the Croydon Aviation Centre is home to a unique collection of beautifully restored aircraft from the 1920s and 30s, including de Havilland Tiger Moths, Dragonflys, and Fox Moths. You’ll also find a replica 1910 Pither, one of New Zealand’s earliest working aircraft. And for serious aviation enthusiasts, take to the skies with a scenic flight in one of the centre’s Tiger Moths. Flights range in price from $180 to $300 and must be booked in advance. For entry prices and more information, visit croydonaviation.co.nz.
STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES
Every good tiny town has a beautiful garden to explore, and Gore is no exception. The Gore Public Gardens – located on Ardwick Street – is home to a stunning selection of exotic trees and shrubs including several rare and unusual specimens. It’s a worthy visit at any time of year with bursts of blossoms in spring and summer, a riot of foliage colour in autumn, and hawthorns putting on displays of red berries in winter. There’s also a great bird aviary, and plenty of picnic tables to enjoy lunch.
CHECK OUT THE ART SCENE
Don’t leave Gore before you’ve had a chance to check out the Eastern Southland Gallery – also known as ‘Goreggenheim’. The gallery includes several significant collections including John Money Collection and Ralph Hotere. The gallery is on Hokonui Drive. For opening times and prices, visit esgallery.co.nz.
Once you’ve visited the gallery, check out Gore’s street art. Eight incredible murals take pride of place across the township as part of the Streets Alive programme. Download the trail map at southlandnz.com/gore/culture-heritage/gore-streets-art-trail.
CAMP AT THE A&P SHOWGROUNDS
One of the hidden gems for motorhomers visiting Gore is the fantastic camping facilities at the A&P Showgrounds. Powered sites are $15 per night with a small fee for showers, washing machines and driers, and showers. There’s no limit on length of stay, and dogs are welcome too. The showgrounds are located on Bury Street. Find out more at goreapshowgrounds.co.nz/camping-grounds.
ENJOY A BITE TO EAT
Gore has its fair share of fantastic cafés and restaurants. We’ve done the hard work hunting out five of the best for you:
• Café Ambience on Main Street does a terrific coffee, and their eggs benedict are hard to beat.
• The Green Room Café on Irk Street has a lovely ambience, and their carrot cake is said to be the best in town.
• Oven Fresh Bakery on Main Street is the place to go if you’re after a great pie, followed by one of their delicious doughnuts of course!
• The Thomas Green on Medway Street is the perfect spot for a relaxed family dinner with a menu full of tasty options including some of Southland’s finest beef and lamb.
• South Gore Dairy on Main Street is reputed to offer the best fish and chips in Southland.
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