Invercargill is home to The World’s Fastest Indian, both the movie and motorcycle. In the much-loved movie Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as local hero Burt Munro who purchased an Indian motorcycle in 1920 and then spent the next 50 years racing and re-engineering it until taking it to America to set international speed records, much to the shocked surprise of the Bonneville Salt Flats “speed” scene. Burt was a quintessential small-town Kiwi who made a big splash on the world stage. Nowadays, though Burt passed-away in 1979, Invercargill’s favorite son is still a national hero.
If you love the movie, as most everyone does, then don’t just drive through Invercargill…Go drive on Burt’s original racetrack— Oreti Beach! This beach, located 10km west of town, is probably the easiest drive-upon beach anywhere in New Zealand. The pavement ends directly onto the wet sands of the beach where there are vast expanses of cement-like sands to drive on. Head north, STEP ON IT, and take a 10km cruise up to the Waimatuku Stream and turn around. Don’t be an idiot—drive above the waves and below the dry sand. Don’t worry about the crunching shells. To find Oreti Beach turn onto Tweed St. at the south end of Invercargill and head 10km west to the beach.
If you like the story of Burt Munro and his World’s Fastest Indian you MUST pop into E. Hayes & Sons LTD hardware store on the main street through Invercargill (Dee and Leet). Mr. Hayes was a friend of Burt’s and now owns and showcases Burt’s actual two record-setting motos as well as a neat collection of other antique bikes. Get a t-shirt, a postcard, or sticker, and get a good look at the relic of a bike that an ole’ Burt made run faster than it ever should have!
Also, in the nearby Southland Museum there’s a Burt Munro showcase. A 26-minute movie runs showing the actual life and times of Burt as he ventured to America in the 1960s in pursuit of world speed records (this film is also often included on the DVD version of The World’s Fastest Indian). The film is a fantastic homage to a small-town Kiwi who dreamed big and then had the verve to make his dreams of speed records and world travel come true.
If you’ve seen the movie, you may be interested in Tim Hanna’s biography One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro. Whereas the movie basically recounts the 6 months of Burt’s life when he first took his motorcycle to America to set his first record, the book tells the entire story of Burt’s younger life, his life-long obsession with the Indian, and his many trips and love affair with all things America.