7 November 2015

Exploring the Catlins

The Catlins, in the south of the south island of New Zealand, is often overlooked as a backpacker hotspot to hit up, and recently I question why?

The Catlins is a bit off the typical backpacker route as the state highway one cuts over it completely, marking it off many backpacker places to visit. Also, if you don’t have a car, you’re pretty screwed here as there are so many places to visit all of which are literally off the beaten track. But if you take the time to explore the Catlins you’ll be amazed at the amount of scenery, nature and wildlife you’ll come across. You’ll find the likes of seals, sea lions, penguins and dolphins all hanging around, so it questions why you would want to miss this part of New Zealand out of your trip?

Let’s start from the left and work our way clockwise, and have a gander at what there is to see.

Nugget Point
A great place to spot the old yellow eyed penguins and plenty of seals. However, if you really want to spy some yellow eyed penguins you’ll need to go at the right time. At this time of year (November) you either need to visit early in the morning or in the evening. These birds are rare and difficult to spot as they’re shy, but hush and you might see them at Nugget Point.

Owaka is a good place to refuel, grab some food etc. etc. However, any type of food or petrol is going to be a bit pricy in The Catlins, so it’s best to restock before you arrive.

Purakauni Falls
Great little wall through the forest to see the waterfalls. Spectacular to see, but the walk is only about 30 minutes return, so nothing to fill your day.

Purakauni Bay
There is a standard DOC campsite here which was fairly busy when I went, but still with plenty of room to camp my car. This was my first stay at a DOC campsite and I didn’t realise that even though it states there is a tap and water access, you still have to boil the water before you can drink it. So, if you camp here make sure to stock up on water before arriving. A nice camp spot overall, right by the ocean.

Another place with a DOC campsite and a quirky little gallery/museum/something called the Lost Gypsy Gallery which is free and definitely worth looking at. It houses loads of little handmade trinkets and gadgets which have a million and one buttons/knobs/levers to press and mess about with.

Cathedral Caves
These were unfortunately closed when I passed by but I’ve heard they’re definitely worth a visit!

McLean falls
My favourite waterfall in the Catlins. A beautiful view and you can sit by these falls for ages just chilling and admiring the sight.

Curio Bay
This is an old fossil forest which is worth looking at just to see the transformation of what has happened to the forest over the millions of years. Curio Bay also has a campsite (bit expensive) and it’s another popular place to spot the yellow eyed penguins.

Slope Point
This was perhaps one of my favourite places in the Catlins as it’s where you can find the windy trees that have transformed in shape due to the vast winds at the Catlins. They’re pretty spectacular to see and worth a few photo opportunities.

Waipapa Point
This is pretty much the end of the Catlins, and an ideal place to spot seals/sea lions (who knows the difference?) The walk to the lighthouse is cool and right by the lighthouse on the beach you’ll see seals topping up their tan and just chilling.

Overall, the Catlins isn’t worth more than a few days of your time. Even though there is a lot to see, there aren’t many huge walks so you do spend a fair bit of your time driving, buts it’s worth it! It’s a whole different part of New Zealand, with some sights that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the country, so I recommend you throw it on the old typical New Zealand ‘To-Do List’.

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