The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of: The Catlins
Perched on New Zealand’s south-east coast, the Catlins is a small, rugged region with a storied history. With a temperate climate and tiny population (around 1200 people), it offers a rare sense of adventure and seclusion.
Home to roaming tribes of Māori in its early days, the region later became a popular whaling spot, and its many forests were plundered for timber during the Otago gold rush. Today, the region is allowed to flourish, with farming and tourism being its primary industries. It’s a favourite with nature lovers, and more recently with big-wave surfers, who test their mettle in the huge ocean swells that reach 5 metres or more.
Travel to the bottom of the Catlins, and you’ll find New Zealand’s southernmost point—Slope Point. On a clear day, a keen eye might even be able to spot Stewart Island in the distance.
Though it looks small on a map, there’s loads to see in the Catlins. Be sure to put some of these highlights in your trip itinerary.
Nugget Point is close to the Catlins’ northern edge. It’s known for its famous lighthouse, built in 1869 to warn passing ships of the treacherous reef below. The reef extends far out into the ocean, and you can see the ‘nuggets’ jutting out of the water like giant boulders that fell from the sky.
The rocks at Nugget Point may be bad news for ships, but they’re home for the resident Fur seal colony. You might also see Hooker’s sea lions, and elephant seals as they drop in for a visit; it won’t be hard to spot them—they’re much bigger than other seals. The rare Yellow-eyed penguin also calls Nugget Point home, and a visit here might be your best chance to snap a photo of one.
Waterfalls and nature walks
With over 500 square kilometres of forests to explore, the Catlins is full of natural hidden gems for those keen to walk for a little while. Some of the most beautiful spots are easily accessed, including two stunning waterfalls:
The falls at Purakaunui are one of Otago’s most photographed places. A 20-minute walk through beech forest reveals a tumbling cascade, falling over three tiers and 20 metres.
McLean Falls rival Purakaunui Falls as the most spectacular waterfalls in the Catlins. The walk in is particularly beautiful, and well worth the 40-minutes’ effort, as it takes you through a range of beautiful native forest and bush.
Low tide at Curio Bay reveals a geological wonder you can’t see anywhere else in New Zealand. As the water rolls back, it uncovers a petrified forest that dates back 180 million years to the Jurassic period. Millions of years ago, volcanic activity repeatedly destroyed the forest and its efforts to regrow.
What’s left today are layers of ancient fossils, with exposed tree trunks and logs. It’s one of only a handful of such places accessible anywhere in the world.
Another rare find at Curio Bay are the local pod of Hector’s dolphins. These tiny dolphins are endangered and found only in a few places in the South Island.
There’s no better place to experience untouched New Zealand than the Catlins. Contact us today to learn more.