The Catlins, Southland, NZ

The Catlins is one of the hidden gems of New Zealand.  Located on the remote south-eastern corner of the South Island it includes the South Island’s southernmost point, Slope Point.

What’s remarkable about this area is that it is so assessable by car and small or big enough to see on a longish one day itinerary or more thoroughly over several days. A day trip is very possible with the long daylight hours available over summer period.   Its comparative remoteness means that you’re never going to see lots of people and the roads are gloriously free from traffic. The main road of the region forms part of the Southern Scenic Route which undoubtedly is one of the best drives in New Zealand.  Best of all the Catlins offers so much – stunning rolling green farmland, coastal landscapes, shipwrecks, sandy beaches, numerous marine mammals, temperate rainforest, numerous waterfalls, many endangered species of birds, and all within easy walking distance.

If you’re a more active person there are numerous longer walks through coast, bush and heritage trails, horse riding, cycling, golf, sea or river and estuary fishing and surfing to name just a few.

Unsurprisingly the Catlins is very exposed and therefore open to frequently wild and changeable weather.  However in summer you have many long hours of daylight to make the most of your day.  The region generally has a temperate climate and average annual rainfall of 1300mm. There are many small settlements in the region – the largest being Owaka which has a petrol station (get my drift?).  But we found most settlements offered good coffee and eating to cater for the tourists

In our day trip our highlights were Waipapa Point (where Geoffrey nearly walked on a sleeping sea lion on the beach!); Slope Point – southernmost point of the South Island (where Geoffrey lost his cap over the cliff from a sudden gust of wind and dropped his phone trying unsuccessfully to retrieve it but luckily didn’t also go over the cliff!!);   Curio Bay – lovely beach coastline with a petrified forest and amazing ocean waves crashing over the rocks, plus a new cafe with an attached interactive museum.  A lovely find was the Blue Cod Blues – a quirky takeaway shop run out the back of a caravan at Waikawa where the fresh blue cod was amazing.  There are numerous scenic lookouts along the route and lots of short walks to view the waterfalls dotted along the route.

If there was a highlight it would have to be Nugget Point – an easy walk from the car to view the 360 views from the lighthouse overlooking the rocks shaped like gold nuggets.  We spotted a number of elephant seals looking down from the well-sealed path to the lighthouse

Definitely one of my favourite New Zealand destinations. If you would like more information about this destination please do not hesitate to contact me.

Nugget Point

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