The Catlins: Best Things to Do and See

Best things to do and see in The Catlins

Introduction to The Catlins

Hey there, adventure seeker! Have you ever heard of The Catlins? It’s this cool spot at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island.

Imagine wild coastlines, secret waterfalls, and critters like sea lions. In this guide, we’re taking you on a chill journey through The Catlins – where nature’s the boss, and surprises wait around every corner.

From the famous Nugget Point Lighthouse to hidden Cathedral Caves, we’re spilling the beans on the best things to do and see in The Catlins!

1. Discovering Nature’s Wonders

1.1 Nugget Point Lighthouse:

Perched high on a cliff by the Pacific, this iconic beacon isn’t just a guide for ships; it’s a showstopper against the wild ocean backdrop.

  • Charm in Design: The lighthouse’s classic look steals the coastal scene, standing tall and proud.
  • Sea Stories: It’s not just a tower; it’s a living storybook of ships finding their way through Pacific waters.
  • Coastal Drama: Picture waves crashing and rocks rumbling—the lighthouse puts you centre stage for nature’s coastal drama.
  • Sturdy & Timeless: Weathering storms and time, this lighthouse stands strong, adding a touch of history to the ever-changing coastline.
  • Wildlife Bonus: As a sweet bonus, catch seals or sea lions sunbathing on the rocks below—the ultimate wildlife spectacle.

Ready for more adventures? The Catlins has more tricks up its sleeve. Next stop: the mesmerizing Purakaunui Falls!

Nugget Point Lighthouse

1.2 Purakaunui Falls:

Purakaunui Falls is like stumbling upon a hidden gem in The Catlins. It’s a set of three waterfalls, each gracefully cascading into a pool surrounded by native bush.

This spot is all about tranquility and discovering nature’s artistic side.

  • Magical Atmosphere: When you stand there, it feels like you’ve entered a magical world. The falls are tucked amidst lush greenery, creating a serene and picture-perfect scene. It’s the kind of place where nature showcases its artwork, and you’re right in the middle of it.
  • Photographer’s Paradise: This is a playground for those who love snapping pics. The falls and the surrounding landscape provide endless opportunities for capturing the beauty of The Catlins. Bring your camera, and let Purakaunui Falls be your muse.
  • Easygoing Adventure: Getting there is a breeze, with a straightforward walk. It’s not a trek but a relaxed stroll, making it perfect for everyone. After the exhilaration of Nugget Point, Purakaunui Falls invites you to slow down, take it easy, and let nature’s charm unfold.

Purakaunui Falls

1.3 Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay:

Curio Bay isn’t just a bay; it’s a time capsule holding secrets from a million years ago.

Picture walking through what feels like a forest frozen in time – ancient trees turned to stone.

  • Dolphin Playtime in Porpoise Bay: Here, you might encounter Hector’s dolphins, the world’s smallest and friendliest dolphins. They’re like the VIPs of the sea, flipping and playing around. Give them their space; they’re the cool neighbours you admire from a distance.
  • Nature’s Playgrounds: Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay aren’t just spots; they’re like nature’s playgrounds with a side of history. It’s not just about what you see; it’s about the stories these places whisper. So, put on your explorer hat, walk through the fossilized forest, say hi to the dolphins, and get ready for The Catlins to unfold its ancient and lively tales.

What’s the next surprise waiting for us? Let’s keep the adventure rolling!

Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay

2. Unveiling Natural Marvels

2.1 Cathedral Caves:

Shaped by the sea’s artistic touch, these caves are not just rocks; they’re like secret hideouts waiting to be uncovered. The cool part? You can walk through them like an explorer in a storybook setting.

  • Timing is Everything: Here’s the trick – these caves open up when the tide is low. It’s like a natural wonderland that reveals itself during specific hours. So, before you go, check the tide times. It adds a bit of mystery and adventure to your exploration.
  • Nature’s Cathedral: Once inside, it’s like stepping into a massive, echoey cathedral. The caves feel like they’ve been carved with purpose by Mother Nature herself. It’s not a race; it’s a slow dance with the tides, letting you soak in the quiet beauty of Cathedral Caves.
  • A Lasting Impression: It’s not a high-energy adventure, but the calm and beauty of Cathedral Caves stick with you. Even after you’ve left, the memory of walking through these natural wonders will linger.

Cathedral Caves

2.2 Waipohatu Track:

Waipohatu Track is like The Catlins’ nature walk – no fuss, just pure green goodness.

It’s not a race; it’s a stroll through an ancient podocarp forest, a place where trees have been telling tales for centuries.

  • Into the Green World: Picture this – tall trees surround you, the air is crisp, and sunlight plays peek-a-boo through the leaves. Waipohatu Track is like a gentle embrace from nature, leading you to discover waterfalls and a vibrant community of plants and critters.
  • Nature’s Harmony: The track is not just a walk; it’s a harmony of sounds – birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the distant murmur of waterfalls. It’s like a symphony where you’re the audience, soaking in the natural tunes of The Catlins.
  • A Journey Through Time: As you stroll, you’ll feel the connection to the past. The trees have seen generations pass, and the waterfalls have sung their song for centuries. Waipohatu Track is like a time capsule; with each step, you’re writing a page in its story.

Waipohatu Track

2.3 Slope Point:

Slope Point is like standing at the edge of the world – it’s the southernmost tip of the South Island.

It’s not just a point; it’s a place where the wind whispers tales of far-off places, and the sea stretches as far as your eyes can see.

  • Windswept Beauty: Imagine a place where the wind dances freely, and you feel it in your hair. Slope Point is like that – rugged, untamed, and beautifully windswept. 
  • Endless Ocean Views: Look out; all you see is the Southern Ocean stretching into the horizon. It’s like standing on the brink of an infinite adventure, with the sea inviting you to dream big and explore beyond what meets the eye.
  • A Gentle Stroll: Slope Point isn’t a demanding trek; it’s a gentle stroll to the edge. The path is like a guide, leading you to the viewpoint where you can take in the panoramic views. It’s a moment to pause, breathe in the salty air, and appreciate the simplicity of the southernmost point.

Slope Point

3. Embracing the Local Vibes

3.1 Local Culture and Cuisine:

The local vibes of The Catlins – it’s not just a place; it’s a community with heart and flavour.

Think of it like stepping into a small town where everyone knows everyone, and you’re welcomed with a warm smile.

  • Community Connection: Dive into the local culture by attending community events, like markets and festivals. It’s a chance to connect with the locals, hear their stories, and join the festivities.
  • Culinary Delights: Try local dishes, fresh seafood, and maybe a pie. It’s like a tasty adventure, discovering flavours that tell the tale of the region’s history and the surrounding sea.
  • Quaint Cafés and Pubs: Explore the cosy cafés and pubs – they’re not just places to eat but like hubs of local chatter and camaraderie. It’s where you can sip on a cuppa, indulge in hearty meals, and soak in the laid-back atmosphere unique to The Catlins.

Local Culture and Cuisine

3.2 Art and Craft Galleries:

Now, let’s dive into the artistic soul of The Catlins – A canvas painted with local creativity.

Imagine quaint galleries nestled in the community’s heart, showcasing its artists’ talents and stories.

  • Local Artistry: Explore local galleries where artists bring the landscapes to life on canvas or craft intricate pieces inspired by the sea. It’s like taking a visual journey through the region’s beauty.
  • Meet the Makers: One of the cool things about The Catlins’ art scene is that you can often meet the artists themselves. It’s not just about admiring from afar; it’s about chatting with the creative minds behind the pieces, understanding their inspiration, and taking a piece of The Catlins home with you.
  • Unique Souvenirs: Forget generic souvenirs – your souvenirs can be unique, handcrafted pieces in The Catlins. Whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, or jewellery, each item tells a story.

Art and Craft Galleries

4. Where to Stay in The Catlins

4.1 Curio Bay Salthouse:

Embrace the coastal vibe with a stay at Curio Bay Salthouse – a place to rest your head and a cosy base camp for exploring the wonders of Curio Bay and beyond.

  • Cabins by the Bay: Stay in charming cabins that capture the essence of seaside living. Wake up to the salty breeze and step outside to the beauty of Curio Bay at your doorstep.
  • Proximity to Nature: Explore the bay, wander through the fossilized trees, and feel the ancient whispers of this unique corner of New Zealand.
  • Community Vibes:Chat with fellow travellers, swap stories, and plan your Catlins adventures together. It’s a friendly atmosphere that adds an extra layer of warmth to your stay.
  • Sunset Serenity: Whether you enjoy it from your cabin or stroll along the shore, the sunset at Curio Bay is a serene finale to your Catlin’s day.

Curio Bay Salthouse

4.2 Catlins Newhaven Holiday Park:

Get ready for a nature-infused stay at Catlins Newhaven Holiday Park – as it is like setting up camp in the heart of The Catlins’ green wonderland.

  • Holiday Village Vibes: A holiday village vibe where you can pitch a tent, park your camper, or opt for a comfy cabin. It’s the kind of place where you’re always close to the outdoor action.
  • Waipohatu Wanderings: After a day of exploring, you can return to the holiday park, kick back, and share tales of your Catlins adventures with fellow travelers.
  • Starry Nights and Campfire Stories: When the sun sets, it’s like a canvas of stars above the holiday park. Picture a campfire, friendly faces, and the sounds of nature as your lullaby. It’s not just a night’s rest; it’s an experience of Catlins’ nighttime charm.
  • Relaxed Retreat: Whether you’re a camper or a cabin enthusiast, this holiday park offers a laid-back atmosphere that lets you soak in the tranquility of The Catlins.

Catlins Newhaven Holiday Park

4.3 Slope Point Backpackers:

For a friendly vibe and a taste of community living, Slope Point Backpackers is not just a place to bunk; it’s like crashing at your friend’s house in the heart of The Catlins.

  • Cozy Community Hub: Picture a place where fellow travelers become instant friends, and the shared spaces buzz with stories and laughter. It’s not just about finding a bed; it’s about finding your Catlins crew.
  • Southernmost Stays: A short stroll, and you’re at the edge of the world, feeling the wind and taking in the endless ocean views. It’s not just accommodation; it’s a gateway to the wild beauty of The Catlins.
  • Backpacker’s Haven: This place is like a haven for those with a backpacker’s spirit. It’s not about luxury; it’s about the simple joys of travel – meeting new people, sharing travel tips, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. It’s the kind of stay that feels like home, even when you’re far away.
  • Evenings by the Fireplace: As night falls, gather around the fireplace – it’s like a communal hearth where stories are shared and friendships are forged. It’s more about the experience of connecting with like-minded travellers in the heart of The Catlins.

Slope Point Backpackers

4.4 Whistling Frog Resort:

Whistling Frog Resort is more than a resort; it’s like finding a hideaway in the heart of nature.

Located near Surat Bay, it’s where you wake up to bird songs and the rustle of trees—a place to immerse in the tranquillity of The Catlins.

  • Comfort in Nature: Choose from a range of accommodations – cabins or lodge rooms. Each option is like a cosy cocoon, blending comfort with the rugged charm of the surroundings. It is an experience designed for those who seek a bit of luxury in the lap of nature.
  • Sea Lions’ Playground: Watch them from a distance during the day, and as the sun sets, gather around the resort’s communal areas for a cozy evening by the fireplace.
  • Starry Nights and Fresh Air: Far from city lights, the night sky at Whistling Frog Resort is a show in itself, a chance to breathe in the crisp, fresh air and reconnect with the simplicity of The Catlins.

Whistling Frog Resort

🧑‍💻 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about The Catlins

1. Where is The Catlins located?

The Catlins is situated in the southeastern corner of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a pristine and less-explored region known for its diverse natural beauty.

2. What makes The Catlins unique?

The Catlins is renowned for its untouched landscapes, including rugged coastlines, ancient forests, and diverse wildlife. It offers a quieter and more secluded experience compared to some of New Zealand’s more popular tourist destinations.

3. What are the must-see attractions in The Catlins?

Some top attractions include Nugget Point Lighthouse, Purakaunui Falls, Cathedral Caves, Curio Bay with its fossilized forest, Porpoise Bay, where you can spot Hector’s dolphins, Waipohatu Track, Slope Point (the southernmost point of the South Island), and more.

4. When is the best time to visit The Catlins?

The Catlins can be visited year-round. However, the spring and summer (September to February) are famous for milder weather and longer daylight hours. Remember that weather conditions can be changeable, so be prepared for rain and cooler temperatures.

5. Are there accommodations near the main attractions?

Yes, there are various accommodations in and around The Catlins. Options range from lighthouse keepers’ cottages to holiday parks, backpackers, and resorts. Each offers a unique experience, from coastal charm to nature-centric stays.

6. How can I explore the wildlife in The Catlins responsibly?

To observe wildlife responsibly, maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals. Follow local guidelines for wildlife viewing, especially at places like Curio Bay where sea lions and dolphins can be spotted.

7. Are there hiking trails in The Catlins?

The Catlins offers various hiking trails, including the Waipohatu Track, which takes you through ancient podocarp forest. Remember to check trail conditions and be prepared with suitable gear.

8. What’s the local cuisine like in The Catlins?

The Catlins are known for their fresh seafood; you can savour local dishes at cafes and pubs. Additionally, the region hosts markets and events where you can sample homemade treats and meet local producers.

9. Can I experience local art and culture in The Catlins?

Yes, The Catlins has a vibrant art scene. Explore local galleries where artists draw inspiration from the natural surroundings. You can even meet the artists and learn about their creative processes.

10. How far is The Catlins from major cities in New Zealand?

The Catlins is approximately a 2-3 hour drive from Dunedin, making it accessible for those exploring the South Island. The drive itself offers scenic views, setting the tone for the natural wonders that await in The Catlins.

Table of Contents

Most Popular Locations

About Kiwilanders NZ

Kiwilanders is a directory and blog featuring informational and recreational content about New Zealand.