Considered by many New Zealanders as a must visit, The Catlins is a stunning coastal stretch between Invercargill and Balclutha of rugged beauty reminiscent of a bygone era. Here you'll find a place full of native forests, cascading waterfalls, secret lakes and bays and deserted sandy beaches. Fromt picturesque lighthouses to a petrified forest, this area is home to bountiful fauna such as seals, sea lions, hector's dolphins, yellow-eyed penguins and more! The areas natural landscapes and extraordinary wildlife is a sight to see!
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Plenty of sights to see, if you're looking for the best spots than local guide Lyndon from Catlins Mohua Park can show you the sights on his ATV tours. The Catlins is also home to the famous Petrified Forest, this 180 million year old Jurassic fossil forest, revealed with the outgoing tide, is one of only three accessible fossil forests in the world!
Hit the water for a paddle in Papatowai where you can even start the day watching wildlife rise for the morning. Surfing at Curio Bay with Catlin’s Surf School often brings incredible experience of surfing next to a pod of Hector’s dolphins who are fond of the area.
A must see for anyone passing through Papatowai is a stop at The Lost Gypsy, a showcase of wind up and water driven automata created by tinkerer Blair Somerville. For a small entry fee you could spend an endless amount of time inspired by the pure genius of the gadgets that have been put together out of previously loved (or littered) items! And finish up with a coffee and homemade cake from the Little Rocket Coffee Cart parked up beside the gallery.
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There are so many stops that make the trip through the Catlins one to remember and none should be rushed. How can you choose between New Zealand's most-photographed waterfall Pūrākaunui Falls or the mesmerizing McLean Falls? Florence Hill Lookout offers a jaw dropping view of a blue/green ocean rolling onto white sandy beaches. It is a stark contrast to the luscious green podocarp forest that skirts the coast.
The wonders keep coming with the Cathedral Caves a popular tourist spot that dwarf any dweller that enters. At 200m long and 30m high it is only accessible at low tide so be sure to check first! At the far end of the Catlins is Nugget Point, aptly named as it sure looks like giant gold nuggets poking out from the ocean. The lookout to the Nuggets is below the infamous Nugget Point lighthouse, a historical working lighthouse that almost mimics its counterpart at the other end of the Catlins, the Waipapa Point Lighthouse.
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Although The Catlins is full of nature there are still quite a few spots to reenergise yourself. Like Niagara Falls Café, not just famous because of It’s namesake – this gorgeous old schoolhouse café serves up incredible home made delicacies that locals from all over the region travel to sample.
Although found across the region, there seems to be nothing sweeter than finishing your day with a tipple of the Catlin’s finest drop – a craft beer (or cider) brewed right in the heart of the Catlins. Catlin’s Brewery products are found at many taverns, restaurants and supermarkets across the Catlins and the wider Southland region.
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Whether you are travelling as a group, a family or a couple there are a number of accommodation options through the region. Many are holiday homes or small B&B’s that overlook the stunning bays in the region.
Although the environment is wild, this doesn’t mean guests have to rough it, Mohua Park offers warm hospitality and high end self contained eco cottages that tuck in to the hillside over looking lush farmland. Even the new Beresford Heights offers something different, perched high on a hill with your chauffeur at the helm of an ATV escorting you over farmland to the remote getaway. Or watch the sunrise from Pūrākaunui Bay at the Campsite.
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