The Catlins, the spectacular coastal stretch between Balclutha and Invercargill, boasts a rugged beauty and untouched quality that is magnetic. Here you’ll find a world of native forests fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, picturesque lighthouses and even a petrified forest. These environments are home to an array of fauna, from native birds, to seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins. The Catlins’ natural landscapes are enthralling and the wildlife is extraordinary.
Invercargill to Fortrose - 45 km / 33 minutes
Start heading south and follow the signs for the Southern Scenic Route towards Fortrose. Enjoy great coffee and food in the quaint township of Fortrose. Make sure you visit the Fortrose Cliffs for some amazing views.
Fortrose to Waipapa Point - 17 km / 16 minutes
Leave Fortrose and start following an offshoot of the Southern Scenic Route - the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail. This trail will take you along the coast to Waipapa Point, to see one of the oldest lighthouses in New Zealand. There's a big chance you'll spot some sea lions lounging around the beach as well, so keep an eye out!
Waipapa Point to Slope Point - 20 km / 22 minutes
Next up is Slope Point. The southernmost point on the South Island of New Zealand is accessible via a 20 minute walk through farm land. The views of the surrounding ocean and coastline off of the point’s steep rugged cliffs are spectacular!
Slope Point to Pūrākaunui Falls - 72 km / 1 hour 16 minutes
These falls are one of New Zealand’s iconic, most-photographed sights. The 15 minute return track to the falls trails through mature beech and podocarp forests.
Pūrākaunui Falls to McLean Falls - 32 km / 47 minutes
The other iconic waterfall in the Catlins is the 22 metre long McLean Falls which is located in the Catlins Conservation Park. A great place to stretch your legs as the walk to and back from the falls takes around 40 minutes.
McLean Falls to Curio Bay - 35 km / 45 minutes
This unique bay is of international significance for its fossilised forest. The tree fossils you can see here date back to the Jurassic period and are 160 million years old - the forest was alive when New Zealand was part of Gondwanaland! And add a visit to Tumu Toka Curioscape, a world-class interpretive centre intended to educate and share the special stories of Curio Bay; its wildlife, its people, and its history. Curioscape is also home to an excellent café and gift store showings local wares, and provides accommodation for visitors at a scenic campground.
Niagara Falls Cafe
Curio Bay to Niagara Falls Cafe - 10 km / 10 minutes
Time for lunch! Head back towards Waikawa and a few minutes past the small township you will see a historic school building. Here is where Niagara Falls Cafe provides quality meals using home grown vegetables and the best of Southland’s fresh produce, as well as good coffee and beverages.
From Niagara Falls Cafe it is 56 minutes (77.7km) back to Invercargill along the Southern Scenic Route.