Day Trip to The Catlins

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.


1 Day


307 km

Best Time


Fortrose Cliffs

For those who appreciate stomach-flutteringly steep lookout points, the Fortrose Cliffs are a worthy photo opportunity on a drive between Invercargill and the Catlins. The lookout is two kilometres south of Fortrose township.

45 km / 33 minutes

Invercargill to Fortrose

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.

17 km / 16 minutes

Fortrose to Waipapa Point

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!

20 km / 22 minutes

Waipapa Point to Slope Point

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!

72 km / 1 hour 16 minutes

Slope Point to Pūrākaunui Falls

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.

Slope Point

Slope Point is the southernmost point on the South Island of New Zealand and is accessible via a 20…

Purakaunui Falls

The Purakaunui Falls is one of New Zealand's iconic, most-photographed sights. The 15-minute return track to the falls trails through mature beech and podocarp forests is suitable for wheelchair users to the top viewing platform…

32 km / 47 minutes

Pūrākaunui Falls to McLean Falls

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.

35 km / 45 minutes

McLean Falls to Curio Bay

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.

10 km / 10 minutes

Curio Bay to Niagara Falls Cafe

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.

McLean Falls

The 22 metre McLean Falls on the Tautuku River in the Catlins Conservation Park are often described…

Welcome Rock Trails - Southland, New Zealand
Welcome Rock Trails, Northern Southland © Air New Zealand


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