Through the Waikawa Museum and the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail learn about the region’s whaling, saw milling and gold mining history, which dates back to European settlement in the 1860’s. For rail enthusiasts and the adventurous, a walk through the 240m long defunct Catlins River Branch railway tunnel, Tunnel Hill, is a highlight.
During the 19th century, several terrible shipwrecks occurred along the treacherous Catlins coastline. In a preventative measure, two lighthouses were built at opposite ends of the Catlins. The Nugget Point Lighthouse, one of New Zealand’s oldest lighthouses, was completed in 1870 and stands at the Balclutha end of the Catlins. While the Waipapa Point Lighthouse, constructed in 1884 - one of the last two wooden lighthouses to be built in New Zealand, stands at the southern end of the Catlins. Although both still in use, these lighthouses are captivating historic attractions and feature in the photographs of most Catlins visitors!