Rugged, dramatic, and pristine.
You will be blown away in more ways than one
When exploring this mostly under-explored part of New Zealand.
You do need to go and visit the Catlins.
We did and automatically fell in love with it.
Our trip down was enjoyed via the comfort of a home on wheels [our motorhome] during the timespan when we were full-time motorhomers. The narrow winding road heading to the northernmost point of the Catlins wasn’t the most enjoyable ride for her who sat in the passenger seat. What was enjoyable and rewarding was the views that overlooked the picturesque bays with their sandy beaches. Ending with us luckily able to park in the allocated parking area so the Squire could walk out all the way to Nugget Point. I, on the other hand, bailed out halfway into the walk too many vistas of wind-sculptured vegetation clinging desperately to the cliffs. My lack of having a head for heights was to become quite apparent that afternoon. Though I could still appreciate that majestic view. Just from a safer position.
We do enjoy a grand lighthouse, and this one was no exception with the delightful name of “Tokata”, sitting proudly on a promontory rising out of deep waters, with nuggety rocks scattered into the ocean beyond.
Edwin Catlin is the person in which this southeastern corner of New Zealand is named after for he was a sea captain/whaler and some say a wannabe land dealer. He and the Ngãi Tahu chief Hone Tãhawaiki, known as Bloody Jack, in 1840 traded forests and fisheries for muskets and thirty pounds. Luckily that deal was eventually overturned, and much of the land remains pristine today.
No doubt why this part of New Zealand can be classed as nature’s domain with its abundance of waterfalls, wildlife, and walks. Unfortunately for us, it would seem that their yearly 200 days of rainfall coincided with our visit. Leaving many of those treasures that were down the more isolated gravel back roads flanked by ancient tōtara, to be unexplored by us.
Not all was lost as its most famous are accessible by easy walking tracks, which meander through the lush bush. One memorable moment is arriving at Purakaunui Falls. Very easily reached as it is only a 10-minute walk through podocarp and beech forest. The falls are spellbinding and just 20 kilometres from the central Catlins service township of Owaka.
The birdlife is incredible and you like us will have the enjoyment of many, far too many to name here. One cheeky bird is the fantail, which danced around us on a walk to a beach inhabited by sea lions. Which always seem intimidating enough to stop us from attempting to pass them by.
Driving down an inland road, that is more than likely to be lined with moss-covered fence posts, to the peaceful and meandering Catlins River and forest. Here, flashes of yellow and the rapid chattering of the Yellowhead, or mohua, light up the forest-green canvas. The area is one of the bird’s last strongholds.
On virtually every road we were spoilt with beautiful vistas and a few walking options. The centuries-old podocarp specimens were commanding our attention. While out walking through the thick native bush it would not be long before the sound of crashing waves became audible, which would have us emerging on to yet another beach, we would have all to ourselves. Ditching the map or any real set plans is a winning formula in this region, where the rain and sun seem to be continuously jostling for attention.
Stopping in this bay was a highlight for us, not only did we have expansive sea views to ourselves which had us sitting and absorbing its wonderment for hours on end, we had the pleasure of accessing seafood. Kai Moana [seafood] was gathered by the Squire late afternoon and never did he grab more than what was needed for a light meal for two. These were the biggest mussels we have had the pleasure to eat and surprisingly so close to shore. We did notice that many locals were walking further around the coast for paua. With no wet weather gear, we were quite content with feasting on the local mussels.
After experiencing many areas from the bush to the sea, it became clear to us that should you all decide not to visit. In addition to the locals leaving, then the native flora would reclaim the land, the wildlife would be back in droves, ending in the noise from the bird life, becoming more overpowering than it was when we last visited this slice of New Zealand paradise a few moons ago.
What are you waiting for? Go and see for yourself.