The next step of our journey was along the South East coast through a forest park called the Catlins. Once in the Catlins we followed the Catlins Heritage Trail and had numerous stops along the way. The first was Waipapa Point Lighthouse, the last wooden lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. They decided to build a lighthouse after the worst civilian maritime disaster in the late 1800’s where only 20 people out of 140 survived. We were lucky to see two sea lions playing in the shallows, well from all the David Attenborough shows I’ve seen, my educated guess was that they were sea lions.
Also, I forgot how frickin’ windy it is on the coast. This was highlighted when we went to Slope Point which is the most southerly point in New Zealand. It was a pretty insignificant part of the coast only marked by a signpost.
Our final visit for the day was a fossilised forest at Curio Bay. This is also a spot where yellow-eyed penguins live, the best time to see them is at dusk when they come out of the water back to their nests for the night. Again, we didn’t time it very well getting there at about 4 pm.
Our campsite was conveniently located next door in between there and Porpoise Bay, aptly named for the regular occurrence of dolphins seen there. This was quite an interesting campsite lay out, the pitches weren’t that obvious and hidden by huge fronds of plants. We finally managed to make a decision and picked a sweet spot overlooking the entrance of the bay. We were fairly shielded by the wind too or so we thought until we went to bed and felt like our tent would take off at any second!
After a cider in the sun it was time for dinner and then a walk to the clifftops to watch the sun set. We made a friend who shared his chocolate with us (score!) and told us about a well known surfing spot off the typical tourist track that we should visit. On our way back to our tent in the semi-darkness we bumped into a yellow-eyed penguin! He/she was hanging out around our tent with a gaggle of tourists trailing after him/her. They eventually wondered off down the track but later on in the night we were woken up at intervals to strange noises and deduced it must be the penguin which has come back!
The next morning was pretty grey but we really wanted to see the dolphins so we headed to the beach to go for a swim. However, once we got to the sea it was obvious the dolphins were not going to show today and it was frickin’ cold so we chickened out from swimming in the sea then. After a quick and I mean quick hot expensive shower we headed out.
Our next spot was inland to McLean Falls, an 22 metre waterfall set in a gorgeous rainforest-esque setting. It’s amazing the different landscapes you can experience in New Zealand. I think this was the most impressive waterfall we saw on this trip. If only it would of been a bit warmer and we could of gone swimming in the pool there!
We wanted to go to Cathedral Coves next which is supposed to be an impressive cave however the only way to access it is across a beach at low tide. And of course we got there at high tide! So didn’t time that very well. We headed down to the beach for a quick spot of lunch with seagulls.After lunch it was waterfall time again. This waterfall was much much wider than McLean but not quite as dramatic. It is a picture postcard scene with the leafy forest surrounding it. The walk to this one was super easy and was even wheelchair accessible.
From there it was to Jack’s blowhole which was a really scenic walk along the clifftops to the blowhole. It wasn’t so much of a blowhole than a huge hole in the middle of the cliff down to the sea. I think with a high tide and strong onshore wind it is much more impressive but again bad timing on our part.
Our next campsite was in a lovely bay right down by the sea. We had a guard dog and fire pit at this place which meant no seagulls annoying us and we could make smores!! I used by fire making skills learnt from back in camp in california to successfully light it with just one match. The fire was very welcome as the temperature dropped a lot as soon as the sun was gone. I actually woke up not cold the next morning for once so we laid in and had eggs for breakfast in the sunshine.
We decided to find the spot the guy had told us about called ‘Long Point’, it was a way down a gravel road where we eventually came to a car park. The road continued so we assumed this was the route, we followed the path through a farmyard and fields until we eventually came to the coast. There was about 20 surfers in the water enjoying the morning waves and apart from that the beach was deserted. I mean I say a beach but it was mostly rock. And on this rock about 10 metres from the water was a house, well wooden bungalow is a more accurate description. The guy had told us we would come to a house and that he was going to buy it one day! I mean if you love surfing there is no better spot. Plus there was also 2 bathtubs outside with the addition of a yellow-eyed penguin hanging out here. When we got to the beach we realised there was actually another way down to the beach (from discreetly following some surfers) which didn’t involve going through the farm… oops! Well atleast we had a nice loop walk.
The drive to Nugget point was one of my absolute favourites. The road was adjacent to the sea winding along and up along the cliffs. The walk was easy along the top of a cliff with fantastic views of the rocky beaches below housing sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. There was a lighthouse at Nugget Point to walk around which gives incredible views of the rocks. It was fun to just watch the sea lions playing in the water and enjoying being in the wild. It’s weird cos its the first time I have seen them in the wild and not in a sea life centre performing tricks for the snap happy audience. But a good weird, this is how they should be seen.
Our lunch spot was so cute on a ramshackle bench next to the ocean with an alloy lined fence behind. We wanted to add to the fence but thought the hire car company wouldn’t appreciate the gesture. This was our last stop in the Catlins before driving on up to Dunedin. More about this next time!