Days 5-7: Catlins region of New Zealand
Florence Hill lookout
On the road
Curio Bay sunrise
Us at Slope Point
Cathedral Caves beach
We were lucky enough to take our first trip to the Catlins area back in October – when we took our first holiday on arriving in New Zealand back in Sept last year. I wrote a couple of blog posts about the area – you can see them here and here. This time around we have had as an incredible – if not more incredible – time! We have been so lucky with both the weather and the wildlife we have seen (more about that later!).
Day 5: Te Anau to McLean Falls
I will go back to the start of Day 5 where we awoke nice and early to leave the holiday park. We headed off on the Southern Scenic route – rather than the less scenic inland route – and stopped at Manapouri on the way. Again, like Te Anau we weren’t a huge fan of Manapouri last time around, but the sun shine for us this time and the lake looked beautiful. We made some stops along the way, including Tuatapere – New Zealand’s sausage capital! What a funny but cool notion! We stopped for lunch at McCracken’s rest stop with a gorgeous view overlooking the ocean.
Next stop was actually one of our favourite places and literally a hidden gem – Gemstone Beach! I had read about this previous on another wordpress blog and was keen to go and we are so glad we did! Firstly, the beach itself is stunning – and the waves were powerful and awesome to watch. Secondly, and its main appeal you can find little gems along the beach. It took a little bit of careful searching but we came across quite a few scattered across the sand, so collected a few small ones to take home as an amazing souvenir. We got back on the road – listening to one of our many spaceship mixes I had made prior to our trip – and were soon entering Catlins land. We arrived at our Holiday park – McLean Falls Holiday park – and checked in our spaceship to a powered site (see more below about this park).
Last time we visited the Catlins area there were three main attractions we didn’t get to see – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves and Slope Point (as all were closed for one reason or another), so our main intention this time around was to hopefully see them all. So our first stop was McLean Falls – a short gravel drive away from the holiday park down a narrow and twisty road. On arrival we took the short walk to the falls, climbed up the steps and were soon rewarded with a magnificent waterfall! It fell onto 3 main levels and was an awesome sight. We took some photos here and then headed back to the holiday park, having food at the Whistling cafe before settling in for the night. For this evening we actually plugged our portal heater in using the power to our site and fed this through our window, so we could really warm up the spaceship before we went to bed, and it helped quite a bit.
Day 6: Cathedral Caves, Florence Hill lookout, Curio Bay (and penguins!)
Cathedral Caves beach
We made a really early start this morning to go to Cathedral Caves. These are notoriously quite tricky to see, as access is very limited and the gate that guards the road to the start of the walk is only open when it is safe to enter. The caves are only visible a few hours either side of low tide (which was at 8.10am this morning), so we were able to go through the gate and take the drive up to the car park. The gate can also be closed if it is dangerous to visit the caves (as it was when we visited back in october) or the sea is too rough. So we did feel quite privileged to be able to take the drive up there.
We parked up and headed out on the nice forest walk down to the beach. It is fairly steep down in places (which is more to note for coming back up which takes a little bit of fitness) and we met the attendant on the way up who looks after the area. We paid her the $5 each to be able to use the walk – it is on private land – and were soon down by the beach. We walked out from the trees to see the most beautiful site – the amazing expansive beach spread out in front of us. The sun not having long risen was creatiing such a wonderful light, and the sand and waves just looked heavenly. The caves were over to the left on arrival at the beach, so we headed in that direction and were soon at the caves. They were quite a sight! We went inside and had a look around. The caves are named as such as they resemble the shape of the cathedral. We took some photos from inside which looked cool, and had more of a walk around that area. It was such a great time to visit as it was pretty quiet, with just a few other people exploring too. We walked around on the sand taking in the amazing views in every direction. It was with a heavy heart we left, as it was one of the most beautiful places we have been to in New Zealand. We took the walk back up through the forest to the spaceship and were back on the road again.
Florence Hill lookout
We stopped at Florence Hill lookout on the way – where you can took down to Tautuku Bay which is an amazing sight and very photogenic! We camped out in the spaceship for a bit just taking in the view here. Next stopped was Owaka for a bit of internet and a picnic lunch. Then we headed back towards Curio Bay – where we went to the petrified forest. When we visited back in October we saw yellow-eyed penguins come ashore in the evening here, so just stopped by to check we could still get down to the beach (we had read a few things online saying they had cut off access due to safety reasons).
Yellow-eyed penguin walking
To our delight on realising we could still get down to the beach we actually noticed a yellow-eyed penguin on the beach there and then!! This was about 2pm and usually they only come ashore at dawn and dusk. We skipped down the steps and headed over to the penguin (keeping a safe distance of course) – noticing he was a baby one, with more down than usual.
We also spotted another adult penguin coming in from the sea. We spent time here just watching them and taking some photos. Again, we felt incredibly privileged to have seen them and just loved watching them – we could have stayed for hours! We then spent some time down on the beach at Curio Bay before turning in for the night. It really was an amazing end to a brilliant and memorable day!
Day 7: Slope Point, Tautuku Bay, Surat Bay
We fulfilled another wish of ours this morning – seeing hectors dolphins playing in the surf at Porpoise Bay – we took a few pics but they were hard to catch! Apparently they very rarely jump out of the water, but I just so happened to be in the right area on my zoom and caught them just as they were jumping back in. It was just great to see them. We again headed out early to Slope Point – keen to complete the trio of must-do things this time around.
Us at Slope Point
The gravel road up there was a little rough in places, but we made it in one piece, parked up and – as the only people there - headed out on the short walk over to the end of New Zealand!
Scenery at Slope Point
Slope Point is the mostly southerly point of New Zealand (on the mainland) and was a great place to visit. We reached the famous signpost – and of course took the obligatory photos. Our camera timer came in handy to take a shot of both of us – the joys of being alone at the end of NZ! We spent time here just enjoying the scenery. It reminded us a little of Cornwall, and a quieter version of Lands End. We really loved it here. We took the walk back to the spaceship and planned a drive to Owaka for food.
On the way we made a magic stop – another place really off-the-beaten track – Tautuku Bay. Again with no one else around we took the forest walk down to the beach. On the way we were joined by an amazing little bird – we think he was a fantail – who was the friendliest wild bird we have ever come across! He was very nosy and kept very close to us! He must have liked us He followed us the rest of the way to the beach – chirping and flying all around. I managed to capture one shot of him where he stayed still for a second, and have pasted it below. On arriving at the beach, we were pretty awe-struck! The beach was beautiful and completely deserted. We had seen the beach the previous day from the lookout but it was great being down on the beach with complete freedom. It was wonderful, and felt like our own secret private beach.
New Zealand fantail
Next stop was Owaka for food in the lovely Catlins cafe. Despite it being after 11am they still cooked me up some pancakes (being a fussy eater there wasn’t much for me on the menu!) which were delicious. Then we took the short drive down to Surat Bay and our home for the night at Newhaven Holiday park. We are off towards Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula tomorrow and are looking forward to exploring more in the area!
Where we spent time: Southern Scenic Highway, Manapouri, Catlins – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves, Curio Bay, Surat Bay.
Where we stayed: McLean Falls Holiday Park – the main appeal of this place is its location – right next to McLean Falls and a few hundred metres to the entrance to Cathedral Caves. It also has a cafe on site which is handy. The pitches here weren’t too close together and it was pretty quiet. The bathrooms had three showers and were clean, but a little cold! Overall we would stay here again because it is in an ideal location. NewHaven Holiday Park – our favourite place we have stayed yet! This is a really lovely thoughtful family-run holiday park. It was very quiet when we visited. With only two showers (one for men and one for women) it may get a little busy in peak season, but it was perfect for us. The giant chess board was also a magic touch! There is a short walk from the holiday park along to Surat Bay.
Where we are headed next: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. I have included two slideshows below which include my photos Catlins wildlife slideshow:
General photos slideshow: