21 December 2021 | Written by Bachcare Holiday Homes

Things to Do in The Catlins

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What to do in the Catlins

What can you say about The Catlins that isn’t better seen! You can find The Catlins on the southeast side of the South Island. With a population of only 1,300, you’ll be sure to find a peaceful, beautiful spot to spend a vacation. 

There are so many amazing spots for outdoor activities, like hiking, animal watching, and more. We’ve put together a list of ten of the 10 best things to do in The Catlins!


1. See the Rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin

yellow eyed penguin in the catlins
Yellow Eyed Penguins spotted at Curio Bay. Credit: Flickr

The yellow-eyed penguin is one of the rarest penguin species, and is only found in New Zealand.  You can only find the yellow-eyed penguin on the South Island and a few outlying islands. One of the best places to witness these beautiful birds is in The Catlins!

You can find great penguin viewing locations at both Nugget Point and Curio Bay. Just be careful not to go onto the beach—remember, they are wild animals! Government-certified guides are available in the area.


2. Visit the Cathedral Caves

cathedral caves in the catlins
Cathedral Caves. Credit: Wikicommons

The Cathedral Caves are a cave system located on the shores of a beach. The cave system is an imposing monument, reaching nearly 30 meters into the sky above the ocean. As you approach, you’ll hear the crashing waves echoing off the cave walls. 

The walk from the parking lot is roughly an hour, and there is a small entrance fee (cash only). Visitors can only access the caves during low tide, so plan your trip carefully! 


3. See the Local Art

Local art stores are always among the best places to visit in small communities. Their unique life experiences almost always translate into stunning art, and The Catlins’ residents are no different!

Although these galleries may be small, they more than make up for that in talent. Catlins Gallery, Art in The Catlins, and The Lost Gypsy Gallery, all located near the coast in North Catlins, offer art anyone would enjoy in their home. 


4. Visit the Lighthouse at Nugget Point

nugget point lighthouse
Credit: Wikicommons

If you’re out to see the penguins at Nugget Point, you should stop in at The Lighthouse!

The lighthouse at Nugget Point, constructed in 1870, stretches 9.5 meters into the air on a 76-metre high hill. The view, especially at sunset, is one you won’t want to miss. 

The lighthouse is an easy walk from the car park, roughly 20 minutes. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see one of the seal colonies that make the beach their home. 


5. Cycle Around The Catlins

Although we all know The Catlins for its naturally hilly terrain, that won’t stop any bikers we know! The Catlins boast many beautiful wonders, and one of the best ways to experience them is by getting out in nature. What better way to see the sights than on a bike?

The Catlins has many different cycling trips for all levels of bikers. From the enduring length of The Wisp to the scenic hills of The Nugget, you’ll find a bike trip that suits your tastes. 


6. Visit the Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls
Credit: Wikicommons

Purakaunui Falls is a 3-tier waterfall of over 20 metres, surrounded by lush forests. The falls are within the bounds of the serene Purakaunui Falls Scenic Reserve, 17 km south of Owaka. These falls are often put on postage stamps even to this day!

The trail to Purakaunui Falls is an easy walk, no more than 20 minutes from the car park. The trail to the top of the falls is also wheelchair friendly, where a viewing platform waits for you to see the falls in action.


7. See Jack’s Blowhole

Jack’s Blowhole, located a short drive from Purakaunui Falls, is another water-based must-see in The Catlins. Jack’s Blowhole is near Jack’s Bay, a picturesque beach with bountiful wildlife. About an hour’s walk from the beach is Jack’s Blowhole.

The blowhole is 55 metres deep. During strong tides or windy conditions, the blowhole will shoot water upwards. Even if the tide’s low or it’s calm, the sights at Jack’s Bay and the blowhole is worth it.


8. Kayaking

Maybe biking and hiking aren’t your things, but maybe kayaking is! Luckily for any kayakers out there, The Catlins is an awesome place to rent a kayak and go exploring. From Nugget Point in the north to Slope Point in the south, there’s a gorgeous kayaking spot waiting for you.  


9. See the Curiosities of Curio Bay

Curio Bay
Credit: Flickr

Curio Bay, located in the South Catlins, has an amazing find—a petrified forest. A petrified forest is a forest from long ago that, instead of decomposing, was somehow preserved. In the case of Curio Bay, the petrified forest is 170 million years old!

The petrified forest is only a 5-minute walk from the car park. You can walk through a living forest to get to the petrified forest, although the walk is longer.


10. See the Windswept Slope Point

Slope Point

Slope Point is the most southern point in all of the South Island. Located less than 24 km from Waikawa, Slope Point is among the windiest places in New Zealand. It’s so windy on Slope Point that the trees don’t grow like normal!

Getting to Slope Point is a breeze, only a 10-minute walk from the car park. While you’re there, be on the lookout for wildlife, including seabirds like the Stilt, Herons, and Gulls.


So, Will You Go to The Catlins?

Now you know about some of the most exciting activities in The Catlins, it’s time to start planning your trip. The next step is finding a place to stay

Save yourself some time and hassle by booking a stay in a Bachcare holiday home. You can find affordable accommodation in one of the most beautiful parts of the country in a snap.

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