The Catlins has a vast range of scenic attractions, all
of which are quite accessible. They include beautiful
natural scenery, such as rivers, waterfalls, lakes, caves,
forests, beaches and other wonders. Explore the Catlins and
discover this hidden paradise, in an unspoilt corner of the
In this small sheltered bay and beach, which was the site
of early Maori encampments, New Zealand Sea Lions can often
be seen. The sedimentary rock formations are spectacular.
From the car-park, 2 kilometres off the Southern Scenic
route, a 30 minute forest and beach walk leads to
spectacular 30 metre high caves. In these caves, which are
at sea level and accessible at low tide only, the
horizontal strata of the sedimentary rock are well
At low tide, many migratory and
resident wading birds can be seen in
this large tidal lake. There are
pleasant picnic areas on both sides of
the lake and fishing is possible.
Starting at either the Wisp or Tawanui, the Catlins River
Walk, through native silver beech forest alongside the
Catlins River, takes five hours one way. Shorter walks are
also possible. Look out for rare forest birds such as
Yellowhead and parakeet, as well as beautiful lichen,
fungi, moss and liverwort.
These rock pinnacles are located at the west end of Tautuku
Beach, behind the Tautuku Peninsula isthmus. The pinnacles
show in a spectacular way the conglomerate rock formation,
which outcrops in various places in the Catlins. The
pinnacles can be seen from the Tautuku lookout on Florence
From this sheltered beach, there is a 30 minute walk to a
sea-created sinkhole known as Jack's Blowhole. The
blowhole, located in replanted native bush, is 200 metres
from the sea and 55 metres deep. With a high tide and
stormy sea, the waves rushing in far below can be an
awesome sight. Jack's Bay, Island and Blowhole are named
after the famous Ngai Tahu Maori chief Hone (Jack)
Tuhawaiki, who lived in the south in the first part of the
This is a good place to experience old-growth mixed
podocarp forest. The 20 minute walk from the main road
takes you to a boardwalk at the edge of a small, tranquil
lake. Forest birds, rimu and rata trees are features, and
beside the walk there are good interpretation signs giving
information and aiding identification.
A 20 minute walk from the main road through regenerating
native forest brings you to the Matai Falls, the larger of
two forest-surrounded waterfalls here.
This is the location of one of New Zealand's
oldest lighthouses, built 1869. The area is a wildlife
sanctuary for Yellow-eyed Penguins, fur seals, elephant
seals and many sea birds. There is a spectacular 20 minute
walk from the car park to the lighthouse. Nearby is a
viewing hide to observe Yellow-eyed Penguins - best seen in
the later afternoon as they come in from the sea.
This picturesque town, with a population of 450, is the
main service centre for the Catlins area. You will find a
hotel, motels, backpackers, a guesthouse, restaurants, a
grocery store, a chemist, a medical centre, a post office,
a garage & petrol station, churches, a museum and the
Catlins Information Centre. Please note, Owaka has no
banking facilities. Most shops there have EFTPOS and accept
credit cards for purchases, but the closest banks & ATM
services are in Balclutha, Gore or Invercargill.
Located where the Scenic Route comes near the coast, this
is a holiday village with a store, petrol, motels, camping
ground, backpackers and self-contained cottages. There are
many beach and forest walks.
A 10 minute walk on an excellent track brings you to the
best known of the Catlins forest waterfalls, located in a
small reserve of mixed podocarp and beech forest. The
Purakaunui Falls car park has a pleasant picnic area with
A side trip to Purakaunui Bay is well worth while, whether
to see the highest cliffs in the Catlins, to explore the
sheltered beach and rocky shore or to camp.
The vegetation of this pristine beach is the least modified
on the Catlins coast. The coastal dunes, with their
examples of rare native plants, are backed by old-growth
native podocarp forest.
Viewed from the Florence Hill lookout on the Scenic Route,
this beach is famous for its symmetry and beauty. The whole
valley behind the beach is still clothed in native forest
and is the site of the Tautuku Outdoor Education Centre.
Tautuku Peninsula, at the west end of the beach, was
renowned as an early European whaling base.
The Catlins cliffs are a feature remarked upon by Captain
Cook on his first exploration voyage in 1770. Their white
colouration comes from the lichen that clings to the rock,
along with other rare coastal plants.