It’s time to explore the Catlins words & images: Judy McAuliffe

In need of a short getaway?” This stunningly beautiful south coast is rich in history with all the natural beauty you could possibly need to recharge your batteries. You’ll find native forests fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, picturesque lighthouses and even a petrified forest.

It’s been many years since I visited this part of the country, and Rand has never been there, so, with a few days away from work last month, we loaded up the car and headed south, not really going anywhere in particular, but definitely planning to visit the Catlins.

Our first stop was in Oamaru, to visit the Blue Penguin Colony where we froze our buns off (not well enough prepared) waiting to get a close-up view of the penguins as they returned to the Colony from their day’s fishing. Apart from the cold, it was entertaining, watching each raft of about 30 penguins negotiate their way up the beach, over the rocks, around the fur seals (which were deliberately blocking the way), and scurry home.

On the road again early the following morning we arrived in Balclutha and after a short stop for coffee we turned towards the coast and the Catlins.

You won’t see this spectacular coastal stretch listed on your typical list of must-see places, probably because there are no trendy cafes or gift shops, and even the B&B’s and accommodation places seemed to be closed up, but that certainly didn’t detract from our day. 

First stop was Kaka Point, where we discovered a gorgeous village and stunning beach (apparently, it’s also a great surfing beach, but that wasn’t on my list of must-do’s!)  

Just a short drive further and The Nugget Point Lighthouse was impressive. It’s just a short walk in, but parts of the track are very exposed, and we did encounter a blustery rain shower, but we’d learned our lesson in Oamaru, and this time we were dressed for all weather. The views from here are breathtaking. The nuggets were also worth a view – a collection of huge rocks sticking out of the ocean like gold nuggets.

The name Cannibal Bay caught our imaginations, so a drive down a dusty road followed, to find sea lions basking in the sun. A good stop for a coffee and a sandwich!

Next stop was the Purakanui Falls. We followed the sign along a beautiful 10-minute bush walk into the viewing deck and it was so worth it. Perhaps not the biggest waterfall you’ll ever see, but the three tiers are very pretty. 

The sun was fading by the time we arrived at Curio Bay, and our accommodation in Invercargill was still and hour or so away, but our brief view of the petrified forest rounded off a wonderful day.   We’ll definitely be back!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.