The Catlins

Leaving New Zealand’s version of Scotland (Dunedin), we continued on to Owaka, a small town in an region called “the Catlins.”

Our home for a few days was a small cabin in the Newhaven Holiday Park, just steps away from the ocean.

After checking in we went out to explore the beach. The kids had fun playing tag on the wide expanse of sand.

The next day we found a lonely sea lion having a rest.

Purakaunui Falls

The Catlins offers many opportunities for walking and hiking. We decided to go on a short hike to what is supposed to be one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the area, Purakaunui Falls.

The walk to the falls took us through a dense coastal rainforest full of tall ferns.

The area was in a drought during our visit so the flow of water over the falls was lower than usual. Still, the falls did not disappoint!

Cathedral Caves

Later we took a hike down to the rocky coastline to visit the Cathedral Caves.

Accessible only at low tide, the caves were formed by the power of the waves as they pounded against the sandstone cliffs.

The cave is made up of two passageways that meet in the middle, forming a “V” shape. As we walked through the cave the kids got a lesson in geology as they observed the different layers of sedimentary rock.

Molyneux Bay & Nugget Point

The next day we set out for Nugget Point, stopping at Molyneux Bay on the way. Port Molyneux was a bustling port town until 1878, when a massive flood destroyed much of the town and changed the course of the nearby Clutha river.

At Molyneux Bay we had some fish and chips for lunch at a nearby cafe then took in the view of the long beach strewn with driftwood.

Since this is New Zealand and there are no dangerous snakes or spiders, we were at ease while the kids rummaged in the piles of driftwood to create their own shelter.

A bit further down the road, we set off on a short walk to the Nugget Point lighthouse.

Nugget Point is named for the rocky islands just offshore.

This was a beautiful spot! As we walked we could see fur seals on the rocks down below.

Tunnel Hill

Our next walk was to the historic hand-dug railroad tunnel at Tunnel Hill Historic Reserve.

The tunnel took two years to complete and was finished in 1893.

It was pitch black in the middle of the tunnel and we had to use our cell phones to provide light so that we didn’t bump into the walls. The rail line was retired in 1971 so there was no danger of meeting an oncoming train!

Slope Point

The Southernmost tip of the South Island is found at Slope Point. To get there we tiptoed through a sheep field, trying our best not to step in what the sheep had left behind.

Our visit provided an interesting geography lesson; we were surprised to learn that the southernmost point of New Zealand is only a few hundred kilometers closer to the South Pole than it is to the Equator!

In our next dispatch, we explore the rugged and ethereal fjordlands on the southwest coast of New Zealand!