The Catlins, NEW ZEALAND

I’m grateful for being able to visit 3 top attractions in The Catlins. There are Nuggets Point, Purakaunui Falls and Cathedral Caves. First day, we heading to Kaka Point for overnight stay here. We came from Dunedin International Airport, it’s about 80km away. Kaka Point is a small town at the northern edge of The Catlins, an area of the southern South Island of New Zealand. It is located 8 km north of the headland of Nugget Point.

We choose to stay at Mike & Jenny’s apartment. Very nice apartment located at the beach side. Free WiFi is also provided and we had the wonderful sea views from our room. My room equipped with microwave and fitted with a flat-screen TV. Me myself fell in love with Kaka Point town, beautiful town full with yellow flowers and pristine beach. We met Jenny (the apartment’s owner) at the beach. She’s very friendly and accommodating. Not many places you can stay here in Kaka Point. I would recommend this Mike & Jenny’s Apartment because it’s cheap and good location.

Nugget Point Light house

On the first day, after we checked-in to the room, we quickly drive up to Nugget Point Lighthouse. Easy drive and you will be fascinating with the cliff view along the way. In November, you will enjoy seeing a yellow flower almost every corner of the road. It’s look like a lupin wild flower, but it’s not.

Once you parked your car at designated parking area, you have to walk about 1km. Easy walk, slightly uphill walk from car park to the lighthouse and only takes 30 minutes return. Along the way you may see the fur seal colony on the rocks at sea level to the left of the track and also below the lighthouse, or the many seabirds that make The Nuggets their home.

We catch sunset here at The Nuggets Point Lighthouse. This Department of Conservation Wildlife Reserve at Nugget Point has dramatic views of “The Nuggets.” Wave-eroded rocks, which are likened to the shape of gold nuggets, can be seen from the viewing platform at the end of the path. The lighthouse was built in 1869-70, is 9.5 metres high and situated 76 metres above sea level.

Roaring Bay

There’s another attraction nearby you should visit, Roaring Bay. Roaring Bay is on the road to Nugget Point. Yellow-eyed penguins can be seen here as they move from the sea to their nesting places in coastal vegetation. These shy birds are best viewed late in the afternoon when they come ashore after fishing at sea. Walk from car park to bird–viewing hide house, about 10 minutes one way.

We only saw 1 penguin from far. There’s a observertary deck for us to observe the penguin. The deck is like a small hut and very limited window size to watch the penguin, but there’s 1 binocular we can use. Unfortunately, we don’t have any picture of penguin because we don’t have tele- lens to shoot long distance object. Below picture was taken at 9.08pm at night. We do enjoy road trip during end spring season which have long daylight hours.

We’re back to our guesthouse around 9:30pm, just after sunset. Since the only restaurant available in Kaka Point was closed, we had self-prepared dinner in the room. Kaka Point is quiet at night, there’s no activity and local people here sleep early.

The only restaurant available is The Point Cafe & Bar. Located just beside the beach (map). They serve fresh seafood according to them. Opening hours are from 12pm to 8pm, open early by an hour during weekends. You must make a booking prior to your visit. Checkout their website here.

Photo courtesy from The Point Cafe.

Purakaunui Falls

On the next morning, we’ve checkout from our guesthouse and heading to Owaka. Since the cafe here offered very high price, we bought some bread & sandwiches from Four Square supermarket at Owaka before visiting next attraction, Purakaunui Falls.

After 1 hour drive, we arrived Purakaunui Falls car park. 10 minutes walk from carpark to the waterfall. Here, we spent about more than 1 hour.

The Purakaunui Falls is one of Otago’s iconic, most-photographed sights. The track through mature beech forest, is suitable for anyone to the top viewing platform. From there the track descends to give the view of the three-tiered falls that’s often seen on calendars and postcards.

Facilities such as carpark, toilets and picnic area are available on site.

Florence Hill Lookout

Next stop after Purakaunui Falls is Florence Hill Lookout point. It’s good quick stop to see a breathtaking view of Tautuku Bay, which can be viewed from on high at the Florence Hill Lookout. The glow isn’t your imagination, it’s the quartz content of the sand.

Florence Hill Lookout is one of the top 10 coastal viewpoints in New Zealand, so if you’re anything like me you won’t want to miss it. It’s basically a car park by the side of the main road through the Catlins, so you don’t have to do any walking. Snap some good pictures of NZ cows with Tautuku Bay background.

Cathedral Caves

This was our highlight of the day, Cathedral Caves!.

Situated just off the Southern Scenic Route, Catlins, New Zealand at the northern end of Waipati beach, south of Tautuku.

From the car park at the end of the 2km access road (an old logging road) there is a pleasant 20 minute walk through natural podocarp and kamahi forest, over a metalled track leading down to a 10 minute walk along Waipati beach. At the south end of Waipati beach is Chaslands Head, the historic Catlins site of the shipwreck of The Otago.

We arrived at the car park at 6:30pm, we were late by half hour. The opening hour of the day was at 6:00pm and visiting hour is strictly 2 – 3 hour only. After paid the entrance fee of NZD5 per adult, we quickly walk to the caves. Bush walk to beach is 15 minutes (one-way). Along beach to cave is 10 minutes (one-way). Always check low tide time before the visit.

Access is open two hours before low tide until one hour after low tide. Exceptions – no access before 7.30am or after 8.30pm. Access is checked daily and may be closed at short notice due to weather or sea conditions. Information Centres can be found at Balclutha, Owaka and Waikawa , or official website will usually have the latest information however due to the remote location the most up to date information will be on the notice boards at the Southern Scenic Route entrance to the Caves Car Park. 

Cathedral Caves are a highlight for visitors to The Catlins. Located in cliffs at the northern end of pristine Waipati Beach, they have attracted international interest for their length – the two sea-formed passages together measure just on 200 metres – and their impressive height, up to 30 metres. Popular for decades, this outstanding natural feature is 15km south of the village of Papatowai and 2km off the highway. From the car park a one-kilometre walking track descends through lush coastal forest to the beach. Visitors cross Maori freehold land, which is managed by a trust.

Fact about the caves

Over tens of thousands of years, crashing waves have gouged out the caves in a cliff of Jurassic sandstone about 160million years old. The two caves, which have separate entrances 40 metres apart, eventually became joined at the back during the long process of forming them. Because  the transport of beach sand is affected by storms and currents, cave entrances may have rocky pools or sandy floors, depending on the sea’s actions.

In contrast to limestone caves, which are formed from chemical action as well as physical process of water pounding on rock, the Cathedral Caves were created by waves eroding the harder sandstone. Near-vertical fractures  in the sandstone provided weak points for the wave energy to slowly dismantle the sandstone faces. In time the overhanging rocks collapsed, creating caves with cathedral-like formations. – courtesy from official page.

We started to tracked back to the carpark at 8:45pm. This time, I feel a little bit harder to climb up to the cliff. Ascending is lot more tiring than a descending. The night getting dark, I was the last person walking back to the shelter, yes I feel eery walking alone in the forest.

Once arrived at the carpark, the guard was waiting for us to close the gate. Then we quickly leave the place and had dinner in the car while continuing our journey to Te Anau for overnight. Today’s end very late but we’re satisfied with the journey.

Thank you for reading.

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