Local Scenery

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 world.

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Cannibal Bay
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.

Cathedral Caves
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 displayed 

Catlins Lake
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.

Catlins River
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.

Frances Pillars
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 Hill.

Jack's Bay
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 19th century.

Lake Wilkie
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.

Matai Falls
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.

Nugget Point
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.

Purakaunui Falls
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 toilets.

Purakaunui Bay
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.

Tahakopa Beach
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.

Tautuku Bay
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.

Whitehead Cliffs
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.


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