The Catlins is an area in the south-eastern corner of the South Island of New Zealand. The area is between Balclutha and Invercargill, and is in both the Otago and Southland regions. It includes the South Island's southernmost point, Slope Point. The Catlins is a rugged, sparsely populated area, noted for its podocarp rainforest and its scenic coastal landscape, both of which are home to many endangered species of birds. Its exposed location leads to its frequent wild weather and heavy ocean swells, which makes this area a Mecca for Catlin's big wave surfers.
The Clutha river is its northeast boundary as is the Mataura River about 100kms along the coast to the southwest. To the north and northwest, the rough bush-clad hills give way to rolling pastoral countryside.
Only about 1,200 people now live in The Catlins, many of them in the settlement of Owaka. Dairy farming, fishing and tourism are the main industries in this area.
The coastline is more then stunning. Tautuku Bay with its golden sand backed by lush vegetation is best viewed from the Florence Hill lookout on the Southern Scenic Route, Tautuku Bay is famous for its symmetry and beauty, the whole valley behind the beach is still in native forest. When in the Tautuku Bay area, keep an eye out for the "Maeroero" or Yeti like creature that local Maori say lurks in here. Tautuku Peninsula, at the west end of the beach, was renowned as an early European whaling station. The vegetation of the pristine Tahakopa beaches sand dunes, are the least changed on the Catlins coast.
There have been many shipwrecks on the headlands of the Catlins coast, two lighthouses stand at opposite ends of the Catlins, to help prevent further mishaps. The Nugget Point lighthouse stands 76 m above the water at the end of Nugget Point, casting its light across a series of eroded rock stacks called the "nuggets" which give the point its name. Nugget Point lighthouse was built in 1869-70. The Waipapa Point lighthouse, which stands only 21 m above sea level, was the last wooden lighthouse to be built in New Zealand, and was constructed in 1884 in response to the tragic 1881 wreck of the Tararua. Both of these lighthouses are now fully automated. The South Island's southernmost point, Slope Point, is close to the south-western corner of the Catlins.
Other Natural features of the Catlin’s include more sandy beaches, blowholes, a petrified forest at Curio Bay, and the Cathedral Caves, which are accessible at low tide. Much of the coastline is high cliff, with several faces over 150 m in height, and the land rises sharply from the coast at most points. For this reason, many of the area's rivers cascade over waterfalls as they approach the ocean. The Purakaunui Falls, 17 km southwest of Owaka are the best known of the Catlins forest waterfalls, located in a small reserve of mixed podocarp and beech forest the Purakaunui Falls are a ten minute walk from the car park which has a pleasant picnic area with toilets.
Several small lakes are found in the Catlins, notably scenic Lake Wilkie close to the Tautuku Peninsula The 20 minute walk from the main road takes you to a boardwalk at the edge of a small, tranquil lake. Catlins Lake, near Owaka, is actually the tidal estuary of the Catlins River.
Catlins Surf is a national secret. Due to its position at the southern tip of New Zealand, the Catlins coastline is exposed to some of the country's largest ocean swells, often over 5 m (16 ft). Big wave surfing is getting quite popular here with regular competitions being held in this region.
There is lots of accommodation options scattered throughout the Catlins area. Bed and breakfasts, homestays and farmstays provide a genuine Kiwi experience. There are camping grounds, backpacker and budget options ensure that all visitors can find somewhere that suit their needs. Accommodation can be in high demand, our guests are advised to book in advance.
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