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Southern Scenic Road Trip: Wildlife Safari Road Trip, The Catlins

Waipapa Point Lighthouse

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Waipapa lighthouse, Southland

You are leaving the Southern Scenic Highway to visit Waipapa Point. It is a journey through coastal Southland exposed to consistent wind and salt laden mists. The name Waipapa is shortened from the original Maori name of Waipapapa, meaning shallow waters. This is the site of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipwreck. In 1881 the SS Tararua ran aground on Waipapa Reef and 131 of 151 passengers and crew died. The lighthouse, built after the disaster, stands as a poignant reminder. This is another short stop off on your trip in the Catlins. It takes a couple of minutes to walk from the carpark down to the striking lighthouse perfectly placed at Waipapa point.

Sea lions/whakahau can be found on the beach and amongst the coastal grasses. There are a few areas you can take a short walk and if you head down towards the beach there are often seals and sea lions. The information point in the car park offers lots of interesting information about the history of the area including shipwrecks and the lighthouse workers.

Historic cemetery and possibly one of New Zealand’s most blustery spots. Signposted from the Waipapa Point Lighthouse Road, the walk is across private property (closed during the lambing season September/October). The ‘Tararua Acre’ is where many of the 131 victims of the SS Tararua shipwreck are buried.


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