The Catlins travel guide: what to see and where to go
The Catlins travel guide: what to see and where to go
The Catlins travel guide: what to see and where to go

The Catlins travel guide: things to do & see, where to go

The Catlins are not on the tourist circuit. Wildlife adores the place with its access to rich feeding grounds in the surrounding oceans. Due to the unspoiled nature of the reserves and areas of native forest the Catlins support a wealth of bird biodiversity. The rare Yellow eyed penguins have a protected home and the roar of sea lions makes the Catlins a perfect place for wildlife buffs. The glorious vistas of ocean waves pounding the coast, rugged rock formations and magnificent waterfalls attract nature lovers who have a choice of walks from short family friendly kids strolls to multiple day tramps. Visitors could drive through the Catlins in a number of hours. Rather indulge in a slow leisurely several days to thoroughly enjoy the Catlins. The Catlins is a treasure worth a detour at the bottom of Aotearoa New Zealand.

McLean Falls, New Zealand @Harald Selke, cc-by-nc-sa


  • Wild natural coastal scenery
  • Wildlife from magnificent sea lions to Hectors dolphins
  • Birds from fantails to yellow eyed penguins
  • Walks through the history of the region
  • Natural spaces where slowing down is a given
  • Lighthouses and waterfalls to tempt dedicated fans

Best time to visit

Year round, rug up with waterproof layers. Always carry a raincoat even in the height of summer. The peak season is summer, December through to early March.


Nugget Point Weather Forecast and Observations

Getting there

The route mapped out is from North (Balclutha / Milton) southwards. There is one self service petrol station in the Catlins so ensure you have a full tank of fuel before departing. While there are a number of motels and camping grounds check before departing if accommodation providers are open.


  • Below are places to visit and explore
  • Awakiki Scenic Reserve
  • Nugget Point Lighthouse
  • Cannibal Bay
  • Surat Bay
  • Pounawea
  • Owaka
  • Pounawea
  • Papatowai
  • Long Point Road (to Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust reserve)
  • Matai Falls
  • Purakaunui Falls
  • Papatowai
  • Florence Hill Lookout
  • Lake Wilkie Track
  • Lenz Historic Reserve
  • Tautukua Estuary boardwalk
  • Cathedral Caves walk
  • McLean Falls Walk
  • Waipohatu walk, Niagara

  • Shanks Bush Walkway
  • Curio Bay
  • Slope Point
  • Waipapa Lighthouse & Cemetery

Awakiki Reserve

Awakiki Road, Romahapa 9273, New Zealand

Kaka Point bush walk - early evening

Kaka Point, 9271, New Zealand

Nugget Point

The Nuggets Road, Ahuriri Flat 9271, New Zealand

Cannibal Bay

Otago 9271, New Zealand

Surat Bay

Otago, New Zealand

Tunnel Hill closed Railway

9586, 2390 Owaka Highway, Katea 9586, New Zealand

Jacks (Opito) Blowhole

278 Jacks Bay Road, Hinahina 9586, New Zealand

Catlins Tidal Lake

Otago 9586, New Zealand


Pounawea, 9586, New Zealand

Catlins River dolphin

Otago, New Zealand

Pounawea nature walk & Bush walk

Pounawea, 9586, New Zealand

Long Point reserve, Yelloweyed Penguin, Long Point Irahuka reserve

862 Long Point Road, Purakaunui 9586

Matai Falls

Caberfeidh 9586, New Zealand


Papatowai, 9586, New Zealand

Lenz Reserve & Trails Tractor

614 Chaslands Highway, Chaslands 9586, New Zealand

Florence Hill Lookout

14/22 Chaslands Highway, Papatowai 9586, New Zealand

Lake Wilkie

Otago 9586, New Zealand

Shank's Bush Nature Trail

Papatowai 9586, New Zealand

Tautuku estuary boardwalk

Otago 9586, New Zealand

McLean Falls

Papatowai 9586, New Zealand

Cathedral Caves

Chaslands 9586, New Zealand

Curio Bay

Curio Bay, 9884, New Zealand

Waipapa Point

Otara 9875, New Zealand

Slope Point

Slope Point, 9884, New Zealand

Waipohatu Walking Track & Reserve

Niagara 9884, New Zealand

Niagara Falls / Manga Piri

256 Niagara-Waikawa Road, Niagara 9884, New Zealand

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui 9586, New Zealand

Travel Pack Information

*From Catlins visitor guide


There are both Beech and Podocarp native forests in The Catlins, The forests contain many native tree species especially Tree Ferns, Rata, Kahikatea, Rimu, Miro, Totara, Kamahi, and Silver Beech.

The Native Forest types in The Catlins are temperate rainforests. The forests of the lower and southern Catlins are dominated by large and ancient podocarps – Rimu, Matai, Totara and Kahikatea – that emerge over a canopy of broadleaved species such as Kamahi and Rata. Fern, moss, coprosma, broadleaf, marble leaf, lemonwood and peppertree create a rich understory in these forests.

Beech Forests

The Beech Forests found in higher and northern inland locations are dominated by the Tawhai (Silver beech). These beech forests of The Catlins are particularly interesting in that they have only one of New Zealand’s five beech species; they are the southern-most beeches in the country and their pattern of distribution in the northern hills and river valleys is a result of slow spread over the last 16,000 years since the last ice age.

Look at this brochure for more information on trees and where to find them in The Catlins.

The journey is worth it.

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