Catlins Lake Travel Guide

  • view from the bottom of the track to the caves
    view from the bottom of the track to the...
    by kakapo
  • the two cave openings from outside
    the two cave openings from outside
    by kakapo
  • first opening from inside
    first opening from inside
    by kakapo

Catlins Lake Things to Do

  • Jacks Blowhole

    Blowholes reflect the power of the sea. Waves create cavities forming caves. Where a weakness exits above the fissure, the compression of water and air can cause the overlying rock to collapse forming a chimney. From here, spray can often shoot up giving the effect of a guyser.Jacks Blowhole gets its name from Tuhawaiki a notable Maori Chief (Jack...

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  • Lake Wilkie

    The 1.7ha lake was formed around 7,000 years ago at the end of the last age ice.Now, vegetation has evolved with manuka, rimu and rata trees forming the bulk of the forest. There is a boardwalk around the lake with interpretive panels providing the history. The lake is now very small, but very cute with great reflections into the water of the...

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  • McLeans Falls

    There is a gravel road for 4kms into the carpark, which then has a forty minute return walking track.The track enters a gully with dense vegetation and lots of mosses and ferns. The Tautuku river echoes off the mudstone walls signals your approach up a track and onto the falls.The falls are idyllic and impressive with three main tiers cascading...

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  • Nugget Point

    The Nugget Point lighthouse and rocks flanked by sheer cliffs are a staggering sight.From the carpark, there is a well formed track that follows the coastline leading to the lighthouse and viewing platforms.If you have a head for heights and want the "money picture" then head up a track to the top of the hill, there are 2 houses and an aerial mast,...

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  • Slope Point

    This is actually the southern most point of the South Island of NZ on latitude 46.It is exposed to the weather, so bring your warm and rain proof gear. Its a very rugged and remote feeling form the point looking down the coastline. You can see the Waipapa point lighthouse and Bluff to the south. Below, the waves crash into the rugged shoreline and...

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  • Cannibal Bay

    Cannibal Bay was named after human bones unearthed here a long time ago. The lovely bay has a beach exposed at low tide and headlands at both ends which are impressive rock stacks. There is a walking track from the far end of the beach to Surat Bay via sand dunes. This return trip will take an hour.Watch out for the sea lions who inhabit this area,...

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  • Yellow Eyed Penguin Colony

    Roaring Bay is just below the Nugget Point area and is home to a colony of yellow eyed penguins.Yellow eyed penguins stand about 70cm tall and weigh about 5kgs. They breed in southern parts of NZ and in the subantartic islands in spring.Roaring Bay is home to them and they generally come ashore after 3pm from May to September and after 4pm from...

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  • Tautuku Bay / Waipati Beach

    This bay has a splendid lookout from the northern point on the route.The beach is accessed from the Cathedral Caves access way which is well signposted.Tautuku is an area of native bush and has some accommodation options and an outdoor education lodge.The bay and beach are quite impressive.

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  • Waipapa Point

    The lighthouse at this point was the last wooden one built in NZ in 1884. The coast is rugged and is the scene of a number of shipwrecks including the Tararua that sunk in 1881 killing 131 people.As well as the lighthouse, there is cemetary that contains the Tararua victims, but also a lovely beach and rock formations that attract a variety of...

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  • Curio Bay Petrified Forest

    Tectonic uplift has exposed the petrified forest buried in layers of rock from the Jurassic period around 180 million years ago.The example seen at Curio Bay is amazing and claims to be one of the best examples in the world.There is a good viewing platform and although you can climb down and explore, you need to do so in low tide and the rocks are...

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  • Cathedral Caves

    To access these caves, you descend via a steep path set in a fern filled forest down to Waipati beach. From there you go to the headlands and the caves. This is only possible in low tide and a few hours either side, but the controlled access point will close the gates when you cannot enter. There is a small fee to pay as well.The beach and area are...

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  • Purakaunui Falls

    These are some stunning waterfalls that cascade over three tiers set amongst some vegetation that makes for a very picterisque setting.You need to get down to the viewing platform for the best view, the view from above the falls does not do them justice.There is a metalled track that goes through the forest of silver beech.

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Catlins Lake Local Customs

  • rozehill's Profile Photo

    by rozehill Written Apr 10, 2003

    The Fortrose estuary is a popular place for good size brown trout and a few try their luck with flounder nets. The Mataura River ranks amongst the worlds 'great' brown trout fisheries. Keen anglers can also rock fish from Fortrose, Slope Point, Waipapa and Curio Bay. These are places all within the Catlins region

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Catlins Lake Warnings and Dangers

  • Winter Ghost Towns

    The migration of tourists comes mostly in the summer. The hotels, B&B's, restaurants, etc. in the area thrive on passersby. However it is a different story in the winter. Nearly the entire area is buttoned up and quiet.If you are traveling through in the winter, it is best if you are looking for gasoline, general store, hotel, etc. that you begin...

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  • Communication Coverage

    Throughout most of the Catlins NP, we had no cell phone coverage. And if we did, it only lasted long enough to initiate a call, not to complete it.If you are traveling through the area, plan to be disconnected for the duration.

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Catlins Lake Tourist Traps

  • kakapo's Profile Photo

    by kakapo Written Feb 20, 2012

    Cathedral Caves can look spectacular in brochure photographs but I didn't think they were worth the steep walk back up to the carpark.

    From the beach there appear to be two caves but they are actually two openings to a single cave. If you enter via the first cave and walk to the back it becomes dark and the roof is lower and you may think you are at the end, but if you continue walking you will round a bend and find yourself in the second "cave".

    The cave openings are surprisingly huge, but there are no interesting formations inside, and as they are only accessible at low tide (the tracks to the carpark and the beach are actually gated closed at other times) you will find yourself visiting with a crowd, so your photos will be full of strangers, and you are unlikely to have the experience or even the long sweep of beach to yourself.

    To get there you drive up a gravel road to a carpark, pay the entry fee, then walk down a bush track and then along the beach to the headland. Once you have walked through the caves there is really nothing else to see or do, and the walk back up to the carpark is steep and tiring. I didn't mind paying the $5NZ to see them, but I didn't think the caves themselves were worth the physical exertion to get back.

    Fun Alternatives: Mclean's Falls (a few kilometres away) are an easier walk except for the very last section (but that bit does have steps and is worth doing to see the top level of the falls), and are more picturesque and less crowded.

    the two cave openings from outside view from the bottom of the track to the caves first opening from inside second opening from inside
    Related to:
    • Beaches

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Catlins Lake Sports & Outdoors

  • Boating and Water Skiing

    Fortrose estuary is a great expanse of water at high tide for the purpose of boating, fishing and water-skiing. It is not a safe outlet to the sea because of a sandbar at the entrance. The Fortrose Boat Club welcomes visitors and they can use the boat ramp for a minimal fee.

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  • Swimming

    Curio Bay has a very safe beach for swimming and surfing and is very popular during the summer months. The surf is frequented by a Pod of Hector Dolphins and they enjoy swimming alongside bathers but it is essential for their future that they are not disturbed in any way.

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