The Catlins, Mother Nature rules! Fairy-tale waterfalls, lighthouses, penguins, a Jurassic petrified forest. Oh, the hits just keep on coming! Word of mouth sends us through the Catlins on the Southern Scenic Route. Rarely visited, so beautiful, with every few miles a scenic side trip, a walkway or track.
1) Slope Point – Closer to the South Pole than to the Equator
This is the most southerly point on the South Island. Should you slip off the cliffs…well, that’s it for you. The winds are cold, violent and smash the cliffs. Windswept waves rip into the South Pacific Ocean. One gust and off to Antarctica you go. This was a “breezy” summer day.
2) Peaceful Waterfalls and Magical Trees
Purakaunui Falls – NZ’s most photographed falls
McLean Falls – The Catlins highest falls
Matai Falls and a forest walk
3) Jurassic Forest – 180 Million Years Old
This is Curio Bay/Tomu Toka – (Maori translation – hardened wood) – one of three accessible fossil forests on the planet. At low tide, walk through massive seaweed and petrified tree logs, stumps and tree rings. The forests that covered this area were destroyed by massive sheet floods of volcanic debris, only to grow back and be covered again.
4) Lighthouses at Waipapa and Nugget Points
Waipapa Point, on the western end of Southland Scenic Route. Beautifully quiet and poignant, the lighthouse was built in 1881 after NZ’s worst civilian shipwreck, where 131 of 151 people died.
Nugget Point/Tokata at the eastern end. The trek to the lighthouse and view speaks for itself with massive nugget rock formations.
Nearby is a penguin blind, and with field glasses, we watched our first yellow-eyed penguin waddle on shore. The picture is poor – but proof!
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