The Catlins – Sunday

Sunday morning I started by backtracking about 35 KM (about 22 miles) on twisty roads to a special location, Cathedral Caves. Cathedral Caves can only be accessed within an hour on both sides of low tide and even then only during daylight hours – so you have to consult the schedule and plan accordingly – and I was lucky – there are entire spans of days that you cannot access them at all. There is a slight hike down to get to the beach, and an access fee (make sure you have cash – there were some young girls that had to go try and find an ATM) for the trail – but at 5.00 NZD it is worth it for the trail to be maintained by the local land owners.

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After the 1.5 km walk downhill through some beautiful bush,

You emerge onto the beach – a peaceful, untouched beach oasis.

After walking down the beach – you arrive at the caves, and WOW!

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They were massive – and it was so incredible to see the changes to the caves by the sea water continually beating against the rocks. It was amazing.

After I had thoroughly explored the caves, I trekked back across the beach, and up the trail to my car.

My next stop highlights the Kiwi sense of humor. You will recall that yesterday I visited Purakanui Falls and McLean Falls, both beautiful examples of waterfalls, right?

Well, behold the New Zealand “Niagra Falls”

Next I ventured south – to Slope Point – the furthest south point of the South Island – which is located on a sheep farm (no joke, you cross through the pasture to get to the marker). The access is closed during Lambing season (September – November)

My next stop was the cliffs at Fortrose. It was windy – so I didn’t stay long, or get too close to the edge, but it was cool.

A bit chilly at this point, I was thankful to find a cafe and grab some Seafood Chowder and a hot coffee before continuing my adventure.

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Next up, I made my way to Bluff, and Stirling Point, which is often confused with Slope Point – Stirling Point is the end of the Motorway which stretches from the tip of the north island (at Cape Reinga) to here in Bluff.

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With some extra time before I needed to be in Invercargill and return my rental car, I decided to explore more of Bluff. This led me to follow signs to the Te Rau Aroha Marae. Such a unique Marae from the outside – beautiful!

Then I headed to the Bluff Lookout, thinking it might be a cool spot to enjoy the sunset.

 

As I headed up the path to the lookout, there were some informative signs about Moas, birds and other native wildlife, predators, pests and history.

It was a good call to head up here!

Check out the views!

Check out this panorama of the views:

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Finally, I headed to Invercargill, hit the grocery store, returned the rental car, did laundry and prepared for my next journey – I am off to Raikura – Stewart Island in the morning.

The Catlins – Friday and Saturday

Friday afternoon I picked up my rental car for a new experience – driving on the left. I have to admit, this was something that made me very nervous, but like most things that cause us to worry needlessly, it was not as bad as I anticipated. I found staying left to come very naturally after driving for a few minutes. The oddest thing? The fact that my blinker (indicator/turn signal) and windshield wipers were the opposite of what I am used to, so there were quite a few instances of turning on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker – but even that was remedied rather quickly.

The most interesting thing about driving in New Zealand: the maximum speed limit anywhere in NZ is 100 km/h – which is equal to 62.14 m/h (for the most part – this was not a problem, because most of my road trip was on wandery back roads in the Catlins, however, on the motorway out of Dunedin I was thankful for cruise control.)

My first stop through the Catlins was a stop to grab a bite to eat in a little town called Milton. I was lucky that I had a beautiful evening for the first leg of my road trip.

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After grabbing a bite, I continued to my next stop Kaka Point. I was racing a bit against the sun at this point, as it does get dark crazy early down here this time of year.

While it was darker than I would have liked, I did enjoy the beach and a nice coffee at the surf club.

Knowing at this point it would be too dark to continue to the Nugget Point Lighthouse, I continued on the way to my overnight stop, Surat Bay Lodge near Owaka. Most of my journey after dark was on little dirt roads, and even in the dark it was clear that I was passing through some amazing pristine country.

At the hostel, it was clear I was in penguin country.

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I must admit, I was thankful for the early darkness, because I was wrestling with a bit of a sinus infection, and sleep was a good thing. (You will notice in my pictures from Saturday that my poor sinuses were quite swollen, but all is well – thankful for packing a sinus rinse and some Zyrtec – not many pharmacies in this part of the world on a weekend.)

I got up early the next morning, and headed out for more adventure, starting with enjoying the beauty of Surat Bay.

My first walk/tramp/hike was Purakanui Falls – a lovely walk through the bush, leading to a beautiful waterfall.

After the falls, I stopped a few places along the road, including Florence Hill Lookout.

Next stop was the Lake Wilkie Walk:

After Lake Wilkie, I ventured to McLean Falls:

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Finally I checked into the Lazy Dolphin Lodge in Curio Bay, then went up the road to the petrified forest, where I stayed until dusk to get a glimpse of the lovely penguins.  The pictures of the penguins didn’t turn out, (too dark and too far away) but it was cool to watch them play in the water and on the sand.

Next up tomorrow, I have to time it just right, but I am planning to backtrack to Cathedral Caves, and hit some other cool points of interest along the way to Invercargill.