Continuing south along the Catlins, the next stop was the Cathedral Caves. These are unique structures that are only accessible during low tides, and require a good 30-40 minute hike to get to.
I had mentioned being surrounded by numerous people at most times during my journey through the Catlins. This gives you a good idea:
Still, the Cathedral Caves was downright impressive.
And having people around at least gave a great sense of scale to the pictures. At their highest point the cave roof towers more than 15 meters above the sand, making people look tiny.
The caves form a U-shape, and the cave is an interesting experience to walk through. Great spot.
From there I headed to Curio Bay. Probably the single best spot of the Catlins in my opinion, Curio Bay had a fantastic campground where you could pitch your tent on cliffs, and that was just the start!
For in the evening, several Yellow-Eyed Penguins come home to sleep for the night.
And their home? A petrified forest!
Well, a petrified forest isn’t that impressive in photos I suppose. But in person, I thought it was great. You can still make out logs and wood grain easily.
From higher up you could see where more petrified trees lay.
These were some of the best examples I spotted.
I loved this area. Beautiful, scenic, rugged, and unique.
Just on the other side of the Curio Bay campground lay Porpoise Bay, home to some Hector’s Dolphins. I didn’t see any during my time though, but still a beautiful beach.
The next morning the fog had come in, giving the petrified forest a suitably mysterious look.
Leaving Curio Bay, I had 2 final stops on my way to Invercargill. First was Slope Point.
Slope Point is notable as it’s the southernmost tip of the South Island. I’ll still be heading further south, but for many people, this is as far as they will go.
The final spot was Waipara Point. It is the scene of New Zealand’s more deadly coastal disaster, when in 1881 the SS Tararua ran into the nearby reef, killing 131 crew and passengers. It now has a lighthouse and memorial to the disaster. Also nearby, sea lions! This one was particularly rowdy, charging into the grassy headlands when people strayed too close. Don’t want to have an angry sea lion after you!
And from there it was an easy drive to Invercargill.
The Catlins were…pretty good. I had dour weather, overcrowded campsites and trails, and yet there were areas that were just simply stunning. Curio Bay was the standout, but in general the Catlins were an enjoyable 3 days spent travelling through to Invercargill.