After my short and super sweet time spent in Queenstown, it was time to head further south to explore The Catlins. The most convenient and efficient way of doing this is by car due to the remoteness of the region and the flexibility you will want to explore the wildlife and landscapes at your leisure (it is too far to walk from one point of interest to the next). We therefore rented a car and made our way down from Queenstown via the city of Invercargill.
Located down in the southern most east corner of the South Island, The Catlins definitely seems to head off the beaten track as we hardly saw any other travellers as we drove or walked along. Mostly driving through the Southern Scenic Route, we passed through a whole range remote landscapes and natural features, from rugged coastlines to podocarp forests, hidden lakes to cascading waterfalls. The lack of people only served to add to the atmosphere, making me feel over-powered at times and quite insignificant, especially as I looked out over the Southern Ocean.
Being that far south in summer also meant delightfully long days over which to explore the entire Catlins region which encompasses the area between Fortrose and Kaka Point. Located by the ocean coast, The Catlins can experience some very windy conditions, evident in the huge ocean waves seen and the shape of some of the permanently windswept trees. We managed to experience some of the very best sunny weather conditions, but also some cold, windy and rainy intervals, with the weather switching from one to the other in a matter of less than an hour. The dynamism of the weather just adds more effect to the wild, untameable nature of the place and has provided me with some of the very best takeaway scenes I now have stored in my memories of the place.
To fully explore The Catlins and all it has to offer, you will need a minimum of two days which is all that I had. On hindsight, three would’ve been ideal as the additional day would’ve allowed us to do the Catlins River Walk loop which would’ve taken about 9-10 hours for a return journey. Unpredictable weather conditions also meant that we were unable to check out the Cathedral Caves (we did not have the time to wait for low tide) or Nugget Point (it was just too foggy to see anything when we were there). This was a bit of a shame, but we did manage to see everything else which was nothing to complain about.
If you intend to visit The Catlins over summer or the peak season months, you are going to want to book your accommodation beforehand as there are not a lot of choices and there tends to be no vacancies upon arrival. You will therefore need to make some decisions beforehand as to how long and far you want to drive each day to reach your night’s accommodation. I chose to stop at McLean Falls for the first night and Kaka Point for my second i.e. splitting The Catlins approximately into 2 equal halves for each day.
There’s not much else to say at this point, so I’ll leave you with some of the photos I took along my 2 day drive through The Catlins, displayed in chronological order so that you get some idea of the route we took.