Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Otago, Southland, Fiordland (New Zealand)

The Catlins

Monday 3rd February

Breakfast was leftovers from dinner, then we packed, took our food from the fridge and valuables from the safe (Camilla was lugging around duty-free stuff she'd bought for her family before leaving), and did some quick shopping. Cam bought some postcards (I decided this was going to be a no-postcard trip), we visited the University Bookshop again (where Camilla bought a book Aquatic Insects) and a nearby secondhand bookshop, and then we were off.

Nugget Point

from Nugget Point

sheep skin and entrails

Tautuku estuary
Just south of Dunedin there is a small stretch of real freeway - two lanes each way, divided road. Why that is there I don't know, since none of the other highways we encountered attained that standard. Sights seen only from the car included Lake Waihola and the church in Milton; it was a bright sunny day. In Balclutha we stopped at the visitor centre, bought a map showing walks and other attractions in the Catlins and booked the ferry to Stewart Island for the following day. We had lunch and were away by 12.45.

Next came the most scenic stop of the day - Nugget Point. This is a fair way (20 kilometres or more) off the main road, but definitely worth it. A five minute walk takes you out to a lighthouse from which there are great views, along the coastline in both directions but especially of rocks directly below. On them seals were gambolling, playing in rock pools, while birds soared overhead and roosted on the cliffs. Don't forget the binoculars!

We stopped briefly on a nearby beach afterwards, where there were views of the point to the south. Camilla waded a little. A pair of variable oystercatchers with a juvenile were wandering around quite fearlessly. It was 3.30pm now, with clouds coming in and cooling things down nicely.

Next stop was at Purakaunui Falls, which were nice but not spectacular. It was starting to splatter with rain and rather gloomy - sufficiently gloomy that Camilla had her torch out and was looking for insects on tree trunks.

When we started the Tautuku Estuary Boardwalk we found the skin of a sheep draped over the sign at the start of the walk, with its entrails in a neat pile a few metres away. It didn't smell, which meant it had been killed recently... We couldn't work out what had happened, could someone have stolen a sheep and gutted it here? The estuary is not exciting, but it's a lovely peaceful place - and the boardwalk goes right out into the middle of it. It's also home to a rare fern bird, which we didn't see.

a fern above the track

McLean Falls
We went to McLean Falls because they were labelled "spectacular" on the map, unlike Purakaunui or Matai Falls. Arriving at the start of the walk just as a cycling tour group left, we had the track to ourselves. The falls were dramatic - with a "false" falls followed by an even higher set a little further up - but it was also just a really pleasant half hour walk getting there.

It was getting late, so we drove non-stop to Invercargill. Getting in around 8.30, we had trouble finding somewhere to stay - we tried several backpackers, B&Bs, and motels without luck, before finding the Heritage Court Motel, which was just inside our price range and had all the facilities. The friendly owner pointed us at a nearby pub for dinner - and told us we should definitely visit Ulva Island when we went to Stewart Island.

Next: Ulva Island (Stewart Island)
Previous: Dunedin + the Otago Peninsula

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