Les Catlins – Otago
Our first stop will be at Curio Bay, a place where free camping is unfortunately prohibited, but where you can sleep in a DOC campsite. We went there at the beginning of the afternoon, unfortunately the tide was already high at that time. An informative trail provides explanations on yellow-eyed penguins and the attitude we should have to observe them at the end of the day, then ends on fossils beach. Indeed, Curio bay is a recognized spot for the local fauna observation, but also for the discovery of its petrified forest encrusted in the rocks of the beach and which it’s better to discover at low tide. A nice discovery, which we liked, and even if we didn’t have the opportunity to observe any penguins that day, we were lucky enough to watch for the second time the hector dolphins swim and hunt in middle of the bay.
That night, we slept in Waikawa to enjoy a nice free camping site with all the amenities before heading back to Curio Bay in the morning. Indeed, at low tide, getting closer to the dolphins was easier, so a swim in the fresh morning was necessary to try to awake the interest of these small mammals, with success!
We leave Curio Bay and its beautiful inhabitants of the seas to go a bit more deeply in the Catlins park and take the walk to the Koropuku waterfall. If the place is not of an extraordinary interest, the short walk that leads to the waterfall sinks into a dense and tropical forest that doesn’t let indifferent. The trail itself is made of fern logs that keeps the frame deeply natural and harmonious. As long as you are the only visitor, there is something to feel like the first explorer of a virgin forest.
Mc Lean falls
Another waterfall will be on our way, Mc Lean‘s one, and this time it’s really the waterfall itself that will hold our attention. The walk is longer and less interesting than Koropuku’s trail, but the waterfall is much more impressive and therefore more popular too.
Indeed, the water pours into a main chute and flows on a natural curving stairway. A beautiful place, accessible and really charming to us.
Surat & Cannibal bay
We move away from the Catlins National Park and continue our journey up the coast to Dunedin, but not without some other stops along the way.
It’s on Surat Bay beach that we decided to stop and start the walk along the bay by the beach to enounter the sea lions. After parking the van along the path leading to the only campsite, we started our walk despite the grey weather. We shared our walk with an American traveling alone and saw the first specimens stranded on the sand at the very end of the beach, after about 45 minutes of walking. Faced with these big sloths, which are easy to confuse with mounds of sand, we decided to continue the walk to Cannibal Bay where, unfortunately, we didn’t see a single sea lion. Resigned, we decide to turn back, the tide is hight and the sun begins to decline. It’s finally just before we arrived to the campsite, after 3 long hours of walk in the greyness and humidity, that we will be rewarded.
A couple of sea lions just came out of the water in front of us, to spend the night in the land. They block the way to the parking area and we feel that our presence disturbs them as much as it intrigues them. We step back to not frighten them and enjoy the moment, we finally meet these giants of the seas in all their power and their scale. Beautiful ! They will finally give us the passage, embarrassed by our presence, with an entry into the water at a phenomenal speed and small jumps in the bay. Just magic.
The Nugget point lighthouse is accessible after a short detour on the road along the coast. This stop is well known not for the lighthouse itself, which is really not exceptional, but rather for the view it overlooks. After a short walk from the car park, the path leading to the lighthouse reveals a steep cliff overlooking isolated coves that are frequented only by marine animals. At the end, we arrive on a platform that overlooks the sea, the cliff and rocks shaped as nuggets, scattered like small islets on the sea. A pirates movie setting place that is worth the stop.
In addition, on the road, it’s possible to also make a stop at Roaring bay one of the landmarks of penguins, that it’s possible to see, at the appropriate times, from the observatory set up on the heights of the beach.
Here ends our visit of the Catlins coastal area and its beautiful landscapes. We had a great time along this park, thanks to the different encounters with the local fauna, but also thanks to the beautiful landscapes surrounding these places. Even if the weather has not always been good, the place has always delighted us.
Our path will continue north towards Dunedin and, again, the Otago region and especially its famous peninsula.