The Catlins

About The Catlins

The Catlins is truly remarkable with a wealth of natural wonders, where lush rainforest spills onto brilliant beaches and Mother Nature still rules supreme. Six spectacular waterfalls including the triple tiered cascade at Purakaunui could have been plucked from the pages of a fairy-tale. This incredible coastline is home to the World’s rarest penguins, most endangered sea lions and smallest dolphins. The spectacular spur at Nugget Point with its lighthouse perched on a panoramic platform has sensational views. While at stunning Curio Bay the outgoing tide reveals a 180 million year old Jurassic forest, one of only 3 accessible fossil forests on the planet. Low tide is also the time to go to Cathedral Caves which have amazing acoustics and are one of the World’s largest sea cave complexes. The Catlins also boasts beautiful birdlife and some of the best surfing in the country with the highest recorded winter waves.

The Catlins Townships

Curio Bay

Few places offer such scenic, wildlife and recreational values in one small area. Tumu Toka, translates to ‘hardened wood’ or ‘stump of wood’ – a reference to the ancient fossil forest with imprints of fallen trees and ferns from 180 million years ago, that can be accessed at low tide. A small population of endangered yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho nest nearby. From the camping ground there is access to Porpoise Bay, a popular swimming and surfing spot. During summer, you may see the rare Hector’s dolphin/upokohue swimming in the bay.


The Waikawa Museum has numerous displays relating to the early settlers and their industries of this once bustling port town. Short walk options include the Old Coach Road (20 minutes return, and only passable at low tide), and the George Aitken Walk (20 minutes return).