The Catlins, NZ

Feb 27th, 2016, 04:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,227
The Catlins, NZ

Is there a best way to drive through the Catlins? North to South? Or South to North?

We plan on doing a round trip: Dunedin, Gore, Invercargill, Owaka, Dunedin. But like all round trips, it can be done in the reverse direction. Whichever way we do it, we plan on staying a night in the area, at Owaka possibly.

Sometimes the direction can make a difference to what impact the scenery makes. I always find, for example, that driving south from Blenheim to Kaikoura is a lot more dramatic scenery-wise, than doing the same trip in the opposite direction. Just wondered if the same applies to the Catlins.

Thanks for any help.
twoflower is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
I don't think direction of travel will make that much difference. It's not like you are approaching mountains, or descending upon lakes like when driving the passes. Nor is the route all that coastal.

I'm a bit confused as you don't mention how many nights you have overall, or if the places you have listed are assumed overnight stays.

We did a trip from Te Anau to Curio Bay (overnight) to Nugget Point (overnight) and then onward to Wanaka. This gave us the evening at Curio Bay to watch the Yellow-eyed penguins emerge from the ocean. And then a full day to explore the short area between Curio Bay to Nugget Point. Our timing was right to explore the caves at Cathedral Caves at low tide.

On our drive from Te Anau to Curio Bay, we stopped in Invercargill to view the Fastest Indian and buy some chocolate. I wouldn't spend the night there.
deSchenke is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 05:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,772
Interesting question twoflower - I've been to the Catlins several times, but have never noticed a difference in scenery between the north and south route. You might want to wait until you get there and then follow the weather.

IMO, one night is giving it short shrift though - there's quite a lot to see and do in the area (especially if you enjoy walking, windswept beaches and off-the-beaten-path bits), and it's so spread out that its difficult to see much in such a short time (other than through your windscreen).

Like many places in NZ, most visitors just pass though, but there's more to it than meets the casual eye.

I assume you've visited this site and taken a good look at the map?

I've spent several nights in Invercargill, and although I don't recommend first time visitors with little time bother with it, we were able to fill our time there with no problem. Having said that, it's basically a flat agricultural town, but for those more interested in NZ immersion than casual touring, it might be worth a look.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 11:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,227
Thanks for those replies. I understand what you say about Invercargill, but we thought - as well as catch up on the Catlins which we've never done - we'd do a bit of "total immersion" by staying 2-3 nights in some that we have done. Like Invercargill. And we fancied we could fill in a day anyway, by touring Otautau, Tuatapere, Riverton etc.

Bluff and Stewart Island we've done before; no need to go again. Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula we absolutely love, so no trouble filling in time there.

We're actually coming down from the NI to Christchurch for a family event, and are using the occasion to extend on it and come further south. Itinerary: Dunedin, Invercargill, Catlins, Alexandra (for some Otago rail trail pottering about), Ranfurly/Hyde, Oamaru, Christchurch. Or same in reverse order.
twoflower is offline  
Feb 28th, 2016, 04:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,227
Talking to someone today and they said, for viewing scenery, the light is usually better with the sun at your back. Good point. Thought I should share it with you all.
twoflower is offline  
Feb 29th, 2016, 02:10 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,748
It doesn't really matter if you travel north to south or south to north in Catlins, though if you're traveling north to south, it'll make it easier to pull over at the Florence Hill lookout. You can read about it here:

2 to 3 nights for the Catlins sounds great. There's so much to see and do. I recommend at least one night in Curio/Porpoise Bay. How many are you? If there are two of you, consider staying at Curio Bay Salthouse.

There are also larger holiday home rentals in this area, at Porpoise Bay and at nearby Waikawa Harbor.
Here's the DOC brochure for Curio/Porpoise Bay:
This DOC Southern Scenic Route brochure is also handy:
You might try checking Neville Peat's regional guide on the Catlins and the Southern Scenic Route out of your local library. Looks like this (scroll down page):

If you stay at Curio/Porpoise Bay, you might want to self cater as there aren't many restaurants around here. For groceries, there are New World Supermarkets in Invercargill, Gore, Balclutha, and Dunedin; Countdown Supermarkets in Invercargill, Gore and Dunedin; and smaller Four Square Markets in Owaka and Milton. Milton also has a SuperValue supermarket.

When are you going? Because some attractions are seasonal, like visiting Cathedral Caves or seeing Hector's Dophins at Porpoise Bay.
Diamantina is online now  
Feb 29th, 2016, 06:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,772
I like the way you think twoflower.

That's a good point about the light - it's certainly the case for photography.

I did notice as we drove back from Riverton to Manapouri one day that the views were prettier on the return - because we were facing the mountains of Fiordland and the light was magical.

On that particular trip we went out of way to see the bits of the Southern Scenic Route we'd not yet seen (Manapouri to Riverton - don't miss the Beach Café there - delicious!)and some Fiordland we'd not seen previous via Borland Road and the Grebe Valley (not for the fainthearted or those worried about car rental violations).

There's also a decent Indian restaurant in Gore of all places.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 29th, 2016, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 227
You can check the official website to see when the access to Cathedral Caves is open:

For safety reasons, it's only open an hour or two on either side of low tide. They sometimes close access altogether if a storm has come through and washed away the sand from the cave floors. But this info will be found on the website which will have up to date information.

We loved the Lost Gypsy Gallery! It's a showcase of interactive art made with found objects. I'll link both the website (although I think the home page has kind of a creepy vibe): and Facebook page (which better represents the whimsy of it all) :
deSchenke is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:29 AM.