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Published: June 11th 2016
Catlins - a Natural Wonderland
Starting point for our Catlins adventure.
Another cracking day! Definitely warming to this part of the world no question! Today after our traditional start to the day (just love Zoolander) we're off to the Catlins, a rugged and unspoiled place of incredible natural beauty. The Catlins are way off the beaten track (in the sense they are so far away from anywhere in the very bottom south eastern corner of New Zealand - in fact Slope Point is officially the southern most point of New Zealand). Having said that the area is far from a 'best kept secret'. It has an ever growing reputation as a perfect place to see rare and in some cases endangered wildlife, in particular, seals, sea lions, penguins and albatrosses. The area as a result attracts a steady stream of tourists, however being the middle of winter it should be pretty quiet today.
We got off to a bit of a bad start, I wouldn't say we got lost but we went on a slight detour through suburbia before we hit the Invercargill - Gorge Road highway (FYI Gorge Road isn't actually a road its a place - weird). Pretty quickly we managed to get back on track, we picked a
Seal Lion Sanctuary
This fella and a bunch of his mates were hanging around at Waipapa Point.
GPS friendly spot on our I-Pad and loosely headed off in the direction of Slope Point. On the way we passed Titiroa river, the banks of which were lined end to end with what looked like a whole bunch of maimai's. They were pretty flash too, many with Sky dishes hooked up. On reflection they might have been shelter for whitebaiters - or perhaps a mixture of both. A bit further on around Fortrose we had the option of continuing straight a head or taking the coastal route. We decided on the seaside option and not long after that detoured down an unsealed side road to Waipapa Point. Very good decision it turned out to be too!
Although we didn't know it at the time Waipapa Point was named by stuff.co.nz as one of the top 10 off beat places to visit in NZ and it didn't take long to discover why.
As we walked up to the Light House, we heard a bit of shuffling in the sand and a few grunts coming from the same general direction. Playing around just a few metres away was a group of endangered New Zealand Sea Lions, seeing them play
Sign board outlines NZs worst civilian shipping disaster. it happened just off shore.
fighting and generally lazing about in their natural environment was amazing. We watched from a safe distance as the interacted oblivious to the spectators watching on intently.
Check them out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6hiB0mi74g
Just offshore there is treacherous reef that was the scene of New Zealand's greatest civilian maritime disaster where 133 people lost their lives. In 1881 the SS Taraura sailing from Port Chalmbers to Melbourne struck the reef and people could only watch on helplessly as the weather deteriorated and the ship was was battered against the reef and broken up by a vicious sea. Initially the dead were taken to Fortrose 16 kms away for burial, however with bodies washing up on the beach for days/weeks afterwards it wasn't practical to continuously make the journey over the challenging terrain. A cemetery known as the Tararua Acre was created on farmland just inland from the Point. it can be visited by taking a short walk across paddocks.
From there we continued on to Slope Point, initially on sealed roads but the last 13 kms or so on pretty rough gravel tracks (note to self, put car through car wash before returning to Southland Times). There was
Slope Point Sign
Our mandatory photo with sign-again! Waipapa Point is the southern most point of the New Zealand mainland.
a 15 minute walk through very wet and slippery farmland. More than once my feet went from under me and I ended up sitting on my backside! Jeanette also had shoes with heals so it was an interesting walk out to the Point for both of us! Slope Point itself sat many metres above the wild southern ocean swirling about below. We didn't realise it before we arrived but Slope Point is actually the southern most point of mainland New Zealand. We had our obligatory photo in front of the sign post. There were no barriers up to protect people from lands end and as the wild southern sea thundered into the base of the cliff sea spray bellowed high into the air dissipating well above our viewing area. It was a rough and rugged ol' place and that was on a beautiful sunny day! We had a bit of a picnic lunch on the Point before continuing on our way.
Loving the beautiful unspoiled Catlins landscape, not at all hard to see why it is such a popular tourist spot. We cut back through some lovely bush clad country to Tokanui and then cruised back to Invercargill arriving
Wild seas crashing into the cliff face made for a dramatic and spectacular vista.
about 1pm. We were due be at the Airport at 4pm so plenty of time to wash the car, return it to the Southland Times car park and pick up a couple of souvenirs of our trip.
Everything went smoothly from there including being at the airport in time to have a couple of quiet wasps before boarding for the trip home. It really is a very nice beer, if you get the chance to sample a drop I would highly recommend it!
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