Great Southern Lands (part 4) – the Catlins

I love the Catlins. Remote, rugged, a mixture of farmland and native bush (the native bush always looks like it’s about to win the fight for land). Little dirt roads that wind away to beaches and bays where you don’t see anyone else for miles. Bits of history dotted around, mostly covered by bush. Gorgeous.

We spent a day exploring the Catlins. And could quite easily have stayed there for a lot longer.

Hilltop cottage
We spent the night in the Hilltop cottage accomodation – a 1920’s cottage on a farm about halfway down the Catlins. (The photos for my Turkey pajamas and “Hey, Baby!” dress were taken there.) We got to wake up to the sounds of native birds, and look out over farmland to native bush and the ocean.

Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls
The Catlins are full of waterfalls – the first ones we went to see were the Matai Falls and Horseshoe Falls, a nice 30 minute return walk that took us about an hour by the time we stood in softly dripping native bush, admiring both falls and listening to bird calls.

Purakaunui Falls
The Purakaunui Falls are probably the most visited part of the Catlins – they’re definitely one of the most famous parts. Another gorgeous walk through native forest to another beautiful (and bigger) waterfall.

We stopped briefly by the side of the road at Maclennan – a (very small) township (about 6 houses. Maybe.) The Catlins used to have a lot of sawmills – there was a railroad going through it to connect it to the rest of Otago and Southland. That railroad is now long gone. In Maclennan, the old station is still there, still wearing the classic yellow-and-burgundy paint, in a rapidly-overgrowing field with a bunch of rusting cars.

Along the main road
As we drove along the main road (and the only sealed road) through the Catlins, we encountered beautiful views, and flocks of sheep. Steve was rather excited to be driving through a flock of sheep – he’d never done that before.

Lake Wilkie
We walked around Lake Wiklie – a lake from the ice age, which lies there not connected to any other waterways. It’s an ecological reserve, it’s own little eco-system. The lake is slowly shrinking in size, as the native rain forest reclaims it for it’s own. It was a lovely, peaceful walk and we had the place all to ourselves – we took our time, and Steve look lots of photos. It was one of my favourite parts of the day.

Cathedral Caves
The Cathedral Caves are the other of the two most-visited and most well-known parts of the Catlins (the other being Purakaunui Falls). They’re large caves, accessible only at low tide, through a 30-minute walk through native rain forest and along a beach. We looked up the tide times the day before, so we knew when to go there – in the past, I’ve always been there outside of the 2 hours of low tide, and missed seeing them. The main cave is one big cave, that curves around inside the cliff.

That’s me, standing in one of the entrances to the main cave.

Inside one of the widest parts of the cave. It narrows down to a small corridor off one side to get through to the other half of the cave. Piles of seaweed litter the ground – we took a torch to help us pick our way over the seaweed in the dark.

Steve standing in the other entrance to the cave.

Niagara Falls
Way back when, some smart-ass surveyor named this waterfall ‘Niagara Falls’. When we got there, there was one other car with a couple of very confused tourists in it. Based on the name, they may have expected something slightly more dramatic than this….

2 responses to “Great Southern Lands (part 4) – the Catlins

  1. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing. I spent a year in NZ before moving to Melbourne and I really loved the landscape – the Australian outdoors seems so dry and dead after NZ, I had a bit of a shock when I arrived here (in the middle of summer) and it took a while to adjust my eyedrums to dry everything around..

  2. Thank you for highlighting our Maclennan railway station – the last in reasonable condition on the old Catlins River Branch line (closed 1971 – yes I rode on the last train!) – we have painted it recently with volunteer help and money from running our Top Track two day walk. Cheers
    Fergus Sutherland

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