The Catlins to Central Otago

As our time on the South Island was winding down, we tried to be more strategic about where we’d go and how much time to spend in each place. The Catlins and the area just north of it, the Otago Peninsula, served as our best wildlife viewing areas.

catlins landscape

We spent a couple of days on the Catlins which occupies the southeast corner of the South Island. Primarily rolling farm land, it also featured rainforest, a dramatic coastline and lots of opportunity for wildlife viewing.

windswept trees

We stopped at several places along the way to do short hikes or to look at some of the cultural or scenic hotspots

Waipapa Lighthouse

Waipapa Lighthouse

We found an awesome camping spot at Waikawa on a tidal estuary at Porpoise Bay.

waikawa campsite

This spot was not only gorgeous, but it seemed to be set up very well for freedom campers as there was a public toilet and potable water only 150 meters away. At the end of the day, or actually, by next morning there were about 7 other campers gathered at the site.

 The perfectly curved Tautuku Beach is made up of fine quartz sand

The perfectly curved Tautuku Beach is made up of fine quartz sand

We enjoyed an impromptu stop for coffee and a visit to The Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowi.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery

The Gallery –an old converted bus– and its associated museum is the brainchild of Blair Somerville. It’s a most unusual creation of ‘automata’ which is… well, umm….hard to describe but loads of fun and guaranteed to draw some laughs or chuckles. One of his creations is a TV that turns on by riding a stationary bike. Turn cranks, push buttons, press keys and you’ll find out what happens.

Turn the crank to put the whale in graceful motion

Turn the crank to put the whale in graceful motion

He had the funniest quotes

He had the funniest quotes

It was difficult to get a good picture of an amazing seacoast feature called Jack’s Blowhole. Cindy and I hiked along the coast thinking this was going to be just another inlet with a wave-driven boom-maker. It was the low tide so there wasn’t much noise but the sight was quite impressive. As we reached the sign for the blowhole the path split making its way around a lush oval-shaped, flora-ringed sinkhole 55 meters deep, 144 meters long and 68 meters wide. Jack’s blowhole was flowing in at a whopping 200 meters from the coast and we had unknowingly stepped over a land bridge to access this amazing and unique blowhole.

Jack's Blowhole

Jack’s Blowhole

Nugget Point

Nugget Point

Continuing north of the Catlins, we stopped in the city of Dunedin to hit the Otago Museum shortly before it closed. It was quite a nice museum with exhibits on natural history, a maritime collection, the Maori culture and a special exhibit on motorcycles complete with a neat historical collection.

At the Otago Museum

At the Otago Museum

We moved onward and outward to explore the Otago Peninsula, another hotspot for local fauna, where we saw an abundance of Royal Albatross, Blue Penguins and Fur Seals.

Next stop was at the Moeraki boulders.

It looks like I just laid a septarian concretion

It looks like I just laid a septarian concretion

We headed inland stopping in Ranfurly to rent bikes for a ride on the Otago Central Rail Trail.

otago central rail trail-cindy


3 thoughts on “The Catlins to Central Otago

  1. I’m glad you visited the Lost Gypsy Gallery and saw the Moeraki boulders, two items on my dusty list of things to see in NZ when we eventually get there. But your other stops look great too. My list is growing because of you.

  2. Dunedin is about the only New Zealand town I can pronounce. There’s one named Whackapapa and we just found out that the ‘Wh’ is pronounced ‘F’ and the ‘a’ in Whack is a short vowel sound.

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