Ben Chapman recalls the excitement of a holiday to Curio Bay in the Catlins.
What is your favourite ‘undiscovered location’ in New Zealand?
Each year, usually around Easter or Otago Anniversary Weekend (March) we head to Porpoise Bay (Curio Bay) in the Catlins for a short break. From Queenstown, the Catlins is about 3.5 hours’ drive.
For accommodation, we always rent a holiday house. These are often right on the sand dunes over- looking the beach. A holiday here in summer or winter is great. In winter, good food and wine, books and long walks are a great way to spend the day. In summer, surfing, beaching and evening barbeques leave you tired, tanned, full and revitalized.
If in need of a break from the beach, there are some great walks nearby. For us, we make a point of traveling 15 minutes north to what was an old school house but is now a fantastic café, sit on the lawn in the sun, scoff down the carrot cake with yogurt, and top it off with a great flat white coffee.
Why visit the Catlins?
The Catlins is truly a remarkable place. Its remoteness is the key to its beauty. Visit once and I guarantee you'll return time and time again.
Tell me something unique about the Catlins?
One of the most special things about this place is the resident dolphin population. One or two on a quiet day will evoke as much excitement as thirty on a busy day. Hire a surfboard or paddle board and go check them out.
Do you have any advice for people visiting Porpoise Bay?
If driving from Queenstown, I recommend going via Invercargill and stopping off for some much needed supplies at the supermarket. Apart from a very small shop at the camping ground there are no stores, cafés or petrol stations.
What is the closest airport/how do you get there?
The Catlins is an hour’s drive from both Invercargill and Dunedin, both cities are serviced by regular domestic flights. Visitors also have the option of flying into Queenstown International Airport, from here the Catlins is approximately 3 hours’ drive.
The best way to explore the region is on a self-drive discovery of the Southern Scenic Route
between Queenstown, Invercargill and Dunedin.
The Catlins offer a variety of scenic and natural highlights, including sweeping beaches, rugged cliffs, pristine waterfalls and spectacular coastal views. It is not rare for visitors to catch a glimpse of Yellow Eyed Penguins scurrying to their coastal nests, sea lions and fur seals sunbathing on the rocks and Hectors Dolphins playing in the surf.
Curio Bay: home to one of the most extensive and least disturbed fossilised remains of an ancient forest, which are exposed during low tide. It is also a good place to spot Yellow Eyed Penguins, seals, sea lions and dolphins.
Walking/Hiking: There is a good selection of short nature walks along the Southern Scenic Route, popular options in the McLeans Falls walk and the Old Coach Road.
Cathedral Caves: The stunning Cathedral Caves can only be accessed via walking track, an hour either side of low tide. Marvel at natural caverns up to 30 metres high.
Nugget Point: A narrow path leads to the lighthouse built in 1869 where visitors can see seals and seabirds, as well as enjoy spectacular coastal views.
to find out more about the Catlins.