The Catlins part 1

Having left the camp in Dunedin we took the scenic route out of town to Brighton Beach a long white sand beach that seemed to stretch forever into the distance with not a sole in sight either on the beach or on the road. We actually wondered were everyone was.

We also stopped at the Tairei River Mouth which appeared a beautiful spot complete with a CAP camping area (#8424) which was set back about 20 metres from the beach had it been a little later in the day we probably would have stayed but in the end had a bite to eat for lunch and then onward to the Catlins.

The road into the Catlins from the Dunedin turn left just after Balclutha heading towards the Nugget Point Lighthouse. As we passed Kaka Point we noticed on our left a number of Campers parked up which turned out to be POP Nuggetburn (#8967). Not long after parking up we met Hazel who with her husband Winston own the property who was away preparing for the Cavalcade being held at nearby Owaka at the weekend. Hazel was a fountain of knowledge about the area even giving us a map listing all the local attractions. It was well worth staying there just to get the info from Hazel.

With Hazels place right next door to the beach we went for a walk to explore the golden sands walking back down towards Kaka point. As we returned we noticed a camper pulled over on the side of the road and realised that they had stopped to take photos of a large bull sea lion that had wandered up the beach after we had walked past. The sea lion was having a wonderful time rolling around in the sand in fact at times it was so well covered it would have been impossible to spot if you did not know it was there.

As the road to the Lighthouse is really narrow in places we felt it best to visit early the next morning. Arriving at the carpark before 8am we where surprised to see a number of vehicles already there, maybe some of them spent the night. Thankfully there was no wind so during the walk along the cliff top I felt safe peering over the edges, as I am terrified of heights this is a major achievement for me. Sarah was standing right on the edge of the viewing platform but that was beyond me.

As we had left before breakfast we decided to stop on the way, finding a great spot that had even been set out with tables, chairs and even sun umbrellas overlooking the beach. You could not have asked for better as I enjoyed my omelette whilst Sarah had toast. On the way back past the sea lion we saw that he was still there but he didn’t seem interested in posing for photos.

Next into Owaka to take advantage of the dump station take on fresh water as well as visit the local 4Square for food supplies where we picked up some superb fresh baked bread that they had baked themselves. Yum!!

Next stop was the Purakaunui Falls where for once we found a carpark space easily big enough for our camper as we parked next door to a 5th Wheeler, So good not to feel that we are taking up multiple spots. From the carpark we crossed the road to enter the track to the falls. The track was our first experience of the forest in the Catlins area with tall trees covered in mosses as well as ferns growing almost everywhere it was unlike anything we had visited before. I didn’t know when to stop taking photos it was just to green.

The falls themselves are very pretty as they cascade down multiple levels well worth the 10 minute stroll through the bush to get there along a very easy walking track. 10 out of 10 for the second of the days activities.

Another relatively short drive brought us to Tunnel Hill where coal miners in the late 1800’s had excavated by hand the 140 metre rail tunnel. It was a reasonably warm day so although we had remembered to bring a torch we never thought about a jacket something we would have appreciated once we where inside the tunnel as it got decidedly colder. The path continues on beyond the end of the rail tunnel but was closed on the day we visited so we didn’t get the chance to explore beyond the tunnel.

Reaching the DOC campground at Papatowai (#9007) we found a nice spot and set out to explore the area on foot. From the campground we walked down to the beach that forms a headland on either side of the tidal inlet, it feels really remote as we set off along the beach towards the rocks and cliffs at the end. The signboard at the beach talks about finding fossils in the rocks but if they were there then I couldn’t find any. What did amaze us was the amount of seaweed that was still on the beach after the storm last week, it was really beginning to smell.

The walk up from the beach takes you to junction where we decided to head towards Kings Rock even though the sign doesn’t tell you how far it is we figured we would walk it to find out. Yet again the path takes you through the green of the forest whilst following the cliff top. Just as we began to wonder how much further it was the forest ended with the path continuing on over a farm.

Suddenly it was mushroom city with them growing everywhere. Of course we had yet again set off for the walk without a bag so Sarah took off her jacket so we would have somewhere to put them. As we started picking them we came across a number of Fairy Rings the first time I have come across these, not quite sure why I remembered the name maybe from books I used to read as a child. in the end I think we got a pretty good haul with mushrooms for breakfast the following day.

We walked down to what we thought was Kings Rock as there was no signage and the track markers appeared to finish at the top of a track leading down to the beach. At the beach there was once a sign saying something but all thats left now is the post. The following day when we stopped at the viewing point at the top of the road we could see the track continuing on so it would appear that we never made it to Kings Rock.


The walk back to the camp followed the main road where there is a business selling various curio items outside is this poor fellow who seems to have nothing better to do all day than hold up the sign, his arms must get really sore

That night the camp really filled up with backpacking tourists it’s the first time that we have really been in a camp where so many of them had been. As however the camp is well set up with kitchen toilets etc and tons of space there was room for everyone although as there was no camp host we did wonder how many had paid for the night.


  1. Percentage of photos posted upside down appears to be increasing. The majority this time ? May be easily overcome when viewed on pad or phone, but my desktop computer just means that the photos are just pointless unless up the correct way !

    1. Sorry Ken it’s a problem for some of the people reading my blog caused by the way I upload photos on my mobile and while I am in limited cell coverage it’s really hard to fix

  2. Love this blog John and Sarah, so much interesting information! You sure are living the life 😊👍

  3. Poor Ken, getting your lovely photos upside down. They are all the right way up for me, so I guess he’s unlucky ..

Please feel free to make comments they will help future posts