Roughly midway along the coast between the cities of Dunedin and Invercargill sit the Catlins. In this picture-perfect section of southeast New Zealand, pastoral hillscapes lead off into the rolling countryside for miles, sheep graze atop jagged sea cliffs and time seems to move at a snail’s pace. In short, the Catlins are an enchantingly placid paradise, far removed from the rush of the city.
Despite being only an hour’s drive away from both of the aforementioned cities, the Catlins look and feel very remote. For much of your time here, cell phone coverage will be nonexistent (and when present, unreliable) but if all goes well, the charm of the unspoilt environment will have you reaching for your camera rather than your phone.
When we arrived in the Catlins, it was after having already seen much of the lower half of New Zealand’s south island and I will admit that my expectations were not particularly high. New Zealand is a beautiful country, but much of the south island’s landscapes are strikingly similar to the western provinces and states of Canada and the USA. Furthermore, we’d only just finished hiking on Stewart Island (a trek that both cost a lot of money and resembled the trails back home) which had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Regardless of my pessimism, however, the Catlins welcomed us into their green expanse without hesitation; swallowing our little silver car in a labyrinth of lurching hills and dusty gravel lanes, which wound ceaselessly about quaint farmsteads and patches of dense rainforest.
The forests here are quite beautiful, with ancient fern trees towering over you as you weave your way down to hidden waterfalls or slow-flowing streams, perfect for a solitary swim amid the constant echoes of hundreds of songbirds. This was the place I first began to appreciate the uniqueness of New Zealand.
Of course, prehistoric trees are not the only reason visit this part of the Southlands. There are also dozens of great locations for viewing the sweeping vistas and wildlife for which the region is known. As we made our way up to coast towards Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, the biomass of the region became readily palpable with sightings of dolphins, penguins, seals and innumerable seabirds becoming commonplace. At one point, we even had a sea lion wander into our campsite to pose for a few pictures… though he decided pretty quickly that we weren’t all that interesting and lumbered to the beach.
For more information on this fantastic and scenic bit of coastline, you can click here to reach the official website for tourism in the region