The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail takes you to see isolated beaches, a fossilised forest, Hector's dolphins and many historic sites.
The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail is a detour off the Southern Scenic Route, which runs between Dunedin and Te Anau. The trail is a series of walks and places of interest linked by easy drives. You need to allow at least five hours (one-way) to visit all the places of interest and complete all the walks.
If you follow the trail from north to south, you'll begin at Niagara Falls, located 90km southwest of Balclutha. It's a very short waterfall, named by a surveyor with a keen sense of humour.
The next place of interest is a concrete horse trough, used by early horse teams. At Waikawa there's a museum displaying photographs and memorabilia from the area. Opposite is the former St Mary's Anglican Church. From the wharf there is a twenty minute walk along the beach on what was once a coach road.
Porpoise Bay is the next stop - home to the rare Hector's dolphin. Nearby is Curio Bay, a world renowned fossil forest best viewed at low tide. Travel on to Waipohatu, a forest area with picnic sites and walks, before you venture onto Slope Point, the most southerly point of the South Island.
Return to the main road and the Tararua Acre, situated 300 metres from the road. This is the burial site of casualties from the wreck of the SS Tararua, which ran aground on 24 April 1881.
Your final port of call is Fortrose, where there is a blacksmith's shop and the area's oldest European cemetery. From here, you may like to carry on to Invercargill for the night; it's about a 40 minute drive away.
For more information, download this Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail brochure (pdf).