5 Things You'll See in the Beautiful Catlins Region

If you're planning a South Island road trip itinerary, there's a lot of reasons to include the stunning Catlins region, from waterfalls to unique wildlife.

Looking for a new destination to visit on the South Island? While many international visitors include Queenstown and Fiordland on their road trip itineraries, some of the more remote regions of Southland are sometimes overlooked. The Catlins is a destination with pristine rainforest, untouched coastline and a long list of unique wildlife.

There are plenty of reasons to add the Catlins to your driving itinerary. The area is easily reachable from Invercargill to the west and Dunedin to the east. Here are just five things you’ll see when you pay a visit to the Catlins:


The Catlins region is famous for its waterfalls. One of the most impressive is McLean Falls, which is accessible via a short walk through the forest. Purakaunui Falls is the top choice for photographers, with water cascading down three levels. The list of waterfalls also includes Matai Falls, Horseshoe Falls and the ironically named Niagara Falls.


Anyone looking to see some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife up close should head to the Catlins. The Hector’s dolphin (the world’s smallest species of dolphin), sea lions and fur seals are often spotted along the coastline. Visitors may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the local yellow-eyed and little blue penguins.

Geological wonders

Pay a visit to Curio Bay, and you’ll find fossilized remains of an ancient forest, millions of years old, carved into the coastline. This petrified forest is internationally renowned, and visitors can learn more about the geological history of the area by reading the information signs at the various viewpoints along the walkways.

Sea caves

The Cathedral Caves are one of the most impressive natural landmarks along the Catlins coast. You can only access the caves for a short time during low tide, after taking a 30 minute walk down the beach. The incredible view from inside the caves will be worth the journey. In some sections the cave walls are as high as 30 metres.

Impressive coastline

While beautiful beaches and secluded bays are common in the Catlins, one of the most  impressive views of the rocky coastline is from Nugget Point. Located at the eastern end of the region, visitors will be able to take a short walk to the lighthouse and see the photogenic rock formations from the viewing platform.

How to Get Here:

From Invercargill, take Gorge Road to the south of the city and follow signs for Fortrose. If approaching from the east, exit onto the Owaka Highway from Balclutha.

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