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 short walks and places of interest linked by easy drives.
Start the trail in the north at Niagara Falls, a short waterfall named by a surveyor with a keen sense of humour, before moving on to a concrete horse trough, used by early horse teams.
At Waikawa there's a museum and the former St Mary's Anglican Church. From the wharf, there is a 20-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. Discover Tumu Toka Curioscape(opens in new window), an interactive museum where you can learn all about the region from over 100 local and expert accounts. Travel on to Waipohatu forest area with picnic sites, before venturing onto Slope Point, the most southerly point of the South Island. From there you will find Waipapa Lighthouse and the history and cemetery of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipwreck. The lighthouse is a popular spot for Sea Lions who can regularly be spotted lazing on the beach.
the most southerly point of the South Island.
Return to the main road and the Tararua Acre, the burial site of casualties from the wreck of the SS Tararua.
Your final port of call is Fortrose, where there are a blacksmith's shop and the area's oldest European cemetery. From here, you can carry on to Invercargill for the night; it's about a 40-minute drive away.
Need to know
For more information, download this Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail brochure(opens in new window) (pdf).