From Dunedin we drove along the Southern Scenic Route until we reached Nugget Point, or Tokata (Maori for “rocks standing up out of water”). Nugget Point is famous for it’s picturesque beauty and for obvious reasons it is of the most photographed lighthouses in NZ. It unofficially symbolizes the gateway to NZ’s Catlins Region and fortunately for us, we were welcomed with amazing views on a sun-filled day, squeals from seal pups playing in tide pools, and the infamous “roaring 40’s” (aka the relentless winds that characterize the region – actually, not so fortunate)!
From Nugget Point we continued southward until we found the isolated Purakaunui (purra-cow-nui) Bay campsite. The next morning, with the sun breaking through the rain clouds, we set out for Purakaunui Falls. A quick ten minute stroll and an even quicker photography session at this small falls was all we needed to admire it’s beauty before we moved on to the more popular McLeans Falls.
McLeans Falls, standing at approximately 20 meters (66 feet), is one of the most dramatic falls in the Catlins, and, therefore, the most popular. To break away from the small crowd at the viewing platform, we WOLOed up some slippery rocks until we found ourselves at the base of the falls and just out of view of all the tourists’ camera lenses – we sat at the base in bliss, necks craning upwards and feet dangling over McLeans’ deep blue pool (if only it were warmer, we would have had a swim)!
We rounded out our trip to the Catlins with a night at Curio Bay. The evening was spent sitting in the van at the ocean’s edge (taking shelter from the rain and whipping winds) trying to catch a glimpse of the rare Hector’s Dolphin pod that call the adjacent bay, fittingly named Porpoise Bay, home. Much to our disappointment the dolphins also seemed to be avoiding the harsh weather (who could really blame them), so we shifted our attention to the smashing waves of Curio Bay before heading to bed and preparing for our next day of adventuring through the deep south of the South Island!
Next stop: Invercargill
Song lyrics: Brendan James “The Lucky Ones”
– Go. Change your state of mind.