Intro to the Catlins

After our wonderful stay in Tarras with a pack of pups, it was time to head south to a place none of the three of us had ever been, the Catlins. The 2nd of January was a very rainy day, but that didn’t make the drive any less breathtaking. Luckily we had a relatively short one ahead of us this time around, under three hours to the south coast of NZ.

It wasn’t long until we hit Cromwell, where we pulled over to take in the impressive views. Low clouds were draped over the hills, and the wide Clutha River was heading south to the ocean just like we were.

We made a couple soggy pitstops on the way, one in Lawrence, which is Higgsy’s hometown. We did try to contact his breeder to see if we could stop in, but she didn’t get back to us in time. Instead, we took a hike in an old gold mining spot and came away completely drenched. Still pretty cool, though! Finally, we made it to Balclutha, the gateway to the Catlins, where we stocked up on groceries before heading to our cozy Airbnb in Ahuriri Flat.

After a nice relaxing evening at our spot by the beach, we set off the next morning to some dog-friendly locations that I had researched beforehand. The Catlins surprisingly has quite a few spots you can bring pups, as long as they’re kept under control. Papatowai Beach, our first stop, was a great place to explore for humans and canines alike.

Who wouldn’t want to check out a place with this gorgeous rātā providing such a warm welcome?

There was something for everyone along this beach – fossils, rock pools, incredible views and so much more.

On the far opposite end of the beach, there were ancient gnarled rātā trees, some as old as 800 years. It was an incredible experience to wander under their boughs and think of all they have witnessed in their many centuries. They’ve seen moa and Haast’s eagles… and now they’ve seen Swedish Vallhunds.

After fully exploring Papatowai Beach, we were off to Purakaunui Falls, where dogs are allowed on a leash (yay!).

Higgs wasn’t too sure how he felt about the falls really. Maybe they were a bit too loud for his liking, but they definitely were beautiful, as was the lush rainforest we hiked through to get to them.

Up next was Surat Bay, a long, peaceful stretch of beach that is known for sea lions, but apparently the cooler months are the better time to see them. We’d rather not be near any, with a small barking dog who has already had an uncomfortably close encounter with a seal, so we kept him leashed the whole time! We did hear what sounded like sea lion noises in the distance though.

The windswept cliffs looked like solidified waves in the distance. It was one of those beaches where you could walk for a long time but still not feel like you were getting any closer to the other end. Eventually, we turned back since the sky was looking threatening.

It’s definitely reminiscent of Ireland down here.

This was it for our day out with the doggo, and we enjoyed a nice seafood meal in “town” that evening with some local craft beer named after Catlins wildlife.

The next morning we set off early to explore as much of the extended Catlins area as we could. Our first stop was Waipapa Point Lighthouse.

First lit in 1884, it was built as a response to the horrific 1881 wreck of the Tararua, which saw the loss of 131 lives on reefs off Waipapa Point. It was a very peaceful spot on a sunny summer day, and it’s hard to imagine that night so many years ago.

Stay tuned as we visit the southernmost point on the South Island, with a wildlife blog to come soon too!

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