Papatowai is the true heart of The Catlins, where the rainforest slides gracefully down to the sandy shore and verdant green valleys.
It looks like a slice of almost tropical paradise with the turquoise ocean surrounded by native trees, which have been guardians of this coastline for more than a millennium.
There are a number of walks which let you saunter through the ancient rainforest, accompanied by the beautiful birdsong before emerging onto stunning deserted beaches.
Papatowai is a secret surf spot with a few holiday homes inhabiting the area. See why the locals love where they live!
The organic mechanic who conjures up innovative treats and creates marvellously magical merriment at the Lost Gypsy is a sight to behold. Witness Kiwi ingenuity in its finest form. It has also become a social hub for locals where they can get their caffeine fix Catlins style! There is a coffee shack and food caravan selling Thai delights.
Across the road Mick and Deb from Papatowai Freedom Kayaks rent out kayaks for those wanting to venture down the stunning rivers and estuary to discover those 'secret spots'.
Don't miss the double delight of Matai and Horseshoe Falls which are only a short stroll from the main road, just before you reach the village. Surrounded by rainforest, you can also wander down the heritage trail which follows the old train tracks which ferried timber from the area back to Balclutha. McLean Falls is another waterfall not to be missed. It is located further south and isThe Catlins highest waterfall.
Koropuku Falls is a hidden oasis of which many miss this little beauty, however it is a firm favourite albeit a slightly smaller waterfall.
Between McLean and Koropuku Falls are the Cathedral Caves which are a must do. These impressive naturally carved tunnels and passageways set into the cliffs are among The World's largest and finest sea caves. Be sure to plan your trip at low tide, when it is possible to access them. They do close in the winter for safety reasons.
Nearby is the Tautuku Boardwalk which snakes its way into the estuary leaving you with an amazing sense of calm. This is "Tapu", meaning a Maori sacred spot and you soon see why as this opening in the heart of the rainforest feels likes an eco amphitheater.
The Lenz Reserve is where conservation charities are eradicating predators and creating a sanctuary for birdlife.
Looking for accommodation in Papatowai? DOC (Department of Conservation) has a popular campground in Papatowai with grassy enclaves. It backs on to the beach and estuary and is located behind the shop and petrol pumps.
En route south of Papatowai is Florence Hill Lookout which gives superlative views of Tautuku Beach and Peninsula - it is the perfect panoramic viewing platform! Did we mention the enormity of some staggeringly spectacular star studded skies? It is a fantastic spot to see the Aurora (Southern Lights).