Day 1 - Balclutha to The Catlins
The famil began with an official welcome to our guests from Oamaru, Dunedin, Wanaka and Invercargill i-SITE Visitor Information Centres, and we held our first of three Meet and Greet sessions held in Balclutha at Rosebank Lodge.
The purpose of the Meet and Greet sessions allowed operators from across the Clutha District to showcase their product to front line i-SITE staff - operators included:
- Catlins Kayak and Adventure - Small group kayak tours viewing the remote Catlins Coast - enjoy the journey to the famous nugget shaped rocks, dramatic scenery and unique wildlife.
- Rosebank Lodge - 18 motel guest rooms, small to large function venue, as well as a dining restaurant and bar.
- Catlins Gateway Motels - Enjoy friendly southern hospitality with 8 units, ranging from one-bedroom to studio units in the heart of Owaka.
- Clutha Country Cottage - Luxurious studio flat with its own kitchenette, dining and lounge area, with a great outdoor area for alfresco dining.
We had a full schedule for the afternoon, beginning with a bus tour around Balclutha including centennial pool, Naish Park, accommodation providers and key outlets for visitors.
Heading along the Southern Scenic Route, our first stop in The Catlins was Tunnel Hill, recently announced as the World's southernmost tunnel. Stopping in Papatowai, Blair from The Lost Gypsy kindly opened his gallery for our group - he expects to be open by Labour weekend for the summer season. Our group took a tour of the accommodation units at The Whistling Frog Resort ranging from cabins and motel units to luxury chalets and powered campsites. Their on-site restaurant, bar and cafe has recently reopened for the summer season. A benefit to all the rain (and snow) along the way, when it came to visiting the triple-tiered Purakaunui Falls, it was cascading rapidly. You can see why it is one of Otago's most-photographed sights.
Accommodation: Kuramea Lodge - situated on the waterfront of Pounawea, Kuramea Lodge Lodge holds different types of accommodation, for small groups, school groups and weddings.
Evening Meal: Lumberjack Bar and Cafe - Friendly family-orientated restaurant in the township of Owaka, catering for all tastes and price ranges. Both the fresh cuisine and wonderful service, it was certainly a talking point throughout the trip.
Day 2 - The Catlins to Lawrence
Due to the unfavourable forecast, our sunrise tour with Catlins Kayak and Adventure was cancelled. A lucky few headed out to the penguin hide at Roaring Bay, with the chance to catch a glimpse of the Hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) - with three being spotted that morning. Lyndon from Catlins Mohua Park took the group for a tour of Nugget Point, walking out to the Lighthouse overlooking the golden nuggets.
The second Meet and Greet session took place in Owaka at Lumberjack Bar and Cafe with the following operators:
- Catlins Mohua Park -
- Eco Accommodation: Four king studio cottages placed amongst NZ's beautiful bush country, with views over the Catlins River valley.
- Catlins Scenic and Wildlife Tours - Offering 4 separate guided tours from sunrise, beach bush and waterfall, to in-depth nature and ATV coastal experience tours - they can be suited to you or your group.
- Earthlore Wildlife Gardens - Home of Inspector Insector, Earthlore is a family friendly venue with plenty to explore including a variety of activities and bug/bird life.
- Greenwood Farmstay - Offers 3 comfortable and quality bedrooms with ensuite or private bathroom, located on a sheep cattle and deer farm.
- Catlins Brewery - Based in Kaka Point, the team uses all locally sourced ingredients to produce a fine range of beer and cider.
- Skylark B&B - Luxurious super-king/twin ensuite unit on a 1500 acre sheep and beef farm with stunning views of Catlins Lake and Pacific Ocean.
Mike McPhee, the curator at the Owaka Museum showed the group through the state-of-the-art facility, providing an introduction to the history of The Catlins. Heading inland towards Beaumont, we stopped at the Tuapeka Punt - while the punt was not operating due to low river levels, the background and concept was interesting to the group. We finished the afternoon overlooking the mighty Clutha River at Mata-Au Lodge,a brand new five-bedroom holiday house and wedding/event venue in Beaumont.
Accommodation - Lawrence Townhouses - Relax and unwind in one of three warm and spacious self-contained units, all units are three bedroom with all the comforts of your own home.
Evening Meal - The Prospector Cafe and Accommodation - The cafe is open Thursday to Monday with themed evening meals once a fortnight on a Friday. They also offer comfortable accommodation with a choice of en-suite twin singles and queen bedrooms in Lawrence.
Day 3 - Lawrence to Balclutha
The last day of the famil was spent exploring the lovely gold mining town of Lawrence. We took a bus tour through the main street, and out to Gabriels Gully where the first gold was discovered back in 1861, sparking one of the World’s largest gold rushes. We were fortunate to be in Lawrence at this time of year to experience the spring spectacular at Weatherstons Daffodils and Brewery.
The third, and last Meet and Greet session was held in Lawrence with the following operators:
- Clutha Gold Trail - One of NZ's Great Rides, soak up the early gold mining history following the mighty Clutha River. This 73km bike trail takes you from Lake Roxburgh to Lawrence.
- Highway Lodge Motel - 16 self-contained units from studio to 1 to 3 bedroom units, in a central Balclutha location.
- Marama Lodge - Accommodation includes Country Cottage Units - self contained, Lodge and Church . Built during the historic gold mining era.
- Pickled Pigeon Cottage - Fully self-contained 3 bedroom cottage built in 1881, with 2 resident wood pigeons.
A big thank you to all the operators that were involved in making this famil possible - we received some really positive feedback from our guests, and are already looking to plan next year's famil!
'...am now far more informed so I can tell guests.'
'Super-friendly southern hospitality.'
'Meeting with the local business operators gave me more information face to face, I liked it very much.'
'Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves whilst gaining a new appreciation for the beauty of Clutha.'