Walk out to the 1869 lighthouse at Nugget Point perched above the famous rock formations. Stop at the first viewing lookout located just above the car park and look for the fur seal colony below with a chance to see dolphins too.
You can often see seals below the lighthouse along with a range of sea birds.
You can kayak around the Nuggets for a completely different experience! For more information and bookings visit Catlins Kayak and Adventure.
Next stop is Roaring Bay where you can often spot the very rare yellow eyed penguins (hoiho) are thought to be The World’s rarest and most ancient penguins with just a few thousand in total, it is a special treat to spot these endangered penguins.The best time to see them is late in the afternoon once they come back to nest after a day’s fishing.
Yellow eyed Penguins (Hoiho) Fun Facts
- The Hoiho is so iconic that it even features on the New Zealand $5 dollar note.
- The males are bigger and live longer up to 20 years.
- penguins are famously monogamous with one partner for life.
Onwards to Cannibal and Surat Bay which are renowned as some of the best places to see sea lions in the Catlins. A marked walkway through the dunes connects these two beautiful beaches.
Sea Lions (Hooker’s Sea Lion or Whakahao)
New Zealand sea lions are the most endangered and threatened in The World.
- They are one of the largest New Zealand animals with the males up to 3.5 metres long and up to 450 kg in weight – females are almost half the size and weight.
- They have started to breed again in The Catlins after 150 years of breeding exclusively on remote islands.
- The mainland population is estimated to reach 1000 by 2044.
Head to Long Point and Jack’s Bay for more opportunities to see penguins, seals and sea lions. The reserve is run by the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust and the Department of Conservation.
Purakaunui Bay could be the place to rest your head in this picture perfect campsite right by the beach where sea lions are regular visitors. It is also a stellar surfing spot with the highest winter waves ever recorded in New Zealand.
First stop is Tahakopa Beach which you can find from the Old Coach Track at Papatowai, where sea lions and penguins turn up to enjoy the solitude.
The area is well known for its fantastic birdlife and song with lots of the terrific tuis. The estuary also offers some good fishing options for flounder and clams.
The next stop is Florence Hill for breathtaking vistas of Tautuku Bay and its peninsula, however the best way to experience this special place is below on the beach.
Cathedral Caves is one of the World’s largest sea cave complexes with 200 metres of passageways and amazing acoustics thanks to their sheer size rising up 30 metres high. Check the tides and opening times at www.cathedralcaves.co.nz
The final stop is the stunning Curio Bay which has a 180 million year old Jurassic forest, one of only 3 accessible fossil forests in the World. The nearby Living Forest allows you to step back in time and is the only place on the planet where you can experience a direct descendant lying so close to its petrified counterpart. Curio Bay is a superb spot to see yellow eyed penguins and Hectors dolphins. You might even get the chance to swim or surf with them at Porpoise Bay.
- The World’s smallest dolphins are around 1.5 metres in length and up to 60 kg in weight, with females being both slightly longer and heavier.
- Hector's Dolphins often stay in shallow water down to 100 metres.
- The best places to see these lovely creatures is at Nugget Point or Curio Bay.
You can also take specialist eco tours which take you to those seriously secret spots and hidden highlights. They are the only people to have the official Department of Conservation license to operate.