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5 Things to do in the Catlins | New Zealand

(Last Updated On: August 26, 2019)

On a visit to see family in Christchurch, New Zealand, we decided to tour the South Island. This took us all the way south to the Catlins, which is a huge natural area with few towns and tourists, and a lot of outdoor adventures. We did some amazing hikes in this area, which are not to be missed.

We stayed in the a spot with the most beautiful morning view.

There is a lot to see in this area of New Zealand, but we were limited to one day. So here are 5 fun things to do in the Catlins on the South Island of New Zealand. To read about other adventures on the South Island, search for any city to see if we visited.

Cannibal Bay

The water and beach were so nice at Cannibal Bay.

Cannibal Bay is the perfect place to see the Sea Lions. We visited at low tide and while walking along the shore spotted nearly a dozen. There was a small pod of females, a larger group of squabbling males, and several strays swimming in for a rest on the nice wide beach. We also spotted oyster catchers, petrels, and other birds in this area.

Cannibal Bay also has a beautiful beach. We visited in the New Zealand winter, but during summer this would a great spot to play at the beach.

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We watched this sea lion come out of the water and tiptoe up the beach.
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There were many sea lions on land and in the water.
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Cannibal Bay would be beautiful for swimming in the summer.

Purakaunui Falls

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Purakaunui Falls is a gorgeous waterfall.

The Catlins has several easy to reach waterfalls, but Purakaunui was our favorite. A twenty minute walk takes you to a bridge that overlooks a beautifully balanced, nicely tiered, very picturesque waterfall. The walk is well-shaded and easy, and the waterfall is perfect. Mclean Falls is nearby, but was closed due to a rock slide when we visited.

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The trail is through an amazing rainforest.

Matai and Horseshoe Falls

Things to do in the Catlins New Zealand
Matai Falls

These two waterfalls are along the same trail. Matai and Horseshoe Falls are just a fifteen minute walk. Both are really amazing. The first is a nice thirty foot cascade, which tumbles down a tiered rock face. The second is a wide fifty foot drop that makes a perfect background for that family vacation picture you want to show off!

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Horsetail Falls is along the same trail as Matai Falls.
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We loved the rainforest trails here in The Catlins.

Curio Bay Petrified Forest

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One of our favorite places in New Zealand was Curio Bay.

Curio Bay is an amazing underwater petrified forest. If you visit at low tide, you can see the long, petrified logs that lay just below the waterline. There are also tide pools and chances to see other wildlife as well. Best of all, there are nesting penguins at certain times of the year. If you are quiet and look hard enough in the evening or morning, you may spot a few!

This is the number one thing to do in the Catlins in New Zealand in our opinion. It was very memorable and beautiful. Definitely check the tide charts so that you can visit during low tide.

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The petrified forest is so amazing at low tide.
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The penguins nest up in these bushes along the edge of Curio Bay. If you are there at the right time, you might see them.

Curio Bay Living Forest Walk

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This was a beautiful trail filled with birds.

Located at the Curio Bay parking area is one of our favorite secrets on the South Island. This is a short walk through an old growth rainforest. It felt as if we were walking through Mirkwood from Lord of the Rings as we walked through this cold, dark forest in the middle of the day. Moss hung from each tree and we spotted fantails, tuis, and other birds in the thick canopy. It was a perfect hike for the middle of the day!

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We also enjoyed the information signs along the walk about birds and trees along the trail.
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This walk was so pretty.

Information

There are so many spots to visit in this area, and we can’t wait to come back and explore some more. We only had 3/4 of a day, so our Things to do in the Catlins of New Zealand is limited. This is definitely one spot we will visit again. A great resource is the official Catlins website with trail information and fun spots to visit.

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