BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook


BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Southland > The Catlins

The Catlins

The Catlins are made up of several tiny rural hideaways along the Southern Scenic Route. The area has fantastic scenery and wildlife; it is home to Hector’s dolphins and Yellow-eyed penguins – two of the world’s rarest species, and there are also many seal and sea lion colonies along the coast. Rolling green hills and windswept trees make for a captivating landscape. Kayaking is great here and it has some of the South Island’s best and least crowded surf. You need to have a car (or some luck hitchhiking) to explore the Catlins and most of the roads are unpaved; but the area has some unique natural attractions that reward you for the effort of travelling in this relatively remote area.

Since there are barely any shops, cash machines or facilities in most places, fill your tank and buy groceries in Balclutha to the north or Invercargill to the south before your journey.

Local transport

Transport options to, from and through the Catlins are very limited and most visitors to this region drive their own car.

The Catlins Coaster (tel (03) 437 0753) is the main public transport option in the Catlins, and is primarily a backpackers’ bus running between Dunedin and Invercargill stopping en route at the small hostels in the Catlins. The Kiwi Experience-affiliated Bottom Bus (tel (03) 437 0753) also includes transport in the Catlins.

Hostel accommodation


This small village has a couple of shops and a charming seaside setting. The area around here is home to wildlife including seals and sea lions.

Fernlea Backpackers

Moana Street, Kaka Point
Tel (03) 412 8834


After driving south from Balclutha, Owaka is the only town of any size before Invercargill.

Catlins Blowhole Backpackers

24 Main Road, Owaka
Tel (03) 412 8111

The Split Level

9 Waikawa Road, Owaka
Tel (03) 415 8304

Surat Bay Lodge

Surat Bay Road, New Haven, Owaka
Tel (03) 415 8099

YHA Catlins Coast and Holiday Park

Corner Ryley & Clarke Streets, Owaka
Tel (03) 415 8333


This isolated rural locality is a tiny place with just one small shop, but there are a few lovely small hostels nearby.

The cascading Purakaunui Falls are located between Owaka and Papatowai. There is a short 10-minute walk through rainforest to get to the falls from the car park.

Falls Backpackers

Purakaunui Falls Road, Purakaunui
Tel (03) 415 8724

Hill Top Backpackers

77 Tahakopa Valley Road, Papatowai
Tel (03) 415 8028


This small settlement is in a valley between the Beresford and MacLennan Ranges. It is not too far from Papatowai.

Wrights Mill Lodge

865 Tahakopa Valley Road, Tahakopa
Tel (03) 487 9445


The Invercargill end of the Catlins has a couple of nice small hostels with a rural/seaside setting.

Catlins Beach House Accommodation

499 Waikawa-Curio Bay Road, Curio Bay/Tokonui
Tel (03) 246 8340

Curio Bay Accommodation

501 Curio Bay Road, Curio Bay
Tel (03) 246 8797

Dolphin Lodge Backpackers

529 Curio Bay Road, Curio Bay
Tel (03) 2468 577

Penguin Paradise Holiday Lodge

612 Waikawa-Niagara Road, Waikawa
Tel (03) 246 8552

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