"The Catlins is  where native forest meets the sea fostering waterfalls and river valleys along the way. There are rocky coastal bays, inlets and estuaries  along the seashore . At Curio Bay one can see at the seaside a 160 million-year-old fossilised forest. There is an abundance of wildlife plus accessible places for viewing seals and penguins."

Early Maori were the first people to live and travel extensively in the region, attracted by the abundance of seafood and prolific birdlife in the forest, including the now extinct Moa. The first European communities were centred around whaling stations during the 1830's, then sawmilling became the main industry. Today farming, fishing and eco-tourism are the main industries.

Dunedin to Owaka in the Catlins is 115km and from Owaka to Invercargill is 130km.  Going south on Route 1 you will go through Waihola (25km). on the left is Lake Waihola. Next is Milton(17km). On south on Route One to Balclutha where the Clutha River passes through on its last leg to the sea. If going to take the turnoff to the Catlins be sure to get fuel and stock up here. (Good butcher on the right leaving town by the way).

Can't miss the turnoff on the left leaving the town of Balclutha. You can continue on Route One to Invercargill at this point if time is not in your favour but one must say missing the Catlins you are missing one of the most untraveled parts of New Zealand. it is 38km to the town of Owaka, which has more closed shops than open! But there is a well stocked 4 square supermarket for supplies if needed, and a petrol station. If you are in a camper van the Newhaven Holiday Park is recommended near Owaka New Haven Holiday Park.  Mostly sealed roads now as of 2009. Golden sand beaches and long stretches of isolation. You have to get off the main road to really see what the Catlins are all about. Also expect and be prepared for all weather conditions. 

It is 25km from Owaka to Papatowai (home of the gypsy busman) on Tahakopa Bay. The road now winds through the Catlins Forest Park where you can find any number of places to overnight, if your camper van is compliant.

Be sure to go to Curio Bay to have a look at the prehistoric forest ruins. Spend the night at a top quality accommodation while in the Catlins. Treat yourself to the Waikava Harbour View a spacious four-bedroom lodge in a private and secluded spot with a panoramic view of the Waikawa Harbour. Check out their web page: Waikava Harbour Lodge or the Catlins community web site which has a great variety of accommodations, all good value: www.catlins.org.nz

Some of the attractions one can find in the Catlins:

Curio Bay – famous for its unique jurassic fossilised forest with exposed tree stumps and logs visible at low tide.

Waipohatu Recreation Area – walking track and picnic area at the edge of the Waikawa Forest.

Slope Point – the most southerly point of the South Island of New Zealand.

Waipapa Point – scene of one of New Zealand’s worst marine disasters with the sinking of the SS Tararua on April 29, 1881 and the Waipapa Point lighthouse - able to be viewed today.

Niagara Falls – small waterfalls on the Waikawa River.

Cathedral Caves, Chaslands Beach – spectacular caves that can only be viewed at low tide. Cost $5.00 per person (cash only), gates open 1 hour before low tide and close 1 hour after low tide. Tide times at gate, info centre at Owaka and the Whistling Frog cafe (great food) at McLean Falls holiday park

Purakaunui Falls - 20 min return walk through native bush. largest falls in The Catlins. 

McLean Falls – 40 minute return walk through podocarp forest to waterfalls.

Porpoise Bay – A safe swimming and surfing beach and home to the Hector Dolphins.

Nugget Point - short walk to lighthouse which was built in 1869. It is the only place on mainland NZ where fur seals, lion seals and elephant seals co-exist. You'll also see shooty shearwaters, gannets and the yellow eyed penguin (Hoiho)

Kaka Point - great swimming and surfing beach. Also has a general store and joing cafe/restaurant - try the blue cod burger! :-)

Pounawea - Waterfront town located 5 mins from Owaka. Excellent Views, abundant birdlife and tranquil surroundings.

Jacks Blowhole - 100 metres from the sea and best seen at high tide with an offshore wind. (closed lambing season Sept/Oct)

From there, you can take a number of roads out of The Catlins.  Continue on round the coast (part unsealed road) via Slope Point, Waipohatu and Waipapa to Fortrose or go via the bright lights of Tokanui (dairy, pub and garage).  From Fortrose (brilliant cafe there too) it is about 30 minutes to Invercargill.

So here is the great Southland town of Invercargill run by the one and only Mayor Tim Shadbolt, one of New Zealand's finest.