This Department of Conservation Wildlife Reserve at Nugget Point has dramatic views of “The Nuggets.” These wave-eroded rocks, which are likened to the shape of gold nuggets, can be seen from the viewing platform at the Nugget Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1869-70, is 9.5 metres high and situated 76 metres above sea level.
The walk from the car park is 20 minutes (one way). Along the way you may see the fur seal colony on the rocks at sea level to the left of the track and also below the lighthouse, or the many seabirds that make The Nuggets their home. During the months of December – February elephant seals also make The Nuggets their stopover point.
Roaring Bay, which is on the road to Nugget Point, is only a short walk (15 minutes one way) from the car park to a bird-viewing hide. Yellow eyed penguins can be seen here as they move from the sea to their nesting places in coastal vegetation. These shy birds are best viewed late in the afternoon when they come ashore after fishing at sea. Yellow eyed penguins (hoiho) are one of the rarest penguins in the world and they are unique to New Zealand and the sub-Antarctic islands.
Located just 17kms south of Owaka is the Purakaunui Falls Scenic Reserve. The Purakaunui Falls are a short walk (10 minutes one way) through impressive podocarp and beech forest. The falls, which have a 20 metre drop, cascade over 3 tiers. The track is suitable for wheelchair access to the top viewing platform. It is then a fairly steep climb downwards to the lower platform which gives an amazing view of the falls framed by native forest. This makes for stunning photographic opportunities. You will find that not only are the Purakaunui Falls in most books about the Catlins, but they have also featured on a New Zealand postage stamp and on many calendars.
These grand imposing caves are one of the well-known Catlins coastal attractions. Cathedral Caves were so named by Dr T.M. Hocken in 1896 because of their resemblance to European cathedrals. The Cathedral Caves soar to more than 30 metres overhead. Try the acoustics with a simple whistle or even a song! Dr Hocken and his friends did and termed them ‘reverberating.’
The Cathedral Caves can only be accessed at low tide. (For tide information check the news page on this website or enquire at Information Centres). There is a small entrance fee as the access road is on private land. The walk from the car park takes you through kamahi/podocarp forest and is approximately 30 minutes (one way). After you come out of the forest it is a short walk along Waipati Beach to the Cathedral Caves entrance.
Curio Bay is of international significance for its fossilised forest dating back to the Jurassic period. The tree fossils you see here are 160 million years old and the forest was alive when New Zealand was part of Gondwanaland.
Curio Bay’s fossil forest is best viewed at low tide from the viewing platform which is only a short walk (5 minutes) from the car park. Please do not damage or remove any fossils. You may also see protected yellow-eyed penguins at Curio Bay in the late afternoon as they come ashore after a day at sea. Please be sure to read the Department of Conservation information on these protected birds.
From Curio Bay you could take a short walk to Porpoise Bay where you may see the endangered Hector’s dolphins playing in the surf during summer months.