Get Even More Visitors To Your Blog, Upgrade To A Business Listing >>

Places To Visit In The Lower South Island of New Zealand

Renee and I recently did a one week trip to the South Island of New Zealand, to visit my sister and do a little exploration around this beautiful section of the country. Renee did a lot of research into where to visit (and camp) on this trip and put together what I consider a pretty amazing itinerary, and I thought I’d share it with you.

Naturally our itinerary was based around our timeframe, and to a certain degree the time of year, so while it may not entirely suit your needs, hopefully it’ll give you a good basis to build your own trip plan from when you explore this part of New Zealand.


Tunnel Beach (low tide access only)
Best at low tide, this twenty minute easy walk from the car park on Tunnel Beach Road through private farmland takes you to a magnificent sandstone sea arch and man-made tunnel to the secluded beach with fossil filled cliffs on all sides.

The track starts at the car park at the seaward end of Green Island Bush Road, off Blackhead Road. Follow the fenced track downhill to the spectacular rocky coastline. At the end of the track a short tunnel with steps leads down to the beach.

_MG_7930Dunedin, Tunnel Beach13_MG_7920Dunedin, Tunnel Beach12_MG_7941Dunedin, Tunnel Beach15_MG_7904Dunedin, Tunnel Beach11_MG_7939Dunedin, Tunnel Beach14_MG_7946Dunedin, Tunnel Beach16_MG_7857Dunedin, Tunnel Beach07_MG_7889Dunedin, Tunnel Beach10

-St Clair Beach and St Kilda Beach
Dunedin city beach well worth a visit, with a lovely waterfront promenade where you can get a coffee. When you’re ready, take the steps down to the white sand beach for a stroll. I particularly enjoyed photographing the remains of an old wharf.

_MG_7851Dunedin, St Clair, St Kilda beach09_MG_7846Dunedin, St Clair, St Kilda beach08_MG_7843Dunedin, St Clair, St Kilda beach07_MG_7835Dunedin, St Clair, St Kilda beach06

– Royal Albatross Centre – Unique tour 3-4.30 pm
Latitude -­‐45.7746919 Longitude 170.727943
[In hindsight, we would skip the tour and spend longer at Sandfly Bay]
Unfortunately I was disappointed by the Royal Albatross Centre. On paper it was a must see, being one of the, if not the only mainland spot in the world where they breed. However we didn’t get great sightings, and even if there had of been more albatross around and more active, the viewing enclosure was not conducive to photography, or even particularly good viewing. All in all, you either need to get special access to go out with a ranger, or you’d be better off on a boat (and fishing, or throwing bait overboard).

_MG_7981Dunedin, Royal Albatross18_MG_7964Dunedin, Royal Albatross17

Royal Albatross Centre to Sandfly bay – 30 mins drive – 4.30 to 5 pm

Sandfly Bay (named after sand flying in the wind, not sandflies) – 4 to 6 pm
From Highcliff Road, (which is along the top of the Otago Peninsula), turn onto Seal Point Road. Carpark at road end.

Coastal track – 1 hour return, 3 km. The track begins at the Sandfly Bay car park; the end of Seal Point Road. A path crosses farmland to the top of the sand dunes. Go down the sand hill – which can be rather testing on the return, uphill journey – and walk about a kilometre along the beach. Near the southern end a marked track leads up to a hide to view the locals – yellow-eyed penguins. The best viewing time is late afternoon or early evening. Watch out for fur seals and sea lions that haul out on the rocks and beach and wallow in the sand.

Unfortunately by the time we arrived it was too late to get photos of any wildlife, but I did get this shot of the bay from the start of the track.

sandflyBay (1 of 1)

Day Two  – CATLINS

Drive from Dunedin to the Catlins – 1 hr 30 mins

Kaka Point – swimming/surf spot


Nugget Point – 30 Min Return track.
Only place where elephant seals, fur seals and sea lions share a territory. Spectacular vista north across Molyneux Bay to Wangaloa and the Otago Peninsula, and south down the Catlins Coast to Long Point.

_MG_8041Catlins Forest Park, Nugget Point21_MG_8038Catlins Forest Park, Nugget Point20_MG_8028Catlins Forest Park, Nugget Point19

Roaring Bay – 20min return walk.
This 47ha reserve is a breeding place for many of the southern coast’s animals and birds. You may see fur seals, sea lions and elephant seals. Yellow-eyed penguins are best seen from the Roaring Bay hide as they return from the sea in the evening. They nest within the forested areas of the headland.

Hideout to spot penguinsThis photo was taken at 200mm with my biggest zoom lens, and you can just make out the yellow-eyed penguin when I digitally zoom in (red circle)

Owaka – petrol stop (not a lot of petrol stations in the region)

Purakaunui falls – 20 metres high, 3 tier waterfall. 20 min return track (we skipped this destination in order to spend longer at Nugget Point and Roaring Bay)

Matai falls – 10 metres high, modest but pretty. 30 min return walk (we skipped this destination in order to spend longer at Nugget Point and Roaring Bay)

Jacks Blowhole – 1 hr return to a 55 m deep hold that connects to the sea.
While very difficult to get a photo which shows this, it was an interesting sight to walk to with some nice coastal views along the way.

_MG_8080Catlins Forest Park, Jack's Blowhole09_MG_8074Catlins Forest Park, Jack's Blowhole08

Campsite: DOC Purakaunui Bay
Turn off SH 1 at Balcutha. Drive south past Owaka until Ratanui turnoff. Follow Purakaunui Falls Rd, to Long Point Rd, then follow Purakaunui Bay Rd to end.
Latitude: -46.54501713, Longitude: 169.61183024
Adult $6 per night
40 sites

_MG_810225_MG_8099Catlins Forest Park, DOC Purakaunui Bay Campsite24_MG_8089Catlins Forest Park, DOC Purakaunui Bay Campsite, Night Sky Photography23_MG_8082Catlins Forest Park, DOC Purakaunui Bay Campsite, Night Sky Photography10_MG_8090Catlins Forest Park, DOC Purakaunui Bay Campsite, Night Sky Photography11_MG_8095Catlins Forest Park, DOC Purakaunui Bay Campsite12


Day Three – CATLINS

Cathedral caves – accessible 2 hrs either side of low tide, costs $5

_MG_8128Cathedral Caves, Catlins Forest Park30_MG_8124Cathedral Caves, Catlins Forest Park29_MG_8118Cathedral Caves, Catlins Forest Park28

Mclean falls – 22 metres high, most impressive falls. 40 min return walk.

_MG_8110Catlins Forest Park, Mcleans Falls27_MG_8116Catlins Forest Park, Mcleans Falls13_MG_8108Catlins Forest Park, Mcleans Falls26

Porpoise Bay – hector’s dolphins love to surf here!
We didn’t see dolphins, but definitely take a look just in case you do! Plus if you stay at the Curio Bay Holiday Park, then Porpoise Bay is right in front of you!

_MG_8175Catlins Forest Park, Curio Bay, Holiday Park, Porpoise Bay15

Curio Bay (low tide only) – petrified forest and yellow eyed penguins at dawn and dusk.

_MG_8144Catlins Forest Park, Curio Bay32_MG_8131Catlins Forest Park, Curio Bay31

Slope Point – southernmost point of land on the South Island. 40 min return walk (we skipped this to spend longer at Porpoise Bay)

Campsite: Curio Bay Holiday Park
601 Curio Bay Road
Phone 03 246 889
(Powered sites available, booking recommended. Bookings not necessary for non-powered sites)

The coastline in this area is truly stunning, wish I’d had longer to try photograph it.

_MG_8183Photomatic ProCatlins Forest Park, Curio Bay, Holiday Park34_MG_8181Catlins Forest Park, Curio Bay, Holiday Park33

This post first appeared on Sam's Playground — Travelling The World One Plac, please read the originial post: here

Share the post

Places To Visit In The Lower South Island of New Zealand


Subscribe to Sam's Playground — Travelling The World One Plac

Get updates delivered right to your inbox!

Thank you for your subscription