Road Trip: The Rugged Catlins of Southern New Zealand

After three days of sailing and tramping the temperate rain forest of stunningly gorgeous and physically isolated Doubtful Sound, it was time to move on.  I found my trusty Jucy Condo where I had parked it three days before and away we went.

There are at least three roads crossing the southern part of New Zealand’s south island.  I decided to hug the coast as much as possible during this segment.  To do so, I would travel the often rugged Southern Scenic Route which was only completed in 1998.

The first few hours meandered south, hugging the eastern flank of Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Site.   Crossing the Waiau River on a modern two lane highway bridge, I noticed an old suspension bridge  off to the right.  The Clifton Suspension Bridge was originally constructed for foot and horse-drawn traffic in 1899, an engineering marvel for its day.  A short riverbank hike brought me to this now dormant crossing.  It was finally closed to pedestrian traffic in 2010 out of safety concerns.

We reached the coastline at Te Waewae Bay around 11:00 a.m.  From here to Bluff the coast is ruggedly beautiful and mostly devoid of humans. In two hours I saw less than six vehicles.  Sheep, however, were periodically spotted in plentiful numbers.

Jogging inland again brought me through the only city in this region, Invercargill.    With a population of just over 50,000, it is the industrial and commercial hub of the area.  I stopped only long enough to hit up the Invercargill Brewery, the world’s southernmost microbrewery.  I sampled and stocked the Jucy fridge with ‘Stanley Green’ pale ale, ‘Wasp’ honey pilsner and ‘Pitch Black’ stout before continuing south to Bluff.

Bluff is often mistakenly thought to be the southernmost point on the south island.  Not so, but we’ll soon get there.   It is a cute little town with two things going for it.  Firstly, this is where you catch the ferry to remote Stewart Island National Park.  Because of time constraints, I will visit Stewart Island for three to four days when I return to New Zealand.

Bluff is also where Bluff Oysters originate.  I love oysters and have tried many varieties in my travels.  These are the most flavorful I have ever tasted.  They are so yummy that they are great without horseradish,  cocktail sauce, Tabasco or any of your preferred oyster condiments.  Of course, they are great with condiments as well!   With a bellyful of oysters and more on ice, the day was waning and it was time to move on.

Monkey Island is accessible only during low tide.

After a stop to walk the Monkey Island beach, I continued onward, looking for a campsite.  After awhile I came upon an unmarked and perfect spot.

Parking Jucy, it was time to admire the twilight, crack a beer and munch a few delicious Bluff Oysters.

A salad (NZ has incredible local organic produce), some sautéed brussel sprouts and a small grass-fed fillet mignon (more craft beer) rounded out the dinner fare.

After dinner, there was a stroll on the now darkening (9:00 pm-ish) beach.  This was followed by some amazingly brilliant stargazing.  Did you know that Orion is upside down in the Southern Hemisphere sky?

Tomorrow I will continue through the Catlins and try to find some Yellow-Eyed Penguins.


To be continued…




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3 Responses to Road Trip: The Rugged Catlins of Southern New Zealand

  1. Stephanie - The Travel Chica August 29, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Love that bridge photo…. and Monkey Island!

    • Philip August 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      Thanks Steph. I am amazed more people don’t visit this region (maybe they do in December and January).


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