The little rental campers and cars kept coming in during the early evening, with about 8 joining us overnight. A few pitched tents, and one had the tent on top of the car. No way would I go camping in that, I told Robin!
This is not my idea of a camping holiday
We left the camp bright and early, driving out under the intriguing entrance to the camp/café. That’s a little rail cart used to haul lignite up on top of rail lines, a very clever idea indeed to use it to make such a stunning entrance.
Entrance to the property
The plan today was to follow the Catlins Heritage Trail, then return back along the Southern Scenic Route. Although we had seen most of the attractions when we were down this way six years earlier, we decided to have another look at what the area has to offer. The Catlins region owes its name to Captain Cattlin, (1792 – 1856), with a slight difference in spelling, a Sydney-based whaling captain who traded along the South Otago coast. In 1840 Captain Cattlin bought a vast tract of land from local Maori in order to stake his claim on the area, however, after years of negotiation, most of the purchase was disallowed.
We started our trip visiting Fortrose, situated at the mouth of The Mataura River. A whaling station was started in 1834, but was soon abandoned, but this whale pot survived, which was used for rendering down blubber.
Fortrose Beach whale pot and freedom campers parked up looking over the beach
A good part of the road was dusty and unsealed with the 4WD bumping along with the windows wound up tight to keep all the dust out. But we were pleasantly surprised to find nice new seal on the road to Slope Point. The car park was a new addition since our previous visit, we just parked along the road side before. And we made sure that we were well rugged up for our walk over farmland to Slope Point, remembering the viciously cold winds that buffeted us around last time. The ugly little squat lighthouse on the point was not at all romantic and attractive, as lighthouses often are. But it does the job, so that’s the main thing.
Slope Point Lighthouse
Slope Point is the most southerly point on the South Island, and is 7kms further south than Bluff. Those nasty cold winds were not in evidence today, and scores of young tourists arrived being less warmly clad than us. We asked a tourist to kindly take our photo, then returned the favour to several other couples and family groups.
No nasty cold winds at Slope Point today
It was so much colder 6 years ago – Geoff, Dot, Pauline, Robin, Jenny and Derek
View from Slope Point with Waipapa Lighthouse in the distance
And to prove how the winds howl through this area, check out these trees with all the foliage blown off the windward side.
Trees at Slope Point
We traveled on to Curio Bay, the home of a petrified forest. At low tide petrified stumps and fallen trees can be viewed, due to a disaster which happened a mind boggling 180 million years old during the Jurassic period. The forest was killed suddenly by an eruption of volcanic ash, with the ash forming the hard sandstone beds in the cliff edges. Eventually the sandstone strata were cut back by sea action, to reveal the broken logs and stumps still in their original positions. Luckily our visit coincided with low tide.
Curio Bay and the Petrified Forest
A brand new Information Centre and Café has been built here since our last visit, and has only been open for two weeks we were told. The project was built by the South Catlins Community Trust as the local community was concerned that increasing numbers of visitors were impacting negatively on Curio Bay and its wildlife due to lack of suitable infrastructure. The Curio Bay Tumu Toka Natural Heritage Centre will now provide employment and protect this precious area for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
Natural Heritage Centre at Curio Bay
The next bay along the coast was the very pretty Porpoise Bay, and we were lucky to see some Hector’s Dolphins playing in the water. They were a little hard to see, with their fins breaking the surface as they frolicked around a group of surf boarders.
Porpoise Bay and sighting of a dolphin
Another place we hadn’t stopped at previously was the old concrete horse trough, built in 1890, a stop to water the horse teams after they had climbed Cemetery Hill. The trip down the hill was often perilous, with the brakes sometimes failing on the Waikawa-Fortrose coach on the downhill journey. The concrete trough is now unused and overgrown, but is still an interesting piece of colonial history.
Old concrete horse trough
Don’t laugh – but New Zealand has it’s own tiny version of Niagara Falls. They were so named by a surveyor who had seen the mighty Niagara Falls and named these small falls after them as a joke. They are really just a trickle, and people come from far and wide to look and wonder! The NZMCA Niagara site is close by and was had quite a number of vans staying there.
Niagara Falls – Kiwi version
We drove back to Fortrose along the Southern Scenic Route and enjoyed an ice-cream before continuing back to camp. What a great day exploring, and seeing again some of the attractions of this area.