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Southland, New ZealandThe Catlins History

The Catlins | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

You will find evidence of New Zealand's history everywhere in The Catlins, especially in the petrified forest on the Catlins Coast.

The Catlins History Overview

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Kaka Parrot, Southland, New Zealand
Kaka Parrot, Southland
Photographer: Venture Southland
(www.southlandnz.com)

Archaeological evidence points to human occupance of The Catlins to about 1350AD. The earliest known inhabitants were tribes of Maori.

The area was first sited by Captain James Cook in 1770. In the 1800's European settlements were formed around sealing and whaling.

The Catlins was named after the Catlins River, which in turn was named after a whaling captain named Edward Catlin.

By the late 1800's The Catlins became a major saw milling region. However, after the decline of saw milling and a series of bushfires, the logging industry was shut down.

The cleared land became farmland and most of the remaining forestry is now protected by the Department of Conservation.

Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Cair Paravel Purakanui Bay, Owaka, Catlins Coast, Southland, New Zealand
Cair Paravel Purakanui Bay, Owaka
Catlins Coast, Southland
Photographer: Ian Brodie
(ibrodie@nzfpm.co.nz)

The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail is a detour off the Southern Scenic Route, which runs between Dunedin and Te Anau. The trail is a series of walks and places of interest linked by easy drives. You need to allow at least five hours to visit all the places of interest and complete all the walks.

If you follow the trail from north to south, you'll begin at Niagara Falls—a very short waterfall, named by a surveyor with a keen sense of humour. The next place of interest is a concrete horse trough, used by early horse teams. At Waikawa there's a museum displaying photographs and memorabilia from the area. Opposite is the former St Mary's Anglican Church. From the wharf there is a twenty minute walk along the beach on what was once a coach road.

Porpoise Bay is the next stop—home to the rare Hector's dolphin. Nearby is Curio Bay, a world renowned fossil forest best viewed at low tide. Travel on to Waipohatu, a forest area with picnic sites and walks, before you venture onto Slope Point, the most southerly point of the South Island.

Return to the main road and the Tararua Acre, situated 300 metres from the road. This is the burial site of casualties from the wreck of the SS Tararua, which ran aground on 24 April 1881.

Your final port of call is Fortrose, where there is a blacksmith's shop and the area's oldest European cemetery.

» Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail Information

Nugget Point Lighthouse

Nugget Point Lighthouse is an historical lighthouse sighted at Nugget Point, in The Catlins.

The light dates back to 1870, and was originally fueled by oil. However, in 1949 the oil lamp was replaced with an electric light, powered by a local diesel generator. This light was then replaced by a connection to the mains grid.

In 1989 the light was fully automated and is now managed from a Wellington control room.

The original lens for the light is still in use today!

The Catlins Accommodation

The Catlins is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of accommodation options:

The Catlins Accommodation

The Catlins is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of accommodation options:

South Catlins Accommodation

North Catlins Accommodation

View more South Catlins Accommodation options.

Useful South Catlins Links

To help plan your South Catlins holiday choose from the main categories below:

To help plan your North Catlins holiday choose from the main categories below:

The Catlins Region Information

The Catlins Tourism Operators

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Featured

 
Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

Mainstay NZ Hotels

Large collection of independent hotels.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels

Holiday packages for any occasion.

Distinction Hotels

Distinction Hotels

Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.