The Catlins Coast: rugged coastline, wild beasts, waterfall-filled forests, rare penguins and dolphin sightings… This is our destination for the next few days. The Catlins has a wonder to be seen every 20 minutes and what’s more, almost all of them are free. We are starting our Catlins road trip from the east side and making our way west over the next several days because The Catlins is not a place to be rushed!
Gravel Road ramblings
Our first stop and the most eastern attraction of The Catlins is Waipapa Point – a location of a lighthouse, a memorial for a shipwreck, and sea lions! The road there is not as straight forward as we thought though. Our mantra when driving our massive campervan is “avoid gravel roads when we can” just because our campervan is a nightmare on tar-sealed roads let alone anything else. However, after avoiding three possible turn offs to Waipapa Point that all lead down gravel roads, we realise that the gravel roads are unavoidable between Waipapa Point and Curio Bay. Oh well. We rumble and shake ourselves silly all the way down to Waipapa Point.
The lonely lighthouse
There it is, a lonely lighthouse in the distance looking clean and fresh with its white paint. Some information boards at the car park explain about the lighthouse, as well as an old settlement that used to be here and the grave-site to some shipwreck disaster in the area. Then, there’s information on the infamous Hooker’s sea lions, some of the rarest and most hilariously-named sea lions in the world. They can be found right here at Waipapa Point… if you’re lucky. Let’s hope we are lucky.
We take a short walk around the grand Waipapa Point Lighthouse, along a walkway surrounded by flax bushes until we reach an opening to the beach. Well, we don’t see any sea lions…