Swim with Hector Dolphins in the Catlins, New Zealand 

Nugget Point New Zealand

After passing by Otago Peninsula on our roundtrip through New Zealand we explored the South Lands which is called the Catlins. Here you can watch amazing sunsets, see waterfalls and the best swim with the smallest dolphins in the world. 

Our first stop on the way through the Catlins was Nugget Point, a view point with a beautiful lighthouse on the cliff coast. From the car park you have to walk for about 10 mins to reach the end. The cliffs are home to fur seals and you can see them from the lighthouse. There are some signs which say you can also see the biggest seal the Elephant seal. We didn’t see any, but maybe you are more lucky. Enjoy the view on the sea and the lighthouse from the hill opposite the lighthouse and don’t forget to take a breathtaking picture.

Further down the road we passed by Purakaunui waterfalls, which counts as the most photographed waterfall of New Zealand. A 10 minutes walk through the original New Zealand rainforest is refreshing and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view on the waterfall.

Purakaunui Waterfall New Zealand

Where to Stay in the Catlins?

Continue on the scenic road to stay the night at Curio Bay Camping Ground or at Dolphin Lodge. This is an amazing place to unwind during a walk on the endless long beach. If you are up for more exciting stuff you can take a surf lesson. Equipment and class are 60 NZD.

Share the Waves with the Rarest Dolphin in the World at Curio Bay

One of the most amazing experiences during the whole New Zealand trip was it to swim with Hector’s dolphins. Found only in New Zealand waters, Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world. The surviving population is estimated at only a few thousands. Curio Bay is home to around 40-50. Mothers only give birth 2-3 times in their lifetime, usually between November to February. So it is very important if you visit to let them in peace just watch them surfing in the waves and don’t chase them. However, the chance that they come close to you by themselves is very high. They love to surf and jump in the waves. The water was freezing cold but we had to jump in to swim with the dolphins. They are curious and came really close to us. You can also just sit on the beach and watch them jumping in the waves.

I got some sandfly bites on the beach so be careful if you are on the beach during the morning or dusk.

Explore an Ancient Fossil Forest at Curio Bay

The second highlight of Curio Bay is an ancient fossil forest with the imprints of fallen trees and ferns from 180 million years ago, which can be accessed during low tide. Fossilized Wood from the time of the Dinosaurs. Isn’t that incredible?

If you haven’t been lucky to see the Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Otago Peninsula, the you have another chance to see them at Curio Bay during dusk. Just next to the ancient fossil forest they have their breeding spot. We heard that there were only 2 penguins going out for fishing during the day during the time we visited. Have in mind there are only 2.000 penguins of that species left.

Enjoy Never-ending Sunsets at Waipapa Point

After an exciting day with the dolphins we hit the road to see the most southerly point on the South Island of New Zealand which is called Slope Point. A short 10 minutes walk takes you through private farmland to the the cliff tops giving a beautiful view of the coastline of the Catlins.

slope Point New Zealand

If you want to see a breathtaking sea sunset decorated with a beautiful lighthouse head further south to Waipapa point. Sunset and moon rise were at the same time during our visit we really couldn’t decide which site was more breathtaking. We really didn’t want to leave that place the sunset lasted so long. Standing next to the lighthouse and seeing the endless ocean made me feel so small and unimportant and filled my heart with happiness. This is how I always imagined it to be on a world trip.

Lighthouse Waipapa Point

Here is the map for your trip to the Catlins. Just click on the top right corner and the map will open with in Google Maps on your phone or desktop. Afterwards you can find this map saved in “My Maps” in your Google Maps Account. If you are in New Zealand  just open the map and find all places easily.

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