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Sea lions at Surat Bay

Tirohanga on The Nuggets Road

Nugett Point lighthouse

Nugget Point

Roaring Bay beach & penguin lookout

Purakaunui Falls

Cathedral Caves

What To Do

Catlins Retreat Guest House in Owaka is an ideal base for exploring the Catlins.

Catlins State Forest Park is renowned for its spectacular coastal scenery and wildlife. There are rocky headlands, sandy bays and estuaries, waterfalls and lakes alongside forests of rimu, kamahi and silver beech.

Yellow-eyed penguins nest along the coast and there's a wide variety of other penguins and bird life. Seals, sea lions and Hector's dolphins are commonly seen.

An extensive range of recreational activities includes swimming and surfing - at Curio Bay you can even swim alongside dolphins. There is also boating, kayaking, fishing (trout, flounder and rock fishing), waterskiing, whitebaiting, duck shooting and hiking available in the local area. Popular walks include the five-hour-long Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail.

The Catlins area is rich in Maori history and visitors can get a sense of this and other elements of the region's history, including the significance of forestry, from the Owaka information centre and museum. Click on Catlins history for more details of the history of the area.

Forestry has always been a predominant land use in the Catlins and more than 50 percent of the Catlins remains in native bush.


In this part of the country an excursion can take a couple of hours or all day. Outings from Catlins Retreat include:

Nugget Point
Nugget Point is the home of fur seals, Hooker's sea lions and is a breeding ground for sooty shearwaters, shags and yellow eyed penguins. It is a short distance by car from Owaka and is a recommended excursion

A visit to the Nugget Point lighthouse is a must. The lighthouse is a short walk from the car park at the end of The Nuggets Road. Experience the wild seas and spot seals from the footpath to the lighthouse.

Either on your way to or from the lighthouse, a stop at the Roaring Bay penguin lookout is recommended. At the right time of day from the shelter of the hide you can watch yellow-eyed penguins make their way in from the surf up the beach to their nesting locations.

There are numerous picturesque beaches and things to see on the road to Nugget Point so allow plenty of time to enjoy this wonderful drive.

Surat Bay
This beautiful unspoilt long sandy bay is home to sea lions. You can get quite close but remember never walk between a sea lion and the sea. The bay was named after the ship Surat which was wrecked here in 1874.

Cannibal Bay
Another home of sea lions. Named by Geologist Dr James Hector after human bones were discovered in the dunes. The Sea Lions are not the suspects!

Purakaunui Falls
The enchanting Purakaunui Falls are a cascading, multi-tiered waterfall reached via a short forest walk off Purakaunui Falls Road near Owaka.

Cathedral Caves
Just a short drive from Catlins Retreat are the spectacular Cathedral Caves. A must see while in the Catlins.



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