After our lovely time in Dunedin, we took the advice of a local and made our way down to the Southern Scenic Drive starting with The Catlins. The original plan was to drive over the inland route to Fiordland but sometimes you just have to change plans. We didn’t regret it one moment because we felt like being in the real New Zealand, driving through the lush countryside, past thousands of gazing sheeps.
Nugget Point Lighthouse
The road started to lead us away from the countryside and we found ourselves driving along the coast. Soon we arrived at our first stop in this new area, the Nugget Point Lighthouse. The name derives from the shape of the little inlets that surround the cliffs upon which towers the lighthouse. The view is something special and apart from the rock formations, you can spot seals, sea lions, and penguins.
Jack’s Bay and Blowhole
We then made our way to the next stop, Jack’s Bay. From the parking lot next to the beach, we had an uneventful 30-minute stroll to the next sight, the 55m-deep blowhole, located 200m away from the sea but still fed by oceanic water through subterranean caverns. We definitely enjoyed the experience but if you are short on time it’s something you could consider skipping.
We wanted to make it all the way to the free campsite on the west side of the South Island but it got too late so we spent the night in Curio Bay. The campsite was expensive but very well maintained. The next morning started with a lookout over the beach, spotting some dolphins and then a short forest walk. In case you are around for sunset try to spot the penguins returning from the hunt to feed their chicks.
For Ale, as a passionate photographer, the bent trees was high up on her list of destinations. But the problem was that the road to Slope Point, where the trees are located, is being remodeled so the access by car is impossible. We had no time for the 2-hour return walk so we had to skip it.
We then drove on along the Southern Scenic Drive, which slowly started to clear up and went from extremely foggy and misty to beautiful sunshine and warm weather. After a quick stop at Colac beach to watch some surfers and soak up those sun rays, we continued our journey. The mountains in the far back got us very excited for what was coming in the next days.
The next stop was Monkey Island, which you can walk to on low tide and it has a little lookout. The view here is impeccable, with the mountains in the back and the blue sea in front of us. We used this stop for our lunch break and went on to what would be our final stop and campsite for the next two nights – the Fiordland.
The Southern Scenic Drive actually ends in Queenstown and we highly recommend it if you want to escape the tourist crowds for a little while.