The Catlins: A South Island Camping Trip

We recently decided to head south to the mighty Catlins, south of Dunedin, for a long weekend camping trip. Mighty because of the beauty, and mighty due to the long drive from Christchurch! For us, this is something that can only be done on a long weekend.

Christchurch to Dunedin

We left at 5 pm on Thursday, drove the 5 hours south and stayed the night in Dunedin. After adding some stuff to the CamperMate app in the morning, we left at 9 am. This was so we hadlots of time to get to our accommodation at a place run by BBH (Budget Backpacker Hostels) in Curio Bay.

I always find it interesting to explore a city during the week. You get a totally different perspective during business hours than on the weekend. For example, I get the impression there is a far more relaxed vibe to the start of the Dunedin working day, compared to Christchurch. This was a nice start for our long weekend!

The South Island’s Southern Coast

Driving along this part of the South Island coast is amazing, especially in good weather. We were lucky and there was a slight sea breeze and a sunny sky. That always makes for a nice drive!

Viewpoint near Brighton, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

We try to keep an eye out for anything we can add to the CamperMate app on these trips. Like this viewpoint near the Brighton area!

Balclutha to the Catlins

CamperMate app showing New World location in Balclutha on the way to Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

Next, it was onto Balclutha. This is your last chance to stock up on fuel and supplies. In the Catlins, shops are fairly scarce so if you’re planning a trip, be prepared! Drinking water, food, and snacks are great. Toilet paper, insect repellent and a flashlight with batteries are good things to have, too!

We stopped in at the New World supermarket. It had a great range of snacks in the self-service bins, and also stock of everything else we needed.

Adding a few more locations to the CamperMate app in Balclutha, we set off for the final leg of the trip along the coastline. You drive passing sights like this at Tautuku, where the cows certainly looked happy with their view!

Tautuko on the way to Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

Curio Bay, The Catlins

Fishing, Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

We continued onto our end destination, our BBH room at Curio Bay on the Catlins coast. The weather had turned a little cloudy at this stage and started to rain lightly.

However, a wise person once said this was good for fishing. So, we headed out past the Curio Bay camping ground to the rocks. With our squid bait and telescopic surfcasting rod, we were hopeful of catching some of the region’s famous Blue Cod for dinner.

It’s lucky we took some frozen meals with us, as apart from a few bites, because fish was not to be on the menu tonight.

The conditions were remarkably flat, but I can just imagine the huge swells that roll past and into this part of the country.

Penguins, Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

We also checked out the famous penguins at Curio Bay, who are quite a laugh.

The penguins lay their eggs in September or October, and both parents incubate and help raise the chicks. As a couple, they take turns at going out to sea for the day collecting food for their young. The hunter/gatherer returns on dusk and (very slowly) makes their way up to the nest.

In some cases, some of the penguins would chill out on the rock ledge for 15 minutes before jumping back into the water! Not quite ready to get home to the wife/husband, perhaps?

Our accommodation at Curio Bay, The Catlins

After driving, fishing and watching penguins we were tired and ready for some sleep. The hostel we stayed at was awesome. It looks like all the accommodation at this part of the Catlins is only a stone’s throw from the beach. Ours was no exception.

Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

Being this close to the beach was fantastic. Over breakfast we watched the dolphins having a great time in the water. The dark spot here in the photo you can just make out is a dolphin. How cool is that?!

Even though there are limited things to do here in Curio Bay, you can easily fill in two days.

For example, take a walk down the beach for about 3 km. You’ll also be able to hire a surfboard and surf with the dolphins. Plus you can check out the penguins, bird watch, or just chill out on the beach.

Curio Bay, and the wider Catlins too are now definitely on my top 5 places in New Zealand to visit. Whilst you might not need to pack your fishing rod, take your camera!

Curio Bay, The Catlins New Zealand

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