For the avid blog-readers, you'll probably be able to identify a few of these landmarks on your own at this point. However, the Catlins are just a great way to spend a day here, and I have enjoyed going every single time because there are always new and different things that pop up.
For Lie and Evan, the prime goals for the day were 1. Penguins, and 2. Cathedral caves. the problem with this particular combination of goals for the catlins on this particular day was the timing. Cathedral caves is only open for a few hours at low tide, and that happened to be in the early evening, right when the penguins should be coming ashore. The locations of each of these things are about 1.5 hours apart in a straight shot, no stops... Yikes! Imagine how nervous I was! The pressure to deliver was nearly more than I could bear. Clearly these two are a tough crowd and the car ride back would be miserable if they didn't get what they wanted....
So I nervous-sweated the whole way over, trying to decide which place to start with, where to stop in-between, and all that. BUT, as fate would have it, I am happy to announce that I am still lauded as a champion NZ tour guide, and the stars aligned for Penguins, Caves, and More for our day in the Catlins.
We started with the Nuggets. You remember those. The light house with the tiny rock islands jutting out into the water? Here, this will jog your memory:
Lighthouse at Nugget Point
There were a lot of seals laying around down there again, which is fun to try and spot. Now I know all the spots to look, so I seem to have eagle-vision to my guests. They're always like, "How did you SEE that???" Then I act like it was nothing.
We actually had a gloomy rainy day, but it didn't keep us down. We ventured forth.
Next stop, was the Penguin look-out spot called Roaring Bay next to the nuggets. This has to be my lucky spot because I have a 100% success rate in seeing a penguin within 5 minutes every time I've been, which is 3 times now. The first time was on my birthday and I was willing to give it 30 minutes, and it only took 5! The second time we walked up and there was a penguin just standing out there. And this time, we didn't have to work very hard either. And what I mean by that is we had to stand in a shelter out of the rain for about 5 minutes before a penguin popped up on shore and then the rain stopped so we went outside the shelter and observed it from behind a grassy knoll.
That white dot to the left of Lie's head is the penguin. This sighting was one of the two things Lie wanted to do in NZ. The other was zip-lining, which also happened, so her trip was a huge success, thanks in a big part to this little penguin.
This is a little blurry, but Lie felt like the penguin was actually running at her with his arms wide open, ready for an embrace. Imagine this in a dream sequence on TV in slow motion, and you'll pretty much know what Lie was experiencing at that moment. Maybe add a few hearts floating around in the air. Now you've got it.
Another pic of the Prized Penguin. You may recall they this is a rare type of penguin found only along the coast of Southern NZ.
In addition to being a great spot to find penguins, Roaring Bay is also just a really pretty spot.
I can see why the penguins live here.
So not only was it a great surprise for Evan and Lie to see the penguins, but the rain stopped at the same time and the sun came out, and you know what that means:
Yep. A rainbow formed over Roaring Bay to cement this memory into their minds forever.
Well, that was a tough act to follow.
I tried to get them excited about Pourakaunui Falls. I think they liked it, but there were no penguin-and-rainbow moments, so they were left a little unimpressed. Plus, Evan almost fell in the water. That would have probably made this my favorite stop of the day, but he was able to avoid the icy waters and remain dry...
And the last stop before heading home was the Cathedral Caves. I'd only been here once, and loved it. I had imagined returning with friends on a hot sunny day when we could bring a picnic, swim in the ocean, wander in and out of the caves leisurely, then move along when we felt like it. That didn't happen. It was pretty cold and windy that day, so we opted to not linger or bother carrying anything with us. It is quite a downhill walk to the beach where the cave is, which means it is a grunt of a walk back up. But the caves are worth every step of the walk, I think.
This is the beach you walk down to through the Beech Forest. As I said, it was pretty windy that day, so the sand was blowing around in a low layer along the ground, making everything look really really smooth.
Made it to the cave entrance. It is actually about 100 feet tall.
There are two entrances that lead to two halls that meet in a v-shape in the back of this. At high tide, the ground is covered in water. At low tide, you have about a 4 hour window where you can get in there.
the view from inside.
You still have to watch for rogue waves or you'll get wet feet!
I think you'll agree that we can put the Catlins down for another great use of a day in NZ.