Waterfalls & caves – day 2 in the Catlins
Summer 12/13 roadie, day 8
We bid a fond farewell to Curio Bay and got stuck into our final day in the Catlins.
A short drive away, this small settlement contains a museum which also serves as an information centre. We mainly wanted find out if Cathedral Caves were open. These are coastal caves and accessibly only at a certain time of the day, and even then it’s not guaranteed – e.g. if conditions have been stormy. Which it had been.
Turns out the caves were closed. Rats.
We had a quick nosey around the museum, jammed full of local history, and some of the other local things before mooching off.
Not really worth a mention yet here I am. Supposedly, someone way back who had seen the real Niagara Falls thought that the modest rapids on the lower Waikawa River somewhat resembled on a tiny scale the iconic North American water feature. It didn’t stop there; the sign and mentions in tourist brochures followed. Embarrassing really!
Because we didn’t have to work in going to see the caves we shot off here for a look. A few kms drive in followed by a beautiful 20 min or so walk took us beside the fast flowing Tautuku River, brown because of the rain that had been falling in great volumes. This boded well for the waterfall which was running at full noise when we found it.
As we approached the turnoff to the Cathedral Caves we saw that they were in fact open. Fantastic news – and we were still in the ‘access window’ which is roughly an hour either side of low tide. Virtually all of the Catlins attractions are free of charge except a modest fee of $5 applies once you’ve driven up the old logging road to the carpark, as you have to cross private land to get to the caves.
About 15 minutes of the walk is another beautiful bush stroll (downhill, which means an uphill trudge on the return), then it’s 10 minutes along a stunning expansive golden sand beach.
There are two caves, 30 or so metres high, formed by the sea which eventually joined them together. They were named in the late 1800s because they reminded someone of a European cathedral.
The tricky part of getting to the caves is that the tide cuts off access. And even when we were there waves were being washed into the cave entry (it’s recommended you remove shoes and roll up your pants before heading in). I possess a mild fear of deep open water and these small waves were enough to give me a mild dose of the heebies.
But the caves are amazing. They’re not long by any means – you walk in a sort of U shape in one and out the other – but it’s so impressive to see what ol’ mother nature gets up to over time.
A small town we remember for two reasons. First, the outdoor teapot collection. Yes.
Second, the doll collection in the house next door. The sight of dolls staring out the window was enough to make us hurry on our way.
I didn’t say they were great reasons.
From here we went to our overnight destination, Nugget Point.