Curio Bay

Curio Bay is located on the Catlins coast just 7kms from Waikawa. The area has a long history of Maori occupation and, as with the rest of the Catlins, was an important food source area for Maori. The area was later settled by European whalers and sealers in the 1850s and 1860s.

More recently, Curio Bay has become a popular holiday and day trip destination. There are only a small number of permanent residents’ homes dotted along the coastline, but the numbers swell in the summer season. There are a growing number of accommodation places available at Curio Bay from motels to backpackers, and also the Curio Bay Holiday Park which hosts the only shop in town.

Visiting or staying at Curio Bay is an idyllic way to spend time, whether you are relaxing on the beautiful sandy beach or swimming and surfing in the safe waters of Porpoise Bay. Take a walk to the Petrified Forest or settle down on the headlands of the Curio Bay Reserve for a picnic and watch the impressive waves crashing on the rocks.

Whatever you choose to do at Curio Bay, you will be surrounded by rare wildlife and spectacular scenery.

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Fortrose township, in the far south of the Catlins, sits at the mouth of the Mataura River, which was an early transport highway.

Fortrose has a history reflecting all the stages of European settlement – the short-lived whaling station, sawmills, the port where coastal shipping came and went, and farming which became and remains the key to the local economy.

The heyday of the village was in the early 1900s when it was a lively centre of blacksmithing, trade, and there were churches and a school. However, the railway bypassed Fortrose in 1911, the sea lane became impassable due to the sand bar at the Mataura River Mouth, the roads to larger towns were improved , and time attacked the deserted wooden buildings.

The rich history of Fortrose is well-documented in Joan MacIntosh’s 1976 book, "A History of Fortrose." Early pioneer names are still in the area. They are well-remembered by their descendants.

Fortrose looks empty now, but a lot of ghosts walk here! The cemetery is a great place to conjure up those ghosts, whether the day is grey or technicolour sapphire and turquoise…

Today’s local people and visitors enjoy the fishing, birdlife, boating, golf, walking the cliffs, the art gallery "Pukeko Alley," and when the wind cuts to the bone they can enjoy the outlook, warmth and conversation at the cafe/restaurant "Fortrose Cafe".

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Kaka Point

Kaka Point is a popular seaside village with a permanent population of about 300 people which is boosted by holidaymakers during summertime. Kaka Point is an adventure playground in an unspoiled natural environment. It offers a selection of recreational pursuits including surfing, fishing and kayaking. It also offers the more sedate activities of bush and beach walks, tennis, and swimming on a surf-patrolled beach during the months November to March.

Kaka Point is only 10 kilometres from the spectacular Nugget Point Lighthouse Wildlife Reserve (Tokata). This reserve is home to fur seals, New Zealand (Hooker’s) sea lions, elephant seals and yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), as well as a wide variety of seabirds.

This Northern Catlins coastal town has a variety of accommodation to suit all needs including backpackers, motels and bed and breakfast places, as well as a sheltered camping ground. Other amenities include a general store with postal facilities, restaurant and bar, public telephone, seaside picnic areas, changing sheds and toilets, children’s playgrounds, fire station, community hall, surf clubrooms and craft galleries.

Kaka Point - sun, sand and scenery!

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Mokoreta - Redan

Mokoreta – Redan is in the West Catlins accessed through the Catlins Forest Park from Waikawa on the Waikawa Valley Road. The first settlers in 1859 were John Anderson and his family who began the process of clearing bush and scrub to create what is today prosperous land for farming. Life was difficult and they found themselves very isolated and frequently harassed by droves of up to 40 wild pigs and also wild dogs. The last dog was killed at Wild Dog Corner on the Slopedown Range in 1870. In 1903 the Lower Wyndham run was cut into smaller blocks by town planners who drew up street maps of the intended township of Mokoreta. This was never completed, although a post office and a school were established which are no longer there. The small cemetery can still be found today.

Early farming practices included small scale dairy farming supplying the two milk processing factories, as well as several portable flax factories found behind Mt Egremont, further up the Mokoreta Valley, and also down the Redan Valley where a flax worker’s hut still remains today. Some timber was milled and local wood was processed to build the present houses of the area.

In the early days there were no roads in the valley and children attending Mokoreta School arrived either on horseback or by foot across paddocks. For a very long time access to the valley was by only one road from Waikawa up through the bush. It wasn’t until the mid 1950’s that the Redan-Mokoreta Road was extended to open the route from the ‘The Caddon” to Waikawa and Tahakopa. In the 1960’s the road to Clinton was also connected which started the beginning of tourism in the valley and cars began travelling the Redan Road to and from the coastal Catlins and Balclutha districts.

REDAN Valley of Farming and Flax milling From Bridge to Bridge - Redan District Book Committee, 1990, Craig Printing Co. Ltd
MOKORETA 1859-1959 History
THE McRae’s OF ‘BRAINTRA’ HOKONUI By Margaret Trotter

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Aerial view of Owaka - photo by Bill WiseOwaka’s first site was near the Owaka River on the road to Pounawea. The early settlers later moved a few kilometres inland to its present site to be near the railway which closed in 1971. Timber milling was the main industry in the Catlins in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sawmilling and agriculture brought many settlers to Owaka and its surrounding district.

Owaka is the service centre for the North Catlins area. It is 30kms from Balclutha and is the hub of sheep, beef, deer, dairying and forestry industries. Owaka has a population of 400 and provides a variety of services including the magnificent new Owaka Museum and Information Centre, the Owaka Memorial Community Centre, The Catlins Area School (which caters for students from 5-18 years), a supermarket, hotel, cafe/bar, garage, pharmacy, The Catlins Medical Centre, farming supplies shop, hairdresser, library, swimming pool, Owaka Playcentre, community and school gymnasium, rugby grounds and netball courts, Owaka Golf Club, Presbyterian, Anglican/Baptist and Brethren churches, Department of Conservation office, motels, backpacker ,bed and breakfast and homestay and farmstay accommodation. There is also accommodation and camping grounds at nearby Newhaven and Pounawea. Owaka has its own volunteer fire and ambulance services and search and rescue group.

Owaka is a very community-conscious town and it is a place where the local people pull together and support each other for the benefit of the district. Owaka is a great place to use as a base when exploring the Catlins.

Owaka - its name means "Place of the Canoe."

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Rich in natural and human history, Papatowai is a special place. Ancient rocks contain fossils from the age of the dinosaurs; old growth forest is home to 1000 year old trees; the estuary is a feeding The Lost Gypsy Gallery at Papatowaiground for many long-legged wading birds; and the rich sea is home to New Zealand sea lions, fur seals, penguins and many species of sea birds and fish. Maori people hunted and lived here for over 800 years and from the late 1800s an ever- widening number of people have enjoyed Papatowai’s landscape, fishing, swimming, sandy beach and forest walking tracks.

Papatowai township has a permanent population of about 30 people. This swells to more than 150 during holiday periods when people come to stay in their holiday houses (cribs). Amenities at Papatowai include the many walking tracks, motels, backpackers, self-catering cottages, general store, gallery, community fire station, playground, and a picnic area with toilets and an information panel.

Papatowai - where forest meets sea!

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Pounawea jetty

Pounawea is a quiet, seaside settlement 5 minutes drive from Owaka. It is a restful holiday destination and it sits between the estuaries of the Catlins and Owaka Rivers. It is a great place for fishing, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching (forest and sea birds), and for bush and estuary walks. The Pounawea Reserve behind the township contains many significant trees, and a walking track through the forest leads to an interesting salt marsh negotiable at low tide. There is also an easy estuary walk known as “The Elbow Track.” Pounawea offers visitors 2 motor camps and the Pounawea Convention Centre which caters for not only school and church groups, but also for private holidaymakers and those who require motel accommodation. The Pounawea Projects Group hosts a New Year’s Eve carnival and impressive fireworks display each year.

Pounawea – “The Meeting of the Waters.”

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Tokanui  was settled about 1883. It grew quickly to become a busy central service centre for the surrounding district and a main stop for the railway for more than 40 years (opened 1911 and closed 1966). Timber Tokanui and flax mills were booming industries in those years so the railway became a regular and reliable way of shifting their products. Other services in those times were a butchery, billiards saloon, post office, dairy factory, blacksmiths and wheelwrights, sale yards, general store, cake shop, forestry and transport carriers.

The Tokanui Maternity Home opened in 1955 and during “baby boom” times many present day residents were born there until its closure in 1976. The building is now utilised as a 7 day medical centre (Rural Nurse Specialist) with a visiting doctor from Balclutha as well as housing Plunket Rooms and a Toy Library.

The Tokanui township today has a population of 162 and remains a service centre for the South Catlins area. Services include a garage, dairy, tavern/bistro, accommodation, volunteer first response units (fire and ambulance), Medical Centre, public and RSA halls, recycling centre, 2 stock/cartage transport companies, Primary School, Playcentre, rugby and netball grounds and Presbyterian Church. The Tokanui Primary School and the Playcentre draw from larger areas of South Catlins than earlier years, and both have healthy rolls from a wide cross-section of backgrounds - but primarily sheep/beef farming families.

Visit Tokanui - an oasis for locals and tourists, and for that much-needed rest on your Catlins journey!

Tokanui - its name means “big rock” or "many rocks."

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The wharf at Waikawa harbour - photo by Gordon ThompsonWaikawa is a small, attractive settlement in South Catlins situated on Waikawa Harbour and in close proximity to Niagara, Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay. Hills surround the bay making a sheltered haven and peaceful retreat for those who enjoy water activities. Today the port is still partly in existence and pleasure boats and fishermen can be seen there together. A scattering of houses are situated near the harbour and others are nestled on the hillside. The nucleus of the township is the Domain and Public Hall, an historic church open for viewing, and the Waikawa Colonial Museum and Information Centre which is manned by volunteers. The Museum features stories of the original settlers and their way of life.

Waikawa was named by Maori who frequented the area in search of food. The sea provided the only access until roads were formed through the heavy bush. Waikawa’s earliest European settlers were the Haldane family who arrived in 1858 and built and operated a sawmill. Waikawa’s port was a busy one during the 1880s and up until the early 1920s when shipping ceased. The district supported whaling, gold mining, stone quarrying, flax milling, pastoral runholding and dairy farming. During the early 1900s the town boasted a hotel, grocery store, bakery, butcher, confectioner, bootmaker and a Post Office.

There is tourist accommodation at Waikawa, and a camping ground at Curio Bay. Local attractions include the fossilised forest at Curio Bay, surfing, fishing, the Waikawa Museum and wildlife viewing. The tidal beach is home to a variety of birdlife including godwits which visit annually. On a still, fine evening the reflections on the harbour make perfect photographic opportunities for visitors who now journey over an open, sealed road - a pleasant hour’s drive from Invercargill.

Waikawa – it means “dark or bitter water.”

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