The Catlins

Cathedral Caves, the Catlins

The walk to Cathedral Caves is one of the best experiences you can have in the Catlins, but you’ll have to time it right or risk disappointment. You can only visit Cathedral Caves at low tide (or two hours before high tide and one hour after it), and it is often closed during bad weather (and winter). The planning pays off though — these spectacular sea caves are some of the longest in the world and are located on a pristine beach.

Walking to Cathedral Caves

The track to the beach heads steadily downhill through thick forest. There aren’t any viewpoints along the way but it’s a nice walk. Obviously what goes down must come up, so there’s a bit of uphill walking on the way back up. Once at the beach follow the footprints (turn left) leading towards the caves. The walk along Waipati Beach takes around 10 minutes.

Walking to Cathedral Caves, the Catlins, New Zealand

Cathedral Caves

We had mistimed our visit the last few times we were in the Catlins, so it was nice to finally see the famous Cathedral Caves. The two caves are shaped like an upside down “V” — you can walk into the first one then continue out of the other. They are long and narrow and filled with sand (and probably water, if you happened to visit at high tide). It’s a great natural wonder to visit in the Catlins and it’s definitely worth shaping your visit to the region around the opening times (assuming it’s a nice day and the low tide time is convenient). There are plenty of places nearby to kill some time before Cathedral Caves opens, including Mclean Falls and Tautuku Beach.

The entrance to Cathedral Caves, the Catlins, New ZealandInside Cathedral Caves, the Catlins, New ZealandCathedral Caves, the Catlins, New Zealand

Cathedral Caves Information

  • It costs $5 per adult and $1 per child to visit Cathedral Caves. There will be someone at the car park to sell you tickets.
  • It takes around an hour to walk to the caves and back — there’s a bit of uphill walking required but it’s fairly easy.
  • You can find out the loose tide times online, but they also post the opening hours on a board at the turnoff (on the main road).
  • Access to the caves is only available from late October until May

Getting to Cathedral Caves

The short gravel road to the caves runs off the Chaslands Highway, the main road through the Catlins. It’s close to Florence Hill Lookout and Mclean Falls, two of the best places to see in the Catlins.

READ MORE: McLean Falls, the Catlins

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.

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