The Catlins

Curio Bay, the Catlins

In a region so blessed with beautiful beaches it can be hard to decide which ones to visit. Curio Bay, towards the southern end of the stretch of coastline known as the Catlins, is special for a few reasons. The main one is that it’s a great place to see dolphins playing in the waves right by the beach. You can also get above the beach for some awesome views and there’s a petrified forest to explore. Throw in great surfing and a chance to see yellow-eyed penguins and you have easily one of the best beaches in the Catlins.

Things to Do at Curio Bay

See dolphins

We’ve been to Curio Bay twice and saw dolphins one of those times. It’s not guaranteed you’ll see them, but I reckon you’ve got a good chance. Whether you’ll get a good photo of one is another story — they are frustrating creatures to photograph! It seems like the best place to see them is at the main beach (close to the carpark after driving through the camping ground). I’m pretty sure there’s a sign pointing to “Porpoise Bay”.

Walk along the beach

The beach at Curio Bay is a long crescent shaped slice of white sand. It’s a beautiful beach and you can walk on it for ages.

Walk above the Beach

One of the best things to do at Curio Bay is walk along the small headland above Curio Bay. You’ll get a great view of the beach from above and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean look great on a sunny day.

Check out the petrified forest

Walk (or drive) a short distance from the beach and you’ll come to a petrified forest dating back 180 million years. It’s best seen at low tide, where you’ll walk among ancient fallen trees and if you go there close to sunset you might see a yellow-eyed penguin making its way home.

Camping at Curio Bay

The camping ground at Curio Bay is one of the better located places to camp in the Catlins. There’s a general store, a fish n chip shop and miles of sand to explore. If you’re continuing to Invercargill from the Catlins the next morning Curio Bay is a logical place to spend the night (assuming you’ve seen most of the things further north, as that’s where most of the best Catlins sights are).

Surfing at Curio Bay

I don’t surf, so I’m obviously no expert, but I’ve heard Curio Bay is a good place to surf. I remember studying in Invercargill for a few months (a long time ago!) and one of my classmates used to rave about the surf at Curio Bay.

Curio Bay Accommodation

It looks like Lazy Dolphin Lodge is one of the only hotels in Curio Bay, but you can also try Airbnb and Bookabatch for holiday rentals. There are also a few places to stay nearby, including the Whistling Frog and Historic Harbour House. All options seem reasonably cheap, or of course you could just camp!

Are you planning a trip to the Catlins? Which places will you visit? Let us know in the comments below!

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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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