Florence Hill Lookout and Tautuku Bay, the Catlins
For an area so packed with wonderful beaches and coastal features, there aren’t many places in the Catlins where you can pull over and bask in the view. Florence Hill Lookout is one spot where you can do just that. The view over Tautuku Bay is special, but it’s also worth heading down to sea level for a walk along one of the best beaches in the Catlins. There’s also a nice little forest walk to Lake Wilkie, where you’ll get some cool reflections (on a nice day).
Florence Hill Lookout
I’d rank Florence Hill Lookout as one of the top 10 coastal viewpoints in New Zealand, so if you’re anything like me you won’t want to miss it. We’ve been there about five times now and it always looks a little different, depending on the tide, weather and time of day. It’s at its best in the late morning, but just before sunset is also a good time. The wide, horseshoe shaped bay features white sand and wavy blue water and is backed by wind-bent trees. Florence Hill Lookout is basically a car park by the side of the main road through the Catlins, so you don’t have to do any walking. Last time we were there we saw a couple frying up some breakfast outside their van — I can’t think of many more scenic places to eat a meal!
Tautuku is a slightly windswept stretch of white sand. At the end closest to Florence Hill you can climb around the rocks — I’m pretty sure there’s a cave around there somewhere but the rising tide halted our progress. You can drive right onto the beach (probably best in a 4wd though) or walk a short distance from the car park — it’d take ages to walk the full length of Tautuku Bay but it’s worth seeing at least a little bit of it.
At the far end of Tautuku Bay you’ll find a boardwalk over the tussocks. This area is a salt marsh and is home to a variety of birds.
Lake Wilkie is roughly half way along Tautuku Bay. You can walk there in around 20 minutes (return) — the track takes you through the forest to a viewpoint and then down to a boardwalk by the lake. The surrounding vegetation vividly reflects in the tiny lake — it’s a great little walk if you have the time.
Getting to Florence Hill Lookout /Tautuku Bay
Florence Hill Lookout is located along the Chaslands Highway, between Pounawea and Cathedral Caves. The road through the Catlins goes through plenty of twists and turns — bring motion sickness pills if you need them! There is a lot to see in the Catlins, including surreal coastal viewpoints, waterfalls and some excellent beaches. You can see a lot on a day trip from Dunedin but you’ll need to spend at least a couple of days there to see it all.
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