The Catlins

Jack’s Bay / Blowhole, the Catlins

The first thing you’ll notice when arriving at Jack’s Bay is the row of tiny baches (holiday homes) looking out over the ocean. It’s an idyllic spot for locals, but there are plenty of reasons for tourists to visit too, including the chance to spot wildlife and hike around the coast to see Jack’s Blowhole.

Sunrise at Jack’s Bay

We were staying at my mum’s bach close to Jack’s Bay the other day and awoke to colourful sky. We quickly gathered our things and rushed to the beach, making it just in time for a pretty awesome sunrise. I’m sure there are heaps of places to watch the sunrise in the Catlins (I really want to see a sunrise at Nugget Point), but Jack’s Bay is a great option.

Sunrise at Jack's Bay, the Catlins, New Zealand

The Beach

Beaches in the Catlins tend to be more about walking and wildlife spotting than relaxing under an umbrella and taking the occasional dip in the ocean. It gets pretty cold in this region and the water tends to be quite rough. Jack’s Bay is a fantastic place for a stroll though, with the cliffs at the far end of the beach giving it a dramatic feel.

Jack's Bay beach, the Catlins, New Zealand

Spotting sea lions and penguins at Jack’s Bay

A few months ago we were at Jack’s Bay and saw a group of sea lions relaxing on the beach. They drew a small crowd but didn’t seem fazed by the attention. After a while two babies woke up and started playing fighting, eventually waking up one of their angry elders. It was fascinating to watch — but remember not to get too close if you see them. Also be careful when walking around the sand dunes in this area — there could be a sea lion hiding in there!

Sea lions at Jack's Bay, the Catlins, New ZealandBaby sea lions at Jack's Bay, the Catlins, New Zealand

We also saw some yellow eyed penguins near Jack’s Bay (walking back from Jack’s Blowhole). They were a long way away and we could only get blurry photos, but it was nice to see them. You can see penguins at lots of places in the Catlins, but you’ll need to time it right (dusk is the best time) and have a bit of luck.

Walking to Jack’s Blowhole

The walk along the coast to Jack’s Blowhole is more impressive than the blowhole itself. It wasn’t exactly “blowing” when we visited, but it’s an impressive natural feature regardless. The walk takes around 45 minutes return and you’ll see some great coastal views along the way. There are a few hills to walk up but it’s suitable for most people. If you’re lucky you might even see some penguins.

Walking from Jack's Bay to Jack's Blowhole, the Catlins, New ZealandJack's Blowhole, Jack's Bay, the Catlins, New Zealand

Getting to Jack’s Bay

In Owaka you’ll see a sign for Jack’s Bay. It’s a bit of a detour from the main road but it’s well worth it. The well maintained gravel road skirts the Catlins Lake, where you’ll find plenty of bird life. Jack’s Bay is one of many stunning beaches in the Catlins — I’ll be writing about the rest of them in the coming months. There are also a few waterfalls in the region, including Matai Falls, McLean Falls and Purakaunui Falls.

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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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