Driving from Christchurch to Bluff you go through some astounding landscapes, and some truly boring ones. We have decided to take two days of it, and after staying in Dunedin we head off on the coastal scenic route through the Catlins. I have never been before, and this is a recce trip with a view to a longer stay some time. We were not disappointed, we will be back.
Driving south from Christchurch across the seemingly interminable Canterbury Plains is boring to say the least. The only good thing i can say about it is that every 5km there is a passing lane. If you are not pushed for tme – take the inland route. Basically Timaru is the first hill you come to. A brief stop at the Temuka Pottery shop (always worth a stop), then through to Oamaru, a town we love. However instead of stopping there, we stopped a few kilometre earlier at Riverstone.
Riverstone Kitchen, Oamaru
There is nothing on the main road that says “Stop here”. But we did – and WOW. A beautiful row of older style frontages houses interesting shops for browsing, in the background a full blown CASTLE built of white Oamaru stone – the creation (might I say folly?) of Dot and Neil Smith. Surrounded by a lake and set on the Smith’s dairy farm behind Riverstone Kitchen.
At Riverstone Kitchen you can sit down to a sumptuous restaurant meal or you can get a takeaway version and it in the amazing gardens that surround the restaurant – much of the food served is grown there. Highly Recommended
The Catlins, Southland
After a night in Dunedin, we get up early to take the coastal detour instead of the main road south which takes us through the magical landscape of the Catlins. It is somewhere I have never been before and our drive today is to suss it out with a view to coming back and staying for a longer time.
It is amazing we will definitely be back – I am thinking one week minimum.
Papatowai literally means where the forest meets the sea. It is one of the few places in New Zealand where the forest still touches the sea. When we come back this is definitely one of the campgrounds to stay in. Cathedral cove is a must stop $10pp to local iwi to walk through native bush and through this magnificent ocean cave
Definitely worth a stop for a coffee, this whimsical creation in the settlement of Papatowai is the work of New Zealand artist Blair Somerville. $7 gets you into the full experience, a free snapshot is in the gallery. We did not do it, which was a mistake I think – next time definitely. It is only open in summer, and never on a Wednesday.
Papatowai seems a good base to stay for a few days – good campground and shop – next time definitely.
This is also a must stop – 15km south of the village of Papatowai and 2km off the highway for a small fee ($10/adult) visitors are invited to park securely and cross Maori freehold land, down a 1 km walking track through lush coastal forest to the beach.
Worth a mention – Niagara Falls Cafe – great local welcome at this café which has a lovely outside area to sit in. Great pies
We are just passing through on our way to Stewart Island, but it is probably worth coming back and exploring more – I spot a great looking cycleway from Invercargill to Bluff which looks worth a try.