Stop #21: Kaka Point

Number of nights: 1
Distance: 252 KM (4,909 KM Total)

This area of New Zealand is known as “The Catlins”, a rugged stretch of coastline full of waterfalls, caves, petrified forests, and museum of curios automata. We even had some rare beautiful weather to explore all these incredible sites. The only thing we didn’t have was time: we only had a few weeks left so our single night at Kaka Point was not nearly enough to fully enjoy the area.

The Petrified Forest at Curio Bay. What you see is an old tree trunk. So old, in fact, that it has turned to stone.


Here’s a closeup of one of the petrified trees. Looking at it made me realize how little I know about geology. I mean, how long does it take for a tree to turn to stone?
We enjoyed watching some waves crash violently against the cliffs.
McLean Falls, one of the many waterfalls we stopped to photograph while in the Catlins.
This is further up McLean Falls.
On the way to our campsite at Kaka Point, we took a side road near the town of Owaka. This brought us high above (but still close) to the beautiful coastline, where stopped to take this photograph.
The following morning we doubled-back to see Cathedral Cave, which was only open during low-tide. Unlike most of the parks and beaches in New Zealand, the cave was located on private land. Because of this, we had to pay an entrance fee to a local in the parking lot.
All across the lower sections of the walls of the cave were billions of blistering barnacles!


The cave was massive. Like a cathedral.
The beach that the cave looked out onto stretched well into the distance, leaving plenty of room to meander.



The Lost Gypsy Gallery

In the tiny town of Papatowai was one of my favorite sights of the entire trip: The Lost Gypsy Gallery. It has been one of hard things to describe to people after coming back, as you can only know what it’s about after you’ve seen it.

It’s a art museum whose works all consist of interactive “automata”. In other words, most of the art has a little crank or button which, when activated will bring the piece into motion, usually with funny or ironic consequences. Check out the official website at to see some of the examples in action.

I can imagine how kids could really wreak havoc with some of these installations, hence the big warning message at the front.
In front there was an old bus full of tiny little objects to interact with. There was also a toy train that would circle around the perimeter, triggering various automata as it went by.
This was the mad inventor’s workshop. His name is Blair Somerville, and we had the privilege of who hanging out with him afterwards.
Probably the single largest piece in the museum, everything in this room was connected to a key on a keyboard. So, depending on what you pressed, something in the room would ring, blink or rattle. Our favorite was the “Elvis Lives” apparatus in the middle, which would switch between the two words as it rotated.
Purakaunui Falls. I hate to say it, but after so many waterfalls, it’s hard to come up with a unique superlative for each one. Don’t get me wrong: they’re all very nice and will never tire of them, it’s just that I can see your eyes glazing over from looking at too many of them. Okay, this is the last one. I promise.
Nugget Point lighthouse. I guess you could call it New Zealand’s Twelve Apostles. Even though it’s one of the higher-trafficked tourist sights, the coastal path leading up to the lighthouse offered gorgeous views of the surrounding coastline.
It was named Nugget Point by Captain Cook because they looked like pieces of gold, or at least that’s what the tourist brochure said. You’ll have to decide for yourself.