The Catlins – Home of Elephant Seals, Waterfalls and Kind People who Know How To Dance
Alex Mclean was an hard working, yet interesting man who loved music and dancing. Extremely generous to his family, donating a whole farm to a brother that had been badly injured during wartime. He lived a quiet rural life tending for his animals and farm during the day. At night he read and created exquisite handmade violins. He never married but cared for his sister who lived alone on an adjoining property. It was noted at his death that he was ” a kind man who danced a mean jig.”
So said the plaque dedicated to Alex McLean at the entry to the waterfall named for him, Mclean Falls, in the hinterland of the Catlins. PI knew I’d like the Catlins long before I went there or heard about Alex Mclean, but I didn’t know why. I knew the beaches were white sand, I knew it was south of Dunedin and North of Invercargill but that was all I knew. What we found was an unspoiled, beautiful, wild and windswept land, way off most tourist maps but well worth the little bit of effort to get there.
After leaving Queenstown we headed south to Invercargill, a large sprawling town at the bottom of the island. It reminded me of an old gold town, wide streets and impressive stone buildings, but it was obvious it’s heyday was long past. It took approximately two hours to make the trip to Invercargill but we chose to stop another half hour further further on at Bluff. Many of you may not have heard of Bluff or the famed Bluff Oyster, I hadn’t until I went to NZ the first time. Unfortunately I can’t tell you if they are as good as legend has it cause their season only runs for a brief few months from about late March and as it was mid February I was a little early.
We only had an overnight stay in the area but if you had the time could easily stay a longer stay. The beaches are great with some long stretches, perfect for walking and two lighthouses worth viewing. There are also lovely rainforest tracks leading to magical waterfalls and breath taking views.
At Papatowai Beach we even found a great vegetable garden in someones front yard with a sign offering free veggies to pick. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Elephant Seals on the beach, only this sign.
I fell in love with the Catlins and I think Alex Mclean as well (unfortunately he died in the 1940’s).
Off to Dunedin
* go to the antique shop in Bluff – really good value
* Stay at the McLean Falls Holiday Park