Thursday, 23 January 2014

Slope Point & Weir Beach, Catlins

We called around to the family to say our goodbyes and at long last said farewell to Invercargill and headed back on up the coast towards the Catlins, we stopped in for a coffee at the farm and then waved them goodbye too. "At last" we said, "We're now on our adventure proper" 

Since leaving Tauranga we have been travelling to visit family in Hawkes Bay & then onto Invercargill to be with family for Christmas. We've taken our time & enjoyed the journey but we've always had in mind that we need to be somewhere soon. Now we are free & easy, we can do anything we choose, we can stay for as long or as short as we want. We only have ourselves to consider. Famous last words.

This time we were able to stop as we passed over the Mataura River so I could get some shots of the dozens & dozens of little ramshackle huts & whitebait stands that line both sides of the river. The photos don't do it justice, but you can see that river twists and turns quite a number of times by the position of the huts along its banks.  The huts stretch way back into the background here and there are also dozens more huts further up river for a good few kilometres.

Once through Fortrose at the southern end of the Catlins coast we were back onto a gravel road travelling through mainly sheep farming country.

I wondered about the story behind this road's name. Imagine if you lived on it, explaining it every time you gave it out. How many would believe you too.

Not too far along we then turned into Slope Point Road. We were headed for a site, Weir Beach Reserve, on the edge of an estuary that allows CSC (certified self-contained) vehicles to freedom camp. And what a great spot it is, a large grassy area with a single toilet (a contained long drop) and a small water tank with a continuous supply of crystal clear spring water.

The site is located beside a huge estuary that drains out into Haldane Bay, it really is huge and very shallow, at low tide it is one great mud (in the upper reaches) & sand mass. It's hard to imagine that so much water flows through the very small entrance out into the bay. This is just the bottom end of the estuary looking towards the mouth. 

It's a great area for exploring & bird watching; there are dozens of Royal Spoonbills. They are becoming a bit too common now that we've seen so many! Unlike up north when there are just a few dotted here and there.

There were 3 other lots of campers here but the best spot was still vacant so we were thrilled to finally set up the fifth-wheeler bum into the wind (for when it returns, which it will) instead of broadside as we have been at the camping ground in Invercargill. The day had started out overcast but the cloud cover burnt off and by early afternoon it was a brilliant sunny day with not a murmur of a breeze. At last, we'd found the sun.

I bet you thought the Bluff was the southernmost point in the South Island. Well it's not; it's Slope Point an isolated & windswept site overlooking the Southern Pacific Ocean & the eastern side of Foveaux Strait. Slope Point is 7 kilometres further south than Bluff and is just up the road from where we have set up camp.

This fabulous view of Haldane Bay is looking north from the top of the hill behind the estuary which you can't see as it's tucked out of sight behind the greenery at the middle left foreground. The expanse of deep blue water you see just above it is called The Reservoir, a manmade coastal lake tucked into the rolling farmland. Curio Bay is further behind. I love the thistle foreground and the sheep in the middle. Along with the surf beach, it's quintessential New Zealand!

Later in the afternoon we drove out to the end of the road before returning to walk down to Slope Point. It was getting late in the day otherwise we would have given the sandy track at the end a go. I had visions of getting stuck & having to spend the night out here or having a very long walk home.

Up on the exposed cliffs the wind was whipping straight through us, the sea was wild and the waves huge as the tide pounded them onto the rocks. Most visitors to this area would pull in at the walk to Slope Point, if they drove a little further on they would find this huge sea cave tucked in beside a narrow canyon.

We could not get too close to the cliff edge here as the covering tussock was flat and slippery! One miss step and I'd have been on my bum and over the edge!  I felt a bit safer taking this shot further down the edge as there was a bit of height between me & the edge. I love how the hebes are growing thick & wild here & in their right environment! Another expensive plant from the garden shop.

Looking back towards Slope Point; it obviously got it's name from the gentle slope down to the edge. A tiny white dot on the point is the marker, you can also see a few cars parked on the road at the top left, this is where you walk from across private land. The walk is closed during the lambing season

Following the pilgrimage down to the Point.

The plants around Slope Point itself were quite unusual, a mix of spongy groundcover & tiny silver tussock grass (sold for around $5 a small plug at the garden centre back home) The ground cover, which I had growing in my garden in Tauranga, has tiny little white flowers. The exposed dirt & rock was smooth and rounded probably from all the salt spray & wind. And that would be a tarn if it was in the mountains.

You don't get a sense of scale here, but these are big cliffs & quite scary to be near, the noise was terrific as the waves crashed and thundered onto the rocks below.

You can tell that it's a harsh environment in this area, the trees grow at a 45 degree angle.

Underneath and on the off side of most of these macrocarpa shelterbelts which dot the landscape, are the remains of old homesteads (you can just see the roof edge here); the trees were planted to provide shelter for the early settler's  homes.

This scene reminds me of the megalithic stone passage tombs we saw in Ireland.

Haymaking; the grass has been cut and then turned by a tedder to dry, it is now ready for the baler to come along. The baler arrived just as we passed and by the time we returned the paddock was dotted with big green hay bales.


  1. Shellie,
    You have brought back fond memories of our trip to the Catlins and especially Slope Point. We did not know about the reserve at Weir Rd as we did Slope Point as a day trip from Owaka.


    1. Thanks for your comment Jenny & Robin, I'm glad you're enjoying our Catlin travels, it is a wonderful place & we still have much to explore. Weir Beach Reserve is a jewel in the crown of camping areas in this part of the world. A great find & obviously not as well known as you would think, just a few locals & others in the know each night. We don't want to leave but if we keep this up everytime we find a great spot, it'll take forever to get around the Sth Island!

  2. Great blog - and especially as we intend to take a week from our home in Central Otago and visit Catlins. It looks wonderful, and good to know about the quiet SC areas. Looking forward to seeing it for ourselves.


  3. Thank you for these photos!! As a child I went fishing at Slope point often. I haven't been fishing there for over thirty years, but the place looks just the same. We used to fish off the small rock formation to the right of the white lighthouse. That was called Sea lion rock. There was also a fishing spot we fished off that you have captured very well in the photo above the windswept trees. We dubbed that The Armchair, as it had a wee shelf that we could sit in as kids to keep out of the wind while Dad fished. It certainly brings back memories of the trek across the paddocks, in those days with cows, to catch a blue cod or parrot fish for our tea!!

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed reminiscing. The Catlins is certainly a very special area, we're back here again at the moment and I hope we can revisit Slope Point and Weir Beach again. Blue cod for tea- awesome! :)


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