Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cathedral Caves, Catlins

After a week of relaxing & exploring the bottom end of the Catlins we reluctantly pulled out of Weir Beach Reserve and headed north about 50kms so we could explore the central area of the coast & especially the Cathedral Caves. We stayed at the McLeans Falls Holiday Park which is located within the Catlins Forest Park & just a couple of hundred metres away from the Caves. The best part about McLeans was the Whistling Frog CafĂ© where I could purchase freshly baked bread each morning. The holiday park itself was nice enough, we just hate parking on gravel; it feels like you're living in a carpark so after two nights & two full on days we were ready to move on.

Here we are leaving Weir Beach, I think the cattle thought it was feed out time or they were just a bunch of nosey cows as they came racing over the rise to see what on earth was passing by!


The Cathedral Caves are only accessible two hours either side of low tide, a locked gate bars access at all other times. They are managed by the South Island Maori tribe, Ngai Tahu and there is a $5 charge per person to visit. In our travels & during my research I have come across obvious undercurrents from some people who object to paying this to visit what is essentially a natural phenomenon & located on a public beach.

What they fail to recognise is that to get there (other than by your own boat) there's a 2km drive through native bush to a parking area then a steep kilometre walk down a well formed track to the beach. Both the road & track are well maintained and they make it possible for people of all ages & fitness to visit the caves. In my opinion a $5 fee is well worth it & in fact could have been more & we still would have made the pilgrimage.

The path winds its way down through thick native bush & although you can hear the waves you don't get your first glimpse of the sea until very near the bottom.




Then it's just a short walk across the sand to the caves which are located on the first point.


The first sight of them is pretty impressive, they are huge.  Originally there were two caves which have since joined to form one, both entrances are on this side. The total passage length is 199 metres and the cave is one of the 30 longest known sea caves in the world.


The caves were formed in Jurassic sandstone about 160 million years ago. This is the West Entrance.


The obligatory silhouette shots- the West Entrance



The East Entrance


Exiting the East Entrance


We had good weather & a calm sea when we visited but I couldn't help but think what great photos I could have taken if the waves were crashing in.


The long walk home.....


...up a fairly steep hill back through the wind sculptured bush.


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