Cathedral Caves

Useful Information

Looking out of one of the Cathedral Caves, in the Catlins, New Zealand. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license version 2.5. Author: Avenue.
Location: On the Catlins Coast, southern coast of South Island. Between Fortrose and Owaka, 5 km from Tautuku, just off the Southern Scenic Route. At the northern end of Waipati beach, south of Tautuku. 2 km access road with car park. 45 min walk.
Open: All year daily 7:30-20:30.
During low tide only.
Fee: Caves: free.
Road track user fee: Adults NZD 5, Children NZD 1.
Classification: Speleologysea cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:
Address: Cathedral Caves, Tautuku Block X Section 3C Trust, Catlins, South Otago, South Island, New Zealand
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Cathedral Caves are one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Catlins Coast. There is a series of sea caves with two main caves joining together within the cliff. One cave has a 30 m high ceiling. In western cave, on the west wall at the rear is a petroglyph of a fish inscribed at head height.

The caves are reached from the Southern Scenic Route on a 2 km access road. The gates here are closed during times of high tide, during the night and weather dependend. The caves are absolutely harmless during low water and fine weather, its just walking in on level sand. But during high tide the caves are filled with water and during storms they become extremely dangerous.

The land above the cave is owned by Maori locals, managed by a trust, which opens and closes the gates. They charge a marginal fee for maintaining the paths. To reach the cave it is necessary to walk some distance The trail goes down through a belt of rainforest with tree ferns, maidenhairs, pepper trees, and bottlebrush growing on the rich volcanic soils. Then the path crosses Waipati Beach. The caves are at the north end of the bay. When planning the trip be aware that you have to walk back uphill.

When visiting the caves, we would also suggest to visit the Fossil Forest at Curio Bay. This one of the world's best-preserved fossilised forests. Conifers from the Jurassic (180Ma) were covered by ash and lava and fossilzed. Now they are freed from their resting place by erosion.