We regret to inform visitors that access to the caves is temporarily closed due to a large waterhole inside the caves. Access will reopen as soon as sea conditions allow. Please check at the Balclutha, Owaka or Waikawa Information Centres or this website for the latest information.
Cathedral Caves are a highlight for visitors to The Catlins. Located in cliffs at the northern end of pristine Waipati Beach, they have attracted international interest for their length - the two sea-formed passages together measure just on 200 metres - and their impressive height, up to 30 metres.
Popular for decades, this outstanding natural feature is 15km south of the village of Papatowai and 2km off the highway. From the car
park a one-kilometre walking track descends through lush coastal forest to the beach. Visitors cross Maori freehold land, which is managed by a trust.
There is a small charge for the use of the car park and access to the bush track, beach and caves.
- The Caves are open for visiting between late October and May. Sometimes spring tides delay the opening a few weeks.
- Access is limited to two hours either side of low tide and is not available before 7.30am or after 8.30pm. Please refer to the tide timetables.
- The walk one-way takes about 30 minutes. Do not disturb wildlife ( sea lions, penguins) you see on the beach or in the Caves.
- Be prepared to get your feet wet as there are often seawater pools forming in the sandy floor of the caves.
- A torch (flashlight) will be useful for the dimly lit inner reaches. The caves are not open for visiting at night.
- A few smaller caves are located further along the cliffs but visitors should be wary of incoming tides and getting cut off. There is no alternative track back to the car park.
- Insect repellent is necessary sometimes.
NB: Tide predictions are compiled for standard barometric pressure and are specific to this area.
Access to the Cathedral Caves is possible only at low tide. Here you will find at list of the low tide times that occur during daylight hours suitable for viewing the caves.View times
- Dog free enviroment to look after the wildlife
- Secure carpark
- $5 per adult and $1 per child
- No EFT-POS available