Frequently Asked Questions

Things you need to know before visiting Cathedral Caves, Catlins

Where are the Cathedral Caves, Catlins, South Island?

Cathedral Caves are located in the Catlins, south of Tautuku just off the Southern Scenic Route, Catlins, New Zealand at the Northern end of Waipati beach. See the Google Maps location.

The Cathedral Caves carpark is at the end of a 2 km access road (an old logging road). From the carpark, there is a 30-minute walk in total. First is a 20-minute walk through natural podocarp and kamahi forest and then a 10-minute walk along the beach to the Northern end, where the caves appear in the cliffs. The forest walk has limited accessibility and is not suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs or buggies. As the track meanders through the forest for 980 metres downhill. At the south end of Waipati beach is Chaslands Head, the historic Catlins site of the shipwreck of The Otago.

We urge you to plan your visit well in advance and check the tide times well before, as cell phone reception in the area is intermittent.

How much does it cost?

It’s $5 per adult and $1 per child, there is no EFTPOS available so please bring cash.

There is a small window of time for visiting (usually just three hours) and travelling to the Whistling Frog to get out cash will significantly limit your viewing time.

The small charge is for use of the manned carpark, toilets, and access to the bush track, beach and caves. The carpark is manned, but we suggest you take any expensive personal belongings such as phones and cameras with you.

Is there wheelchair access to the Beach and Caves?

Unfortunately no. After the first 50 metres the bush track descends quite steeply in places with corners that would prove difficult for even motorised wheelchairs..

When can I visit the Cathedral Caves, Catlins?

The Caves are open for visiting between late October and May. Sometimes, spring tides delay the opening a few weeks.

Access is limited to one and a half hours before low tide and up to one hour after low tide. It is not available before 7.30am or after 8.30pm. Please refer to the tide timetables. Access is not available on Christmas Day.

You can see when the caves are open by visiting the homepage of our website or checking the tide times.

What are the Cathedral Caves, Catlins like?

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 accessed via a walk through the lush coastal native forest on Maori freehold land.

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 carpark. Be prepared to get your feet wet, as there can be water in the bottom of the cave. See reviews on Tripadvisor.

Protect our unique wildlife at Cathedral Caves

Cathedral Caves is a dog free environment. Do not disturb wildlife (such as sea lions and penguins) you see on the beach or in the Caves and do not pick shellfish/kaimoana from inside the caves, or plant life from in the native forest. If you see a sea lion, stay at least 10 metres away, find out more on the DOC website

School Groups at Cathedral Caves

We invite school groups to visit Cathedral Caves to learn about the unique geology, history and wildlife in the area first hand. School groups can arrange an invoice, just contact us to arrange payment options.

What to bring

Insect repellent is necessary sometimes. A torch (flashlight) will be useful for the dimly lit inner reaches. The caves are not open for visiting at night.

Be prepared to get your feet wet as there are often seawater pools forming in the sandy floor of the caves. Suitable footwear is recommended for walking on the forest track, but also consider bare feet or jandals/thongs when you reach the beach and caves.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather, the beach can be exposed, so bring a jacket and warm clothing. Wear sunscreen and don’t forget your camera.

 

 

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