Follow the sun
A couple of weeks ago, when the weather forecast for Invercargill was lousy, we decided to pack up the motorhome and follow the sun for a few days. Perhaps saying follow the sun isn’t exactly correct as very few places south of Dunedin were expecting sunny spring weather, but at least we could head for somewhere less cold and damp than home.
We headed out of Invercargill along the Southern Scenic Route towards Fortrose, with out sights set on Hinahina Reserve near Owaka. Turning off at Fortrose we followed the lesser-travelled inland route to Curio Bay, then up to Waikawa and Niagara, before turning off onto the Chaslands Highway. I say lesser-travelled but the number of motorhomes on the road was quite surprising.
Instead of driving all the way into Owaka and then doubling back across the bridge over the Catlins River, we took the road down the southern side of Catlins Lake to Hinahina Reserve. Unfortunately we overshot the turn off to the reserve which is signposted only with a sign that says Yacht Club, so had to double back a couple of kilometres. We couldn’t have doubled back from Owaka and crossed the bridge anyway as it is closed for work on the approaches.
It turns out that Hinahina Reserve, home to the Owaka Yacht Club (hence the sign…) and the Catlins Boating Club is a lovely quiet spot, right on the waters edge. Be warned however that there are no facilities there – no shower, no toilets, no rubbish bins – so it is only suitable for self contained vehicles. If you stay you are asked to drop a gold coin donation in the drop box at the reserve entrance.
Also, if you have dogs, as we did, you need to make sure they are under control as there is stock in the paddocks alongside the reserve. In fact we received a visit from the local farmer who politely requested that we made sure that we kept the dogs under control because his ewes were lambing just over the fence.
Being the first motorhomers there, we had our choice of overnight spot and opted to park right on the water’s edge.
Just a few metres away from the yacht club building is the clubhouse for the Catlins Boating Club, although it is hard to tell when it was last used, as a noticeboard outside had details about the postponement of a fishing contest till January 2014!
We did get to follow the sun as we were presented with a beautiful sunrise in the morning before heading off to try to follow the sun further north.
Next stop was Toko Mouth. We headed back out to the main road through Owaka, then up to Balclutha, and took a right turn at Milton which lead us over about 15 kilometres of dusty, bumpy gravel road out to the coast. We pulled into the Toko Mouth Domain for our next overnight. A donation to stay on the domain is appreciated.
I got chatting with one of the locals who introduced himself as Colin 2. He’s Colin 2 he explained because Colin 1 visits from Gore regularly. Colin 2 told me that Toko Mouth has about 25 to 30 permanent residents, and at any one time – apart from the peak summer holiday months – at least half the cribs in the settlement are empty. He sort of rejoiced in the fact that there were no million-dollar holiday homes in the settlement yet, and that had allowed Toko Mouth to retain it’s old seaside charm.
It’s a pity but the beach there, while beautiful, is not suitable for swimming. And by the way – there isn’t a single shop at Toko Mouth so if you want it, take it with you when you go there.
You can’t say that the wee town doesn’t have character as shown by these images.
Interesting that the contact number is a cell phone as there is very patchy cell phone coverage at Toko Mouth.
Finding our next overnight stop was a bit of a botch-up really. We went out to Tairei Mouth from Waihola intending to stay one night there.But there were no freedom camping spots that we could find. So we drove up the coast towards Dunedin intending to stop at Ocean View. Unfortunately this parking area was only metres from the busy road – not ideal with trheee dogs – and besides we were expected to leave by 8.30am, and that wasn’t going to happen! So on we went to Ocean Grove – only to discover that there appeared to be no parking there either. So we dropped down off the hill onto the Otago Harbour side of the peninsula and headed for the Harwood Domain at Harrington Point.
Like Hinahina Reserve this spot had absolutely no facilities, but what a lovely quiet peaceful place we found tucked in down the back of the domain. Just sneak in around the back of Scott Hall – there is plenty of room for quite a few vans.
We spent two lovely relaxing nights at Harwood Domain before deciding it was time to think about heading home. We quite liked the look of Outram Glen in the camping directory we had so headed there. What a disappointment. It was nothing more than a muddy, puddled, potholed track a few metres above the Tairei River, with no level parking and very little room to turn around either. The river itself was lovely and we let the dogs swim for a while while we had lunch, then drove back towards Mosgiel and found Puddle Alley.
A couple of hundred metres on the Dunedin side of the Invermay Research Station, Puddle Alley is just a slightly-larger-then-usual picnic/rest area, but quite nice, being beside Silver Stream. Unfortunately it was a dogs-on-leash are with the road only a few metres away. Having said that we enjoyed our overnight stay there.
So where to next? I guess it may well depend on where the sun is.