YHA Catlins Thomas’s Lodge is the gateway to some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery. The Catlins is renowned for its beauty and a couple of days in this deserted paradise will refresh your spirits. The hostel itself is based in the tiny town of Owaka, which has one bar, a supermarket and is only ten minutes drive from the nearest surf break.
When my partner (Felipe) and I arrived at our lodgings, the first thing that struck us was the sheer size of the place. With its wide corridors and sky scraping ceilings, there was more than enough room to swing a cat or ten. To my utter delight, the first thing I found was a huge games room with a pool table and darts board.
In fact, I was extremely impressed with all of the facilities: a huge well equipped kitchen, internet facilities and a warren of chill out areas, all of which can be used by guests who choose to stay at Thomas’s camping grounds. What impressed me most though was the cleanliness of the place. Not a hair could be found in the bathroom sink or a squashed pea on the kitchen floor. It was immaculate!
Whilst bus trips can be arranged, having your own transport (preferably a 4WD) will help you get the best out of your trip to the Catlins. This gives you the freedom to explore the whole region at your own chilled out pace.
We spent the first night relaxing then arose early and drove to Kaka Point where a refreshing stretch of beach helped to blow away the morning cobwebs. We followed this with one of the many bushwalks, making sure that we sucked up as much of the fresh woody air as possible.
The next part of our trip took us to Nugget Point where outlying rocks are home to seals and penguins. We stood at the 1896 lighthouse and strained our eyes, trying to find life. We managed to spot a few moving black blobs, which I’m sure were sea-lion pups.
That night, we cracked open a bottle of wine and sat chatting with the friendly owner, Craig. Somewhere in the conversation, he decided to inform us that the Lodge was once a hospital. Immediately the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and of course I couldn’t help but ask if there were any ghosts. “Well, I’ve had a few taps on my shoulder” the owner laughed.
By the time we reached the Purakaunui falls, Felipe was still adamant that he wasn’t joking. I guess I’ll never know if the ghost was real or just his idea of a ‘joke’, but what I do know is that the Catlins is one of the most beautiful spots I have visited in New Zealand. Two days is essential and more would be heaven. Of course the Lodge comes highly recommended. Just make sure you take your ghost-buster gun!
YHA Catlins Thomas’ Lodge can be booked at http://www.yha.co.nz/ or by calling 0800 278 299.