Still in the Catlins on the southeast tip of the South Island, we visited the Cathedral Caves, a couple of beach caves that connect about fifty meters deep into the caves. They’re only accessible around low-tide — and we still managed to be wading ankle-deep a couple times.
There was a gorgeous hike through the rainforest-y bush to get to the caves — in a place with a climate not too different than, say, Oregon or Scotland, the plant life was a world apart.
Jetting back over to State Highway 1, which we’ve followed south for almost its full length (from the northernmost point of Cape Reinga on the North Island to Wellington, then picking up again on the South Island), we made it to Bluff, the highway’s southernmost point at the ocean’s edge.
After deeming our suitcases insufficiently buoyant to carry us home, we then began our route up the west coast. We camped for a couple of nights in Clifden, with a view of an old suspension bridge over the Waiau River. The spot was a good base from which to visit the lakeside towns of Manapouri and Te Anau in the Southern Alps, and with a surrounding population smaller than most DC apartment buildings, it was also a stunning and incredibly dark spot for stargazing.
The highlight of our visit to Te Anau, which sits on the edge of the Fiordland National Park, was a seaplane ride over the surrounding mountains and lakes that took off from the surface of Lake Te Anau. It was our first (though not to be our last) glimpse of the peaks and untouched wilderness of Fiordland, and it was pretty awesome.