The Catlins is a natural area of forests and coastline in the far south-east of New Zealand's South Island, straddling Otago and Southland provinces. It's easily accessible from the cities of Dunedin (70 miles/110 km to the north) and Invercargill (80 miles/ 130 km to the west).
Driving to the Catlins is by far the easiest and most reliable way of getting there from elsewhere in New Zealand. You can stop where you like en route, and there are many points of interest both inland and on the coast.
The main (albeit very small) settlement of Owaka has been used as the destination point in the Catlins for distances and timings, but there are other worthwhile destinations, too, including Kaka Point, Waikawa, Tokanui, and Fortrose.
By Car, From Dunedin
Duration: 1.5 hours to Owaka
Take State Highway (SH) 1 out of Dunedin and keep going through the towns of Milton and Balclutha. The road is inland until after Owaka, when it gets close to the sea in places.
By Car, From Invercargill
Duration: 2 hours to Owaka
From Invercargill, take SH 1 east out of the city. This road travels north over the Catlins area. From Invercargill it's also possible to continue east from the highway at Edendale (instead of following the road north) to drive to the Catlins Forest Park, where the road ends, or to take other country roads to alternative destinations in the Catlins.
The Catlins doesn't have an airport, but both Dunedin and Invercargill Airports are close to the area. Dunedin is the larger airport, with frequent flights from other cities across New Zealand.
Very few services run in the Catlins area, although a couple of local services are more frequent in the summer months. Due to their irregularity, buses are not a very convenient way of getting to the Catlins.