Contrasting seascapes come together at a windswept headland that separates two of the most beautiful bays in this region packed with such things. To the north, the beautiful sandy curve of Porpoise Bay forms superb rolling breakers where Hector’s dolphins love to surf. To the south, the rocky wave-cut platform of Curio Bay is littered with the remains of a petrified forest, its fossilized Jurassic trees clearly visible at low tide. Over 170 million years ago, when most of New Zealand still lay beneath the sea, this would have been a broad, forested floodplain. Today, the seashore, composed of several layers of forest buried under blankets of volcanic mud and ash, is littered with fossilized tree stumps and fallen logs. Steps lead to a beach where, in places, you can even pick out ancient tree rings. Return at sunrise or just before dusk when up to a dozen yellow- eyed penguins stagger ashore to their burrows in the bushes at the back of Curio Bay. If you want to get in the surf, contact Catlins Surf (T03 246 8552, Wcatlins-surf, who rent boards, offer surfing lessons and give you a chance to try stand-up paddleboarding.

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