The Catlins' main town is an ideal base for exploring the region. Ruggedly rocky Kaka Point is 24km east by road, while in the other direction lustrous waterfalls like Purakaunui are a short drive away. Languid Owaka township may be tiny but it has a top-quality museum and a supermarket and petrol station (no vain boast in these parts).
Four kilometres southeast of Owaka town is Pounawea, a beautiful hamlet on the edge of the Catlins River Estuary. Just across the inlet is Surat Bay, notable for the sea lions that lie around the beach between here and Cannibal Bay, an hour's beach-walk away.