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Curio Bay Accommodation: 5 Best Places To Stay | The Catlins, New Zealand

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Last Updated On 15th April 2024 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

Home » Blog » Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » The Catlins » Curio Bay Accommodation: 5 Best Places To Stay | The Catlins, New Zealand

This post is a guide to the best accommodation and places to stay in Curio Bay, located along the Catlins coast in the South Island, New Zealand.

Nestled along the stunning coastline of New Zealand’s Catlins region lies the enchanting Curio Bay, a destination filled with natural wonders and fascinating history.

Curio Bay is one of the most popular destinations along the Catlins coast, yet it has the vibes of a hidden gem off the beaten path. My visit to Curio Bay was one of my most memorable experiences from my adventures in New Zealand and I am glad that I stayed in the region for a few days to explore all that is on offer.

Curio Bay has something for everyone, from nature enthusiasts, beach lovers, or those simply seeking to get away from it all. Whether you’re planning a solo adventure, a romantic getaway, or a family holiday to Curio Bay, finding the perfect place to stay is essential to ensuring a memorable experience.

In this guide, we will take a look at the top accommodations in Curio Bay, that suit diverse needs, preferences and budgets. From campsites to apartments, each Curio Bay accommodation offers a memorable stay in this gorgeous coastal gem.

So, let’s dive in and discover the best accommodation options for your unforgettable escape to Curio Bay in the Catlins.

Curio Bay Accommodation: Top 5 Places To Stay | The Catlins, New Zealand

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1. Curio Bay Camping Ground – Tumu Toka CurioScape

Best Curio Bay Accommodation For Campers

Curio Bay Camping Ground Overview

  • Location: 590 Waikawa-Curio Bay Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Private Campground
  • Accommodation options available: Powered and Non-Powered sites for tents and campervans
  • Budget & Cost: $ – Rates from $45 – $55 per night.
  • Facilities: Amenities block with kitchen, toilets, showers, bins, laundry, drinking water, cafe and shop, surf school
  • Dogs allowed?: No, due to wildlife
  • Booking: Book in advance – Visit the Curio Bay Camping Ground website

If you’re visiting Curio Bay with a campervan or tent camping, the best accommodation is the Curio Bay Camping Ground. The site is also known as Tumu Toka Curio Scape.

This large campsite is situated right by the beach. It is in the perfect spot to visit Curio Bay’s best attractions.

Best Things To Do At Curio Bay Campsite

You can view the rare Hector’s dolphins swimming in Porpoise Bay while sitting in your tent or campervan! The beautiful Porpoise Bay beach is perfect for swimming and body boarding. The dolphins may come up to you while you are in the water. If this happens, don’t touch them but enjoy the experience. This is a rare spot where you can swim alongside dolphins in the wild for free. This happened to me during my visit to Curio Bay and I was exhilarated by the whole experience!

fiachra swimming with a hector's dolphin riding a wave
Fiachra in Porpoise Bay with a Hector’s Dolphin riding on a wave – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
petrified forest viewing platform at curio bay in the catlins new zealand
Petrified Forest at Curio Bay – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

A short walk from the campsite will lead you to the Petrified Forest, an ancient fossilised forest. You can see fossilised trees on the beach at low tide from a viewing platform. I found it interesting to see fossilised trees at Curio Bay as it was something I had never experienced before.

Across the road is the Living Forest which is the counterpart to the Petrified Forest. It shows how the Petrified Forest may have looked many years ago. Along the walkway are interpretive signs. I had a great experience walking in the Living Forest and enjoyed the trees and birdlife.

Curio Bay is also a yellow-eyed penguin nesting site. You can take a walk from the campsite to the lookouts and wait to see the penguins coming in from the beach and waddling along the beach to their nests. I was not lucky enough to see a yellow-eyed penguin during my visit to Curio Bay but you could be!

yellow eyed penguin colony viewpoint at the catlins, new zealand
Yellow-Eyed Penguin viewing area at Curio Bay in The Catlins, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Curio Bay Campground Rates & Facilities

There are powered and unpowered sites available at Curio Bay Camping Ground. Rates are between $45 – $55 per night. There are vehicle and tent sites available.

A communal amenities block has a kitchen, toilets, bins, and laundry facilities. There is drinking water available at the campsite.

No dogs are allowed at Curio Bay Camping Ground due to nesting penguins.

The Curio Scape Cafe is located near the reception. It is open 9 am – 6.30 pm for breakfast, lunch, cabinet food and drinks. There is also a shop selling souvenirs.

Catlins Surf is a surf school located near the campsite by the beach. They offer equipment hire and surf lessons between October and April.

2. Curio Bay Accommodation

Best Curio Bay Accommodation For Couples

Curio Bay Accommodation Overview

  • Location: 521a Waikawa-Curio Bay Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Boutique Studios and Beach House Apartment
  • Accommodation options available: Self-Contained studios and apartments, suitable for up to 2 guests 
  • Budget & Cost: $$ – Rates from $290 per night.
  • Facilities: Kitchenettes, bathrooms, laundry, parking, NO wifi and NO TV
  • Dogs allowed?: No, due to nesting penguins
  • Booking: Book in advance – Visit the Curio Bay Accommodation website

If you’re looking to get away from it all, then consider staying at the Curio Bay Accommodation. This family-run business has two options available – Boutique Studios and the Beach House Apartment.

Curio Bay Accommodation Boutique Studios

The Curio Bay Accommodation boutique self-contained studios offer privacy yet are located right on the beach! Each studio can accommodate 2 guests. The open plan living space has a living room and kitchenette and bed area with a king-size bed. There is a separate bathroom.

The studios are perfect for a romantic getaway or the beach lovers who just want to get away from it all.

Curio Bay Accommodation Beach House Apartment

The Curio Bay Accommodation beach house apartment is located on the ground floor of the owners’ house. It has a private entrance. Due to the location, there can be some family noise from the owners.

The apartment has a kitchenette, a shower and a bath, and a king-size bed. The views look out over the sea and beach.

All linen is provided by Curio Bay Accommodation.

3. Salthouse

Best Curio Bay Accommodation For Families & Groups

Salthouse Overview

  • Location: 517 Waikawa-Curio Bay Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Studio Units and Apartment
  • Accommodation options available: Self-Contained studio units sleep up to 4 people; 2-Bedroom Apartment sleeps up to 4 people
  • Budget & Cost: $$ – Rates from $195 – $320 per night.
  • Facilities: Open plan living space with TV, kitchenette/full kitchen, bathrooms including ensuites, queen and king-sized beds, outdoor space, breakfast upon request
  • Dogs allowed?: No
  • Booking: Book in advance – Visit the Salthouse website

If you’re looking for a home away from home, then Salthouse will have everything you need. This family-run business has two options available – Self-Catering Studio Units and the Two-Bedroom Apartment.

Salthouse Self-Catering Studio Units

The Salthouse studios can sleep up to 4 people. They have a kitchenette with a microwave and hot plate. There is a bathroom with a shower. The studios have queen-sized beds, and one studio has an additional separate bedroom with another queen-sized bed and a single bed. The studios are located on the ground floor with sliding door access to a small patio and a grassed area. There is a direct walkway to the beach.

Rates for the Salthouse Studios are $195/night for 2 guests and $240/night for 4 guests.

Salthouse Apartment

The gorgeous Salthouse Apartment at Curio Bay is a wonderful accommodation to spend a few nights with family or a group.

There is an outdoor seating deck overlooking the ocean. The large windows allow light into the open-plan apartment and provide stunning views out to the beach. There is a full kitchen with a dishwasher, cooking equipment and utensils. The apartment has a large living space sofas and TVs.

The apartment can sleep up to 4 guests. There are two bedrooms – one with a king-sized bed with ensuite, the other with one king-sized bed that can be split into two singles. There is an additional bathroom with a shower and a separate bath.

The Salthouse Apartment is located on the first floor and due to the stairs it is not suitable for young children. It would make an excellent accommodation for a family with older children or a group of adults.

Rates for the Salthouse Apartment are $320/night for up to 4 guests.

The Salthouse team can provide breakfast upon request. All linen and toiletries are provided.

Freedom Camping In Curio Bay, The Catlins

new zealand campervan in catlins south island new zealand
Our campervan in the Catlins on the South Island – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

There are two options for freedom camping near Curio Bay. These are located about 6-15km from Curio Bay, and take about a 10-20 minute drive.

If you are considering freedom camping then make sure you understand and adhere to the freedom camping bylaws in New Zealand and in the area you are visiting. You will likely need a Self-Contained campervan for freedom camping although some freedom campsites allow tents and non-self-contained vehicle camping. There will be signs located at the site displaying the rules, however, if no sign is displayed it can be assumed freedom camping is allowed.

4. Freedom Camping – Waikawa Recreation Reserve

Best FREE Camping Ground Near Curio Bay

  • Location: 599 Niagara-Waikawa Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Freedom Campsite, Southland District Council designated
  • Accommodation options available: Gravel area, suitable for small-large vehicles – Self-Contained only
  • Budget & Cost: FREE
  • Facilities: Public toilet
  • Dogs allowed?: Yes

The nearest freedom camping spot to Curio Bay is the Waikawa Recreation Reserve. It is located about 6.4 km (8 min drive) from Curio Bay.

The freedom camping ground at Waikawa is a site suitable for small and medium-large campervans and motorhomes. There are minimal facilities here. There is no drinking water however there are clean toilets open all night.

Opposite the freedom camping site is the Waikawa Museum and Information Centre. Visiting this museum is an interesting experience because you can see fossilised trees and learn about the history of the area including the old Jail.

The Waikawa Recreation Reserve is the freedom camping site that I stayed at while I was visiting Curio Bay. I stayed here for two nights and I had a great experience.

waikawa district museum the catlins new zealand
Waikawa District Museum, The Catlins – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
fiachra at the waikawa district museum outside with lots of flowers, colonial style sheds and a hand painted sign saying 'petrified wood'
Petrified Wood on display at the Waikawa District Museum in The Catlins – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

5. Freedom Camping – Recreation Ground Off Weir Rd, Near Slope Point

  • Location: 195 Weir Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Freedom Campsite, Southland District Council designated
  • Accommodation options available: Gravel and grassed area, suitable for small-large vehicles – Self-Contained only
  • Budget & Cost: FREE
  • Facilities: Public toilet
  • Dogs allowed?: Yes

Another freedom camping site near Curio Bay is the Recreation Ground off Weir Rd, near Slope Point. This freedom camping ground is a bit further from Curio Bay. It is located about 14.5 km (20 min drive) from Curio Bay.

This camping spot is in a quiet location beside Haldane Bay. Take care on the road to the campsite as it can be muddy, slippery and on a slope.

For camping, there is a large gravel and grass area. This site is suitable for small and large campervans and motorhomes. There are public toilets here for campers to use and a sink.

curio bay and porpoise bay beach, the catlins, new zealand
Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay Beach – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

6 Things To Know Before Staying At Curio Bay

Here are my top tips on how to have an excellent and memorable stay at your accommodation in Curio Bay.

1. Fill Up On Fuel Before You Go

There are no fuel stations at Curio Bay. The nearest fuel stations are the GAS Tokanui and the McKeown Papatowai.

2. Take Insect Repellent

The sandflies can be awful at Curio Bay at all times of the year. Take insect repellent and nets and wear long-sleeved clothing to minimise bites. If you are camping you may want to take incense or citronella candles that ward off insects.

3. Pack Swimming Gear, Surf & Bodyboards

Porpoise Bay is a stunning beach that is safe for swimming. On windy days it is popular with surfers and bodyboarding who enjoy riding the waves.

The pod of Hector’s dolphins that call Porpoise Bay home also love the waves and will play in the surf. If you don’t get in the water then you can easily view the dolphins from the beach. If you’re in the water they will likely swim close to you. Allow them to do their thing and remember this is a rare experience of swimming in the wild with dolphins!

fiachra body boarding in porpoise bay, curio bay new zealand
Fiachra body boarding in Porpoise Bay – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

4. Stock Up On Food & Drinks Before You Go

Curio Bay is a remote place and there are very few facilities in the area.

There is a cafe at the camping ground called Tumu Toka CurioScape that serves breakfast and lunch, as well as a small shop.

Besides the cafe there are few options for dining out, so you will want to take food with you so that you can self-cater during your stay in Curio Bay.

The nearest supermarket is the Four Square in Owaka. Invercargill has the big supermarkets Pak’n Save, New World and Countdown.

5. Take Your Walking Boots

Curio Bay is famous for the Petrified Forest, a 180 million-year-old ancient forest that has been fossilised. The fossils are exposed on rocks at the beach and you can see them at low tide. There are walkways to see the Petrified Forest.

Across the road is the Living Forest walkway where you can see how the Petrified Forest may have looked millions of years ago.

Beyond Curio Bay, there are many walks to beautiful waterfalls that you can visit along the Catlins coast. My favourite is McLean Falls located just a short drive from Curio Bay.

6. Carry A Camera With Zoom Lens

Curio Bay is a haven for rare New Zealand wildlife and you will likely see some during your stay.

Porpoise Bay is the home of a pod of Hector’s dolphins, an endemic species of dolphin to New Zealand.

Southern Right whales can be seen offshore as well.

Perhaps the cutest and rarest animal you can see in the wild at Curio Bay is the yellow-eyed penguin. The endemic penguins have a breeding colony at Curio Bay. Yellow-eyed penguins are classified as a ‘threatened’ species so to see one you have to be very patient and lucky!

Walkways at the top of the beach allow visitors an opportunity to observe these creatures in the wild.

Taking a camera with a zoom lens will give you a chance to photograph New Zealand’s wildlife from a safe distance.

5 Best Accommodation In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand – Thanks For Reading!

Curio Bay in The Catlins is a haven for travellers seeking stunning scenery, interesting history and unique New Zealand wildlife. In this post, we have looked at the top accommodation options in Curio Bay, from charming campsites to luxurious apartments. Every visitor to this magical coastline can find the perfect place to call home during their stay, with different accommodation options to suit varying needs and budgets. I hope that your journey to this South Island gem will create lasting memories for you! – Lauren x

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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