Kaka Point, NZ to Waihola, NZ

45.5 mi / 11.0 mph / 1085 ft. climbing
Home: Waihola Holiday Park

The small town of Kaka Point sits right on the ocean, but yesterday we were only granted a mile of coast riding between our exit from the hills and our turn up to the campground. This morning as we continued north, we were granted an additional mile, but that was it, as the road turned inland once again. At least it was a really nice mile!

#FindRett riding the coastal road out of Kaka Point.

The Clutha River comes from Lake Wanaka (whose shore we stayed on 20 days ago) and empties here, but the first crossing is 10 miles inland at Balclutha. We headed across the flat floodplain, so unusually flat (for New Zealand) that we could see a bike-touring couple ahead of us nearly the entire way into Balclutha.

On a straight road crossing the farmed floodplain near Kaka Point, we passed a long line of these tree-bordered “bays”, each 60 yards wide and nearly 500 yards deep. They reminded me a bit of the fruit-tree-protecting hedge boxes we had seen near Tauranga (and more-recently near here), but I think these are different. The “walls” are regular full-growth trees rather than trimmed hedges, the boxes are open on the road side, and most didn’t have fruit trees inside. In the aerial view they strike me more as simply land-ownership boundaries like you might see in old Europe.

Balclutha marks the end of the Catlins, but also the first town big enough for a full-size supermarket since Invercargill. We stocked up, crossed the bridge, and immediately turned down the river road on the east side toward Kaitangata. The other option was to go more directly to Waihola on busy SH1, and at least early on, adding distance for quiet riding felt like the right trade to make.

We didn’t go all the way to Kaitangata, but cut down a little-traveled gravel road (which turned out to be a beautiful option) to connect to an even more-empty paved road swinging us back towards SH1.

I don’t even know what this cancerous tree “trunk” is doing, but it’s massive.
Hello moo cows!

Despite being out of the Catlins, we still found ourselves in gorgeous hilly farm country, where we faced a rare New Zealand example of “rollers”, though our downhill momentum generally only got us 60% back up the next hill.

Starting down some rollers.
I thought I might have been able to get a cool picture of Rett where only her head was visible in that first dip, but no, it was so deep that her entire body and bicycle disappeared from view, and for several seconds too!

Our initial SH1-bypass was preplanned, but when that came to an end, Rett seemed to be enjoying the peace more than she was hating the extra effort, so I did some quick routing research and decided on a new bypass. It turned through a grid of farm roads south of SH1, some gravel, some paved, and returned to the highway just before the town of Milton, where a honk and middle finger from a passing pickup truck before we even turned onto the highway, and then another angry honk-for-no-reason two minutes later, served as shocking proof that staying off the highway had been the right decision.

In the center-left you can see the asphalt road we left for this gravel one, because our other choice was getting on the busy highway. The highway had a hill to get over too, though probably not a 14% grade at the top like this one. But, I think the photo shows it was still worth it!
Empty gravel road riding.

So once we got through Milton, we got onto the new segment of the Clutha Gold Trail, which initially travelled right next to the highway. But then it wound inland, even going directly backwards for a section, with a lot of unnecessary curves, annoying hills (continually rising above and falling below the nicely-graded railroad tracks it paralleled for a section), and constantly-changing surface types, half of which were just bad. So not at all a good trail, but by that point we had moved away from the highway so we just stuck with it.

As we neared Lake Waihola, the trail changed to a cinder-like surface, probably the sixth different type in four miles. But before I could even vocalize my thought (“ok trail builders, you win first place for the most surface types on one trail, you can stop now!”), we were suddenly on the seventh surface, a wooden boardwalk twisting through marshland. Insanity! It wasn’t too bad for riding on right now, but in 10 years when the boards are cupped and warped, it’s gonna suck to ride over.

This Clutha Gold trail does some goofy-ass shit, but at least it’s picturesque!
Here the boardwalk-bike-trail even left the marshland and essentially became a bridge over the water! The black plastic netting is a traction device that I think we have seen on every single wooden walking/riding surface in New Zealand (sometimes it’s metal chicken-wire). It must be a strictly-enforced legal requirement.
We turned a corner into full view of Lake Waihola, and holy fuck, it’s hundreds of black swans massing for attack! They were like the armada of Star Destroyers arrayed across space at Exegol (apologies for making a “new” Star Wars reference!)
Rett’s bike was getting uncomfortable so she decided to trade it in for one that fit her better and had a cushier ride.

At the Waihola Holiday Park, the guy charged us only NZ$30 (despite having booked online for $34), maybe because he told us to just find a spot in one of the central areas to set up in, rather than giving us a specific site? That just means I could find a place with tree-shade, and the multiple kitchens and showers were quite nice, so another great small-town deal.

This trailer was being towed by a van camped in the campground; I wonder if the guy just moves from campground to campgroud and sells to the long-termers with dogs!


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