Long Point Track | A Lesser-Known Coastal Walk In The Catlins

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path walk in the Catlins that showcases the raw beauty of New Zealand’s rugged southeast coastline, then you must add the Long Point Track to your Catlins itinerary!

We happened upon Long Point by chance, blindly following the brown tourist sign further down the gravel road after leaving Purakaunui Bay – the best free campsite in the Catlins! Our curiosity was rewarded with a walking track that traverses across the tall rugged headlands, past grazing sheep and onto a wave-swept beach often frequented by fur seals, sea lions and sea birds.

The Long Point Track was the perfect addition to our Catlins itinerary, allowing us to escape the crowds that flock to the popular waterfalls for a moment and enjoy the blissful serenity of the lesser-known Long Point.

If this sounds like the perfect walk for you, read on to discover all the essential information you’ll need to include Long Point in your road trip to the Catlins along the southeast coastline of New Zealand’s South Island.

Walking along the cliff line on the Long Point Track in the Catlins

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What To Know About Walking The Long Point Track In The Catlins

Quick Statistics For The Long Point Track

Distance
4.6 km loop

Time
1 – 1.5 hours

Navigation Difficulty
Easy – Moderate (see trail notes for details)

Trail Difficulty
Easy – Moderate (see trail notes for details)

Physical Effort
Easy

Elevation Gain
150 m

Highest Elevation
76 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: Car park

Where Does The Long Point Walk Start?

Long Point Car park

Found between Tahakopo Bay and Purakaunui Bay, the lush grassy headland of Long Point stretches south into the unruly Southern Pacific Ocean. The tall cliffs plunge to a rugged and rocky coastline, with access on the western side to a popular surf break also named Long Point.

The loop walk around Long Point starts at a gravel car park on Long Point Road, a little past the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust Field Base. Look for a large yellow sign at the trailhead that provides a brief overview of the Long Point Loop Walk. There are no toilets or other facilities at the trailhead.

How To Get To The Long Point Trailhead

Google Map of Long Point Location

Part of the allure of Long Point, other than the abundance of wildlife and the breathtaking scenery, is the fact that you’re likely to have the headland to yourself. But this also means that there are no public transport or tour options for the Long Point Loop Walk.

Our top recommendation for visiting Long Point – and the greater Catlins region – is to hire a campervan. This allows you to enjoy all that the Catlins has to offer at your own pace and stay at some stunning campsites with 5-star views. Jucy is our go-to campervan hire company due to its competitive rates and reputable reputation.

Don’t Miss Jucy’s 50% discount on Crib hires from Queenstown

By Car

Long Point is located 1 hour 50 minutes southwest of Dunedin and 2 hours east of Invercargill.

To reach the Long Point Loop Trailhead, you’ll turn off the Southern Scenic Route just west of Catlins Lake onto Purakaunui Falls Rd. Follow Purakaunui Falls Rd for 4 km before coming to the turn-off for Long Point Rd. Veer south and continue along Long Point Rd for 8 km until you reach the gravel car park.

Note: Long Point Rd is unsealed, but it was in good condition when we visited in October 2023 and accessible for all vehicles.

Click Here For Directions From Dunedin
Click Here For Directions From Invercargill

Who Is The Long Point Loop Walk For?

Walking through the farmland on the Long Point Track in the Catlins

If you’re searching for a peaceful coastal walk with enough variety to keep you captivated, then the Long Point Loop Walk is the one for you. Along this 4.6 km loop track, you’ll walk through grassy farmlands, traverse the edge of the plunging sea cliffs and hop across the rocky beach in search of fur seals and sea lions.

While the majority of the walk is straightforward, the trail down to the shoreline is quite steep and often muddy. We recommend wearing running or hiking shoes for this trail to avoid getting stuck in the mud – trust us, we speak from experience!

Navigation On The Long Point Walk?

Yellow-tipped poles on the Long Point Track

Navigationally the Long Point Track in the Catlins is fairly straightforward. There are yellow-tipped posts that are clearly visible throughout the entire trail making it easy to stay on track.

However, as you approach the loop at just before the halfway point (1.3 km into the walk), it can become confusing as there are poles leading in both directions – with no info sign or arrows. At this point, you can go either way as the trail circles back on itself after taking you to the furthest headland and the highest point.

When Is The Best Time To Walk The Long Point Track In The Catlins?

Bach on Long Point on a rough and wild day in the Catlins

The Long Point Track can be walked year-round, with no real benefit for visiting at a certain time of year. However, the wind chill in winter is bitingly fresh and requires an extra jacket or two! Furthermore, the grassy pastures atop the headland can get quite muddy after heavy rain so we recommend choosing a clear day if you have the freedom of choice.

If you visit in spring, you have a strong chance of walking through the paddocks of sheep with their bouncing baby lambs tucked to their sides. This is when we visited Long Point and we loved watching the lambs bound across the headland. However, if you do visit during this time, please be respectful of the farm animals and keep your distance. The lambs and mothers get very anxious if they’re separated.

Best Time Of Day To Walk The Long Point Track

Sea cliffs at long point

Due to its south-facing nature, Long Point offers an incredible destination to watch the sunrise or sunset. Plus, dawn or dusk is your best chance of spotting a yellow-eyed penguin on the beach.

If you’re most interested in searching for fur seals or sea lions lounging on the warm rocks, late afternoon is when they’re most likely to be sunbaking on the beach. Again, these are wild animals and it’s imperative to keep your distance for your safety and theirs.

Long Point Track Notes

The Trailhead To Long Point Beach

Begin the Long Point Loop Walk by walking through the gate, closing it behind you, and onto the grassy hill above a secluded bay. Traverse high alongside the bay towards the headland in the south, following the yellow-painted poles that mark the trail. 

Hiking along the farmland of Long Point

You’ll wander around the headland, veering slightly left, and be greeted by breathtaking views of the southern coastline. The coastline is adorned with deep bays filled with coarse yellow sand, rugged dark grey rocks, and towering sea cliffs. In the distance, you’ll spot a small shack on the rocky shore.

Continue following the markers as they guide you along the undulating coastline for roughly a kilometre before making the steep but short descent to the rocky beach below. This is the only point that you’ll access the beach and provides the perfect spot to explore further – searching for wildlife and even enjoying a swim if the beach is calm and you’re not getting hammered by the wind!

Coastal Cliff along Long Point Track
Walking down the steep descent on the Long Point Track

Long Point Beach To The Western Headland

Once you’ve finished searching for seals and inspecting the rock pools, make your way back to the worn track that continues up the grassy hill on its way to the furthest headland in the distance.

Stile on the Long Point Track

After 1.3 km, you’ll come across a stile and poles leading east and south, this marks the beginning of the loop that guides you around Long Point. The direction you choose to walk the loop is entirely up to you, with no real benefit for either. 

We continued south, leaving the markers behind for a moment and walking out onto the narrow headland to the west. The quick detour offers incredible views of the south coast, looking out across Tahakopo Bay and the nearby Helena Falls Beach. 

Rough section on the Long Point Loop
Hiking towards the headland on the Long Point Circuit Walk

Note: Out of the western point, you’ll notice several small poles with pink arrows facing down. Disregard these as they’re not navigation markers.

Completing The Loop Around The Headlands

Standing on the headland at Long Point in New Zealand

Return from your small detour and resume following the markers over a stile and through farmland filled with grazing sheep. The poles lead you almost to the southern tip of Long Point before steering you northeast towards a tall triangle structure marking the highest point. 

Trig Point on the Long Point Walk

You’ll continue to the edge of the eastern headland, where you’re afforded sensational vistas of the windswept coastline to the northeast. You can just make out the soaring white cliffs that surround Purakaunui Bay.

Headland on the edge of Long Point

Once you’ve finished exploring the edge of the towering headland, the trail markers will guide you back to the start of the loop where you’ll hop over another stile and begin the walk back to the car park.

Returning To The Trailhead

Following the yellow tipped poles on the long point track

You’ll return to the car park via the same track you started on, now with a beautiful view of the secluded bays tucked into the headland to the northwest. The Long Point Loop Walk took us 1 hour 10 minutes to complete, but we recommend allowing 1 hour 30 minutes if you want to explore the beach further – we had a wild wind blowing when we visited which prevented us from wanting to stay any longer.

The entire trail is very well marked and offers a great little adventure to see the effects of the wild Southern Pacific Ocean that hits the south coast. If you’re visiting during a southerly wind, make sure you rug up! The wind on the headland is ruthless and digs its icy talons right into your bones!

Other Important Information For Visiting Long Point In The Catlins

Leave No Trace

The Long Point Loop Track meanders through both private farmland and the Long Point / Irahuka Reserve – a precious environment for wildlife that needs to be protected. Please be respectful of the farmer’s land and the reserve by following the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

It’s as easy as taking your rubbish with you – the nearest public rubbish bins are in Owaka, 20 km northeast – and being prepared by using a public toilet in Owaka or Papatowai at the campsite before you arrive.

Other Things To Do Near Long Point

Long Point is located within the Catlins region, which is bursting with waterfalls, coastal walks and breathtaking beaches. But the closest beach that rarely gets a mention for the best things to do in the Catlins is Helena Falls Beach.

Helena Falls Beach

Halena Falls Beach

Just before you reach Long Point car park, you’ll see a small car park for Helena Falls Beach and a short track leading down to the yellow-sanded cove. The beautiful secluded beach is the ultimate place to spend the day relaxing as you watch the waves crash on the distant rocky cliffs, sending spray skyward, and swimming in the shallow water near the inlet.

However, all good things come with a price and this beach requires you to get a little muddy. The track is extremely marshy, making it impossible to keep your feet dry. We recommend wearing water sandals – like Teva’s – to avoid any prickles as you navigate the boggy ground leading to the beach.

Surf At Long Point

Surf at Long Point on an overcast day in spring

For those experienced surfers out there who aren’t afraid of cold water, Long Point provides one of the best lefts New Zealand has to offer. When the conditions are on point, you’ll find a long left with a pretty gnarly drop in thanks to the rocky point.

Unfortunately, there was a howling southerly and massive swell when we visited so no surfing for us, but we could definitely see the potential this break has to offer.

More great attractions near the Long Point Walk:

Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins
Purakaunui Falls

Where To Stay Near Long Point In the Catlins

Long Point is located 20 km southwest of Owaka, which is a great place to base yourself while visiting the Catlins. While the town isn’t anything special, there are several stunning accommodation options nearby. However, if you’d rather experience the laid-back coastal village life, we highly recommend choosing Kaka Point as your base for the Catlins.

Camping Near Long Point

In our opinion, the best way to experience the Catlins is to camp. There are several beautiful campsites in the Catlins that boast incredible views of the rugged coastline, but the best one – and the closest to Long Point – is Purakaunui Bay Campground. 

Purakaunui Bay Campground is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and costs $10 per person, per night. However, we recommend pre-purchasing a DOC Campsite Pass if you’re planning to camp for more than 7 nights at any DOC-managed campsite throughout all of New Zealand.

Surfing at Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins
Surfers at Purakaunui Bay Campsite

Here are our top 3 favourite campsites in the Catlins:

Final Thoughts

Long Point was a fantastic addition to our Catlins road trip, allowing us to step off the beaten path and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the crowds for a few hours. The only person we ran into while visiting Long Point was the owner of the farm, who stopped for a chat.

We highly recommend making the drive to Long Point, whether you simply want to walk to the beach and back or complete the whole loop. But don’t forget to take an extra jacket – even in summer! The wind was blowing a gale when we visited and we were certainly not as well prepared as we could have been!

We hope this guide to the Long Point Loop Walk has given you insight into this lesser-known Catlins walk. If you have any further questions about Long Point or the Catlins in general, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Exploring 🙂