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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

New Zealand: Southern Scenic Route (East)

Tautuku Bay from Florence Hill
Tautuku Bay from Florence Hill

Leaving happy Dunedin behind, I drove off down the coastal road, heading west along the south coast of the South Island, with not a cloud in the sky.

Porpoise and Curio Bay

Trees blown into shape by the wind
It gets incredibly windy on the south coast of the South Island - you only have to look at the battered trees

My next port of call was so pretty I decided to stay the night, as I had a number of letters to write. Porpoise Bay is a beautiful half-moon bay with golden sands that stretch as far as the eye can see; here you can see Hobson's dolphins – a rare breed of dolphin – playing in the surf, which is a wonderful sight as you take in the views and soak up the sun. But the most amazing thing about Porpoise Bay is that it backs onto Curio Bay, a different kettle of fish altogether. Curio Bay is rocky in the extreme, with a large shelf of what looks like savage, lumpy volcanic rock, bashed by the sea but exposed at low tide. This shelf is in fact a petrified forest, the remains of a 16 million year old forest that was covered in volcanic ash back in the Jurassic period and preserved, turning into hard rock in the process. It's a strange sight, walking along among these stumps of stone that look exactly like tree stumps – complete with rings in the trunk – except they're made of rock. There are trunks that have obviously fallen over and turned into rocky bark, and all sorts of little stumps everywhere, sticking up out of the rock pools. Talk about surreal.

A sea bird's neck on the beach
A strange sight on Porpoise Bay beach

1 In the Malaysian rainforest this would prove an invaluable piece of advice – it genuinely works. Though you do smell awful.