Cannibal Bay Beach

Cross rolling fields and dense macrocarpa forest to reach this isolated bay, home to hollow waves and a colony of sea lions.

Much of the appeal of Cannibal Bay Beach comes with the scenic and adventurous route taken to arrive at its shores. Drive past rolling fields inhabited by sheep to reach a flax-lined beach with perfect waves peeling at either end of the bay. Cannibal Bay is most visited for its colony of sea lions but it is also a great place to watch the sun set, have a swim or walk across the sand dunes to reach the historic Surat Bay.

Before you even reach the water’s edge you’ll have stunning views of the ocean. Follow Cannibal Bay Road to pass fields of Romney sheep, a long-haired breed of white sheep common in the Catlins. As the road rises you’ll be met by sweeping views of New Zealand’s east coast.

Visit the bay on a sunny day to watch sea lions basking on the warm rocks at the northern end of the bay. Capture photos of the curious animals, but avoid getting too close as the larger sea lions can be very aggressive. Visit the beach at dusk to watch as penguins make their way in from the ocean to nest.

While lifeguards do not patrol the beach, Cannibal Bay is a popular surf break for surfers of all experience levels. A number of breaks are spread across the beach with waves ranging from barrels to ambling, gentle waves closer to shore. Bring a surfboard and a good-quality wetsuit, as the water remains cool even in summer.

Embark on a trek across the sand dunes at the southern end of Cannibal Bay for a pleasant family-friendly hike. Cross the dunes to reach Surat Bay, the site of the infamous Surat shipwreck in 1874.

Reach Cannibal Bay Beach by car from Kaka Point in just 30 minutes. Plenty of parking is available at the beachfront and there are no fees to reach the beach. Services here are limited and the beach is reasonably isolated, so bring ample food and water.