A good reason to stop in ... Fortrose

Whether it be a taste for history, beautiful scenery, bush walks or just plain salt air, there is more than one good reason to stop at Fortrose - the gateway to the Catlins. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Whether it be a taste for history, beautiful scenery, bush walks or just plain salt air, there is more than one good reason to stop at Fortrose - the gateway to the Catlins. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The last set of cups come off the cows at the milking shed as the sun ambles its way west near the end of a stiffling hot Saturday afternoon.

And after quick showers to make us feel human again, we all dive into the old green family 1973 Holden Statesman and head off into the long Southland summer twilight toward the Catlins.

The area is on the back doorstep of my childhood stamping ground and many a weekend was spent there as a boy.

Whether it be a taste for history, beautiful scenery, bush walks or just plain salt air, there is more than one good reason to stop at Fortrose - the gateway to the Catlins.

It's about 35 minutes drive southeast of Invercargill and situated at the mouth of the Mataura River - a good site for seasoned fishermen and whitebaiters.

It is one of Southland's earliest European settlements, with records dating from 1834, when whalers established a station.

The name Fortrose appears to have been attributed to a Scottish drover from Inverness-Shire, near Fortrose, in Scotland, who claimed the area was similar to the Scottish Fortrose.

The settlement became a busy port from which grain, wool and logs were exported.

A 70m-long jetty was built in 1875 and a goods shed was built to accommodate the demand.

Several hotels and two boarding houses were also built.

But in 1899, Fortrose faded into the shadows of history when the Waimahaka railway line opened.

It connected the area with Invercargill, bringing an end to the boom times.