Australasia’s only UNESCO Global Geopark
The Waitaki was formed under an ancient sea and is built on the remains of prehistoric creatures from a vanished world.
In New Zealand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark, you can find an abundance of unique geological and geomorphological features including the Moeraki Boulders, karsted limestone at Elephant Rocks, as well as “badlands” and faults at Clay Cliffs.
Straddling the 45th parallel South, on the east coast of the South Island, the geopark is bounded by mountains and sea, the remnants of fire and ice, and the powerful Waitaki River.
The park covers just over 7,200km2. At the heart of it all are spectacular areas of karst. Karst landscapes are underlain by limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and other characteristic landforms.
The karst landscape and its ‘whitestone’ are integral to the identity of the Waitaki region. The first people in the area found shelter in limestone caves, leaving now-treasured rock art. Waitaki’s largest town, Oamaru, is renowned for fine limestone architecture. Today, the Vanished World Centre celebrates the wondrous fossils that emerge from the region’s whitestone. This is why our geopark is proudly named the Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring Global Geopark.
Campbell’s Bay is a great beach for surfing, swimming and having fun in the sun.
This beach is immediately south of the headland in Kakanui and provides a surfable break and a safe swimming beach which is frequented by Hector’s Dolphins who love to play in the surf.
This wetland lagoon is an important habitat for many wetland bird species and is recognised as an area of Natural Significance in this Karst landscape. The walking track surrounding the lagoon leads to a ‘disappearing stream’, where the water drains into an underground cave system in the limestone. Head south
60 million years in the making – just for your enjoyment. The large hummocky rock formations that look a lot like Elephants were created after fossil-rich limestone deposited millions of years ago eroded, leaving behind an incredible boulder-field which towers above your head.
The dikes seen here are basaltic in nature, and are one of the best inland exposures of igneous dikes in the Ōamaru region and belong to the wider Waiareka Volcanic group. These are located behind the village of Enfield in a disused quarry which has more recently been used as
Shag Point/Matakaea Reserve is a great spot for wildlife viewing and is part of a geologically curious and intriguing coastline. New Zealand fur seals can normally be seen in good numbers on the rock shelves around Shag Point. There are two short seal-viewing walks where visitors can watch the seals