Welcome to the Waitaki, formed under an ancient sea and built on the remains of prehistoric creatures from a vanished world. 

Straddling the 45th parallel South on the east coast of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) of Aotearoa (New Zealand), the geopark is bounded by mountains and sea, the remnants of fire and ice, and the powerful Waitaki River.

The park covers just over 7,200 square kilometres. At the heart of it all are spectacular areas of karst. Karst is landscape 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 to the area found shelter in limestone caves, leaving now-treasured rock art. Waitaki's largest town, Ōamaru, 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 Geopark.

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark introduction

Where we develop a generation of people who care for the planet and its people. This requires understanding the stories of our land, our sky and our ocean. 

Understand it. Appreciate it. Protect it for future generations. 

Our goals

  • Increase the protection of, and access to the geological, cultural and heritage sites within the Geopark. 

  • Enhance the identity and increase the social capital of the Waitaki district by providing a unifying platform for the stories of our land, culture and heritage. 

  • Share the story of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark through education and by providing experiences and activities within the Geopark, with a focus on youth engagement.  

  • Increase the well-being of local people through sustainable economic activity. 

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News &

"What a fantastic window into the past. Today we saw fossil bones in limestone at two different sites. One set were whale bones. Just awesome that this trail has been put together, maintained and promoted."

— Mark Shipman, 

Vanished World visitor