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Campbells Bay


Remnants of an ancient sea

Limestone can be seen here as a platform on the beach. It was formed by the accumulation of tiny marine creatures (mostly bryozoans) on the sea floor around 30 - 35 million years ago. The surface of the limestone platform is highly irregular with hole and tunnels - the origin of which has long been the subject of interest. They may have formed by erosion when the limestone was lifted above the sea. Alternatively, they might have originated when groundwater dissolved and enlarged crustacean burrows in the limestone after the area was above sea level for a time. Around 25 million years ago the limestone was again submerged, and younger sediments deposited on top filled some of the cavities. Today, wave erosion has uncovered the irregular limestone surface by removing softer overlying sedimentary rocks. 

The world's first fossil pengiun

In 1848, government land purchase agent Walter Mantell collected a large incomplete fossilised bone near Kākaunui/Kakanui. This ankle bone was identified by British paleontologist T.H. Huxley as the first recognised penguin fossil in the world. Huxley names it Palaeudytes antarcticus (ancient winged diver of the south). Palaeudytes antarcticus was the first of many giant penguin fossils to be discovered in New Zealand. 


The Ototara Limestone feature in front of you. 

3D render of a cast held by the Department of Geology, University of Otago.

A busy little township

Between the late 1860s and the early 1880s Kākaunui/Kakanui had a small, but busy harbour. It was located at the Kākaunui/Kakanui River Mouth, a few hundred metres north from here. Remains of the Piers can still be seen today. Products from the surrounding estates included local rock, sheep, wool, wheat, potatoes and even tinned meat. With a busy port, other businesses were established including two hotels, several grocers, a butchery and a blacksmith. However, with the completion of the Dunedin to Christchurch railway in 1878 many small harbour became redundant and the Kākaunui/Kakanui harbour closed around 1885.

Take a virtual tour through Campbells Bay:

Fast facts


  • This limestone here is called the Ototara Limestone or Ōamaru Stone. 

  • The ankle bone is one of the most distinctive bones in penguins when identifying fossil remains. 

  • This bay is named after Mrs Campbell, who lived in a cottage overlooking this bay.  

The Royal Hotel on the corner of Fairfax and High Street around 1890s. 

© Collection of the Waitaki Archive. Id 102921

Please be aware the following hazards include: tides, wildlife, sharp and slippery rock underfoot, and falling debris from cliffs. Tsunami risk – if an earthquake is strong or long, get gone. 

Latitude: -45:11:40.546

Longitude: 170:53:43.488

Easy walk

5 min


Scenic views  & Photo opportunities

Public Toilets


To get to Campbells Bay, follow Waianakarua Rd and after the Kakanui Camping Ground, turn left into Harbour Terrance. Follow this Rd for 1.8km and you will reach the parking area to your left. 


Protection and guardianship are at the heart of the Geopark philosophy. We ask you to treat this site with respect, do not remove anything from this site and preserve it for our future generations.

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