There are many diverse features at this Geosite from a history of coal mining to the discovery of mudstone fossils and an important plesiosaur fossil.
Large spherical boulders (of Ārai-te-uru oral history) can be found embedded in the soft sandstone of the rock shelf along the coastline. The smooth wave-worn mudstones of this promontory also contain well-preserved fossils. A seven-metre marine reptile, a plesiosaur, was found here and is now part of the University of Otago fossil collection.
Learning resources for teachers and parents:
Check out our free worksheets on the Plesiosaur.
This area was used by the early moa hunters. Nearby, Shag/Waihemo River Mouth yielded important archaeological evidence of Ngai Tahu lifestyles dating back to the 12th century. Moa skeletons and many artefacts found here are exhibited at the Otago Museum in Dunedin.
Bituminous coal was discovered at this site by Whalers in the 1830s. It was the first discovery of this type of coal in New Zealand. The coal was mined until 1972 following flooding of the mine shafts. This reserve bears evidence of this past activity including remnants of coal and an old coal mine cart. The natural boat harbour - originally used as a tauraka waka (canoe landing place) was subsequently used by the miners to ship coal from this site. Today, this harbour is used for recreational purposes. For more information on this site please see Department of Conservation.
Shag Point Scientific Reserve
There are many rare plant and animal species in this very special area. Yellow-eyed penguins and sooty shearwaters breed here. It is a major haul-out for seals and a shag roosting area. Uncommon coastal vegetation includes alpine species such as broadleaf, snow tussock, as well as ngaio, Celmesia hookeri, flax and clematis. This area includes Shag Point Recreation and Scientific Reserves.
To learn more you can listen to the Sasha Say’s podcasts on Matakaea Shag Point here.
Please be aware the following hazards include: tides, wildlife, cliff edge (keep to the track), unmarked shafts (old coal mining area), slippery underfoot. Tsunami risk - If an earthquake is strong or long, get gone.
Latitude: -45:28:25.050 Longitude: 170:49:53.096
Scenic views & Photo opportunities
Shag Point is signposted 9 km north of Palmerston on SH1. Turn at the sign onto Shag Point Road, and follow until you reach the reserve carpark.
Visitors are requested to eat and drink only in designated areas, away from burial grounds and other sacred sites. There is no onsite accommodation, and camping is not permitted. Trotters Gorge campsite is nearby, and there are places to stay at Palmerston, Moeraki and Hampden. Please do not disturb the wildlife. Dogs are not permitted in the reserve.
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.