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.
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.
Whalers discovered the first bituminous coal in New Zealand here in the 1830s. By 1862 the exposed coal seams were found to be commercially viable and were successfully mined until 1972, when flooding eventually closed shafts that extended under the coast. Evidence of coal mining is still obvious throughout the reserve. A small natural boat harbour was once a traditional tauraka waka (canoe landing place). Early miners shipped coal from here in sailing and steam colliers. Today the harbour is used by recreational anglers and divers to launch their boats.
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.