shag point


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 Arai Te Uru legend) 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.

Latitude: -45:28:25.050 Longitude: 170:49:53.096

Easy walk



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 accomodation, 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.


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"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