wai o toura reserve


This site has been dated as approximately 25.2 million years old at the bottom of the cliff and 21.7 million years old towards the top.

You see the huge outcrop at Wai o Toura Reserve before you get there – visible from State Highway 83 – a large bright escarpment protruding from the landscape. Follow the track from the car park to the site and you are standing at the foot of the type locality for one of North Otago’s most prominent geological formations – the Otekaike Limestone.  Also exposed here is the Ototara Limestone and the overlying deep-water Mt Harris Formation. 

This limestone was formed from millions of fossils that lived and died in the shallow warm seas of the Mid Oligocene to Late Miocene.  Recovered fossils include penguins, whales, dolphins and bony fish and notable Mollusc fauna.

Historially, Wai o Toura was used for shelter by early Māori when they followed the travelling routes through the Waitaki Valley.  During Victorian times there were a number of artifacts that were removed from the site. 

Today Wai o Toura Reserve is recognised as a site that is home to critically endangered plants.

To learn more you can listen to the Sasha Say’s podcasts on Wai o Toura here.

Latitude: --44:48:20.685  Longitude: 170:31:43.881

Easy walk


Scenic views  & Photo opportunities


To get to Wai o Toura, head north from Duntroon for 13km on SH83, turn left onto Gards Rd. Or head south from Kurow for 10km on SH83, turn right onto Gards Rd. Follow the road for 1km and park your vehicle at the Department of Conservation car park. ​Follow the track to the site.

Wai o Toura Reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation


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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