Thousands visit the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island each year for its diverse marine life. This area near Oamaru is an exceptional observation spot.
Visit the Shag Point Scenic Reserve for a prime penguin-viewing area, a chance to see a colony of fur seals and some of the best cliff-top views in the North Otago area. Discover the rich Māori history of the Shag Point area. Watch for alpine flora, common here despite the reserve’s proximity to the coast. A day’s exploration around the point will reveal sacred burial grounds, a lovely river mouth and peaceful picnic grounds.
The Shag Point Scenic Reserve is just a short detour from the coastal highway that runs between Dunedin and Oamaru. Make the side trip for a short and rewarding visit or pack a picnic lunch and visit the Shag Point region for the day. Combine your trip to the reserve with a stop at the nearby Moeraki Lighthouse.
Wake before dawn to watch as penguins leave their nests in search of food or visit at sunset to see them return. The yellow-eyed penguin is an endangered species characterised by the band of yellow feathers that surrounds its eyes. Arrive mid-afternoon to see fur seals basking in the sun. Wander along the beach to photograph the playful creatures, but stay at least 25 metres (80 feet) away. Scaring either animal can cause abandonment from the colony. Seals have also been known to be aggressive. While they are less dangerous than the sea lions also found in the area, they do have the ability to cause harm.
Read about the local Māori history on information boards located within the reserve. Shag’s Point is the site of sacred burial grounds and is of the highest importance for the indigenous people. The reserve was also the location of an archaeological dig that returned the fossil of a 7-metre (23-foot) marine reptile.
Reach Shag’s Point Scenic Reserve in 30 minutes by car from Oamaru. It is located about 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the city. Parking is available on-site and admission is free.