Saturday, 8 July 2017

winter learning journey

Shag Point/Matakaea has a rich history, from early Ngai Tahu settlement to historic coalmining. The area has diverse marine life. It has interesting flora, is great for wildlife viewing, and is geologically fascinating.
Matakaea is jointly managed by DOC and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. Matakaea has Topuni status. The mana (authority) and rangatiratanga (chieftainship) of Ngai Tahu over the area is recognised publicly by this status. Ngai Tahu takes an active role in managing the natural and cultural values of the area.

Marine mammal viewing

Flat rock platforms provide an easy haul-out site for New Zealand fur seals, and cliff-top viewing areas allow you to observe seal behaviour without disturbing their rest. Keep an eye out for whale or dolphin activity offshore - you may be lucky!


An unusual feature of this site is snow tussock and other alpine species, such as the large alpine daisy (Celmisia hookerii), growing at low altitude and so close to the coast. The rare lily Iphigenia novae-zelandiae also grows here.

The rocky shore is lined with rimurapa (bull kelp). Just offshore are dense forests of giant bladder kelp, which are among the best examples of macrocystis in New Zealand.

Maori history

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 displayed at the Otago Museum.
The Matakaea area has been occupied for many centuries and is the site of numerous urupa (burial grounds) and wahi tapu (sacred sites).
Matakaea is the name of the pa (fortified village) that overlooked Waihemo/Shag River Mouth. The name is linked with Arai Te Uru canoe, which capsized off Moeraki. The crew managed to swim, leaving the cargo to wash ashore. The crew members fled inland, and were transformed into mountains.
The Arai Te Uru canoe is said to have carried kumara from Hawaiiki, along with the karakia (incantations) and tikanga (customs) connected with planting it successfully.


Large round boulders (of Arai Te Uru legend) can be found embedded in the soft sandstone of the rock shelf along the shoreline. The smooth wave-worn mudstones of this headland 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.


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.


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.
Dogs are not permitted in the reserve.

Getting there

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.
click here Shag Point for more

One of the best places at Lake Tarawera for a geothermal soak. The bush pool is located in a very rustic setting, so do not expect any mod cons when you come to visit. Easily assessable by boat, if you know the way and it is also assessable by the Tarawera Trail, again but if only if you know the way. There is not a sign post insight to lead you to this spot so if you want to take the guess work out of trying to locate it you would probably be best to catch a Water Taxi there. Totally Tarawera regularly goes to this spot as part of one of their Cultural and Geothermal tours. You are given the opportunity to enjoy a geothermal soak before we then go on to Te Rata Bay (Hot Water Beach) for a short visit before returning to The Landing where this particular tour began.

1 comment:

  1. Kia ora Lucy,

    Shag Point does look like a pretty beautiful spot to visit, doesn't it? I wonder what the first Maori settlers thought of the area when they first arrived. What do you think? Would they have been nervous? Scared? Excited?

    I would love to hear more in your blog about what you think and feel. We're really keen for you to write your blogs in your own words.

    Rachel :)