The main drawcard of Curio Bay (Tumu Toka) is watching the outgoing tide reveal a 180 million year old Jurassic fossil forest – one of only three such accessible fossil forests in the world.
Millions of years ago the Curio Bay area was part of the eastern margin of the ancient super continent Gondwanaland, while north of Curio Bay most of future New Zealand was still beneath the sea. The forest that covered this area was destroyed multiple times by massive sheet floods of volcanic debris; growing back only to be covered again. These events are clearly recorded by distinct bands of fossils in the now exposed cliff face. Over the last 10,000 years, as New Zealand’s current coast line has been formed, the erosion of the sea has exposed tree stumps, logs and other fascinating fossils.
Stretching about 20kms from Curio Bay south to Slope Point, this internationally important site is one of the most extensive and least disturbed examples of a Jurassic fossil forest in the world. A viewing platform and information panel has been provided overlooking the fossil forest and you are welcome to explore it up close at low tide with a ten minute return walk to view it, although it is strictly prohibited to damage or remove anything from the area.
Curio Bay also boasts a range of rare wildlife which can be easily spotted and photographed on the beach. A colony of timid Yellow-Eyed Penguins (Hoiho) nest in the area. They are one of the rarest penguins in the world with an estimated total population in New Zealand of between 6000 and 7000.
New Zealand Fur Seals and Sea Lions regularly haul themselves out of the water along the Catlins coastline. Both species spend considerable time ashore with seals usually found on rocky shorelines and sea lions on sandy beaches. People are seen as a threat by seals and sea lions, particularly if their escape route to the sea appears to be blocked. Although they may look placid they are powerful, wild predators and can be very dangerous if they are approached too closely. For safety keep at least 30m away from them. All dogs should also be kept well away from seals and sea lions, as well as penguins.
Beside Curio Bay, Porpoise Bay is a fantastic destination for families and popular with swimmers, surfers and kayakers, with a beautiful sandy beach and safe waters. Blue Penguins nest in burrows around Porpoise Bay and a pod of rare Hector's Dolphins (Upokohue) can be regularly seen playing in the surf. Native to New Zealand, the Hector’s dolphin is one of the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world with a population of just over 7000. Porpoise Bay's 20 resident dolphins use the bay to raise their young, feed and rest. Do not feed them or approach them, they will come to you if they want to - although if they do, don't touch them as they have sensitive skin. Always enter the water at least 50m away from a dolphin.
- Natural Attraction
- Culture & Heritage
- Free Things to Do
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- Wildlife Spotting
- Scenic Photo Point
- Scenic Attraction
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- Sport & Outdoor