Nestled at the foot of the Ōwaka Valley, The Catlins' largest town, Ōwaka, is surrounded by rainforest, spectacular valleys, sandy beaches, and a large tidal lake.

In Te Reo Māori, Ōwaka means “the place of the canoe”.

In celebration of the town’s ingoa (name), a stunning canoe was sculpted out of stainless steel to commemorate its 150th anniversary. It has an estimated life span of 1200 years! 

A visit to the modern Owaka Museum (Wahi Kahuika) is like walking through a 3D storybook. The building itself is a nod to the maritime history of the area. Inside, don’t miss the tales of The Catlins area’s rich Māori and pioneering past, from Māori settlements to shipwrecks.

From Balclutha, Ōwaka is just a 30 minute drive. En route, stop at the Tunnel Hill walkway, and explore the last remains of the old river railway that once travelled through the area. Remember to take a torch and keep an eye out for glow worms.

Top spots near Ōwaka: 

  • Surat Bay and Cannibal Bay - for their rugged beauty, wildlife, and walking tracks.
  • Pounawea - a quaint seaside village with gorgeous walks through native bush and tidal wetlands.
  • Picture perfect Jack’s Bay or Long Point (Irihuka) for spotting yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho)
  • Adventure seekers love Jack's Blowhole, 55-metres deep and just 200 metres from the ocean. 
  • Tick off one of the area’s famous waterfalls, Pūrākaunui Falls
  • Camp off-grid at the riverside Tawanui campsite or go coastal at the popular DOC campsite at Pūrākaunui Bay. 
  • Surfer? Head to wild Pūrākaunui Bay in the coldest months for some of the biggest ever recorded waves.

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