• Purakaunui Falls and Pounawea
  • Nearby fur seals


  • by car:

    1 hour 20 mins from Dunedin

  • by car:

    1 hour 40 mins from Invercargill

Owaka is a great place to find out more as you explore the Catlins offering a real taste of the area’s history, people and places.

The largest town in the Catlins, Owaka which means “the place of canoes” was established by pioneers in the late 1800s. The town was originally called Catlins River, then Quakerfield. The stainless steel canoe “waka” sculpture was made to celebrate the town’s 150th anniversary in 2015 and should last more than a millennium.

Nearby attractions include picturesque Purakaunui Falls and Pounawea, a great place for bird watching. Wonderful wildlife and sensational views await at Nugget Point while nearby Surat and Cannibal bays are great places to spot seals. Jack’s blowhole is are also within easy reach, where a large sea cave collapsed to leave a deep ocean-filled hole in the middle of a field.

Further south are Matai and Horseshoe falls close to the small holiday haven of Papatowai “where the forest meets the sea” with fantastic bush and beach walks along with the madcap genius, gizmos and gadgets of the Lost Gypsy Gallery.

Owaka has a doctor, small supermarket, petrol station, quirky clothes shops and art galleries along with a variety of places to stay. The Catlins Historical Museum in Burns Street focuses on the people and places which have given the Catlins its character and charm over the past 500 years. The museum also houses the information centre and library where there is free wifi.

Functional facts: Approx. population 350, information centre, essential shops and services.

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