How to see yellow-eyed penguins for free at Shag Point

Have we got a seal for you! Check out Shag Point, Waitaki District, North Otago - a fur seal and yellow eyed penguin colony.

Over the horizon, past the curve of the earth, the great stone statues on Easter Island are staring across the Pacific in the same direction you are - towards South America.

But the statues can’t move. When you stand on these headlands, you’ll understand why Maori called this magic place Matakaea - “wandering gaze.”

If your gaze doesn’t wander then you’re made of stone too; call yourself a statute and rent your head to the pigeons.

Shag Point’s Matakaea Reserve is stunning. Want to see yellow eyed penguins - the world’s rarest? Come here.

They swim ashore, late every afternoon. Just a few remain on the mainland and Shag Point’s a popular breeding ground between October and February.

It’s also fur seal central. Two minutes from the first car park and you’re at the edge of the land. This is the seals’ place. They glide beneath the waves, sleek, smooth, beautiful as mermaids.

They shuffle up the rocks, shaking themselves dry like puppies. They roll in the sun, flippers flopping, not a care in the world. No-one hunts them now. They’re safe. We’re welcome to watch.

And look out for the old schoolteacher’s house and sod cottage at Shag Point when you turn left about 15k south of Moeraki. Shag Point was a coal mining town and residents reckon “the weather’s always better here”.

Actually, the whole place is pretty cool.

Shag Point/Matakaea Reserve: Wander and gaze, gaze and wonder. This is the real sea world. And admission is free!

SHAG POINT/MATAKAEA SCENIC RESERVE: Left off SH 1, approx 15k south of Moeraki
More info from the Oamaru i-SITE, Cnr Thames Highway and Itchen Street