Curio Bay Petrified Forest

Curio Bay Petrified Forest


1 Rankers Review

0 Face-to-Face

4 Papatowai

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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600 m return | 10 minutes return

The petrified forest represents one of the finest examples of a fossilised Jurassic forest anywhere in the world.


The platform is best explored at low tide, although you will still be able to see the forest remains 1-2 hours either side of low tide.


Curio Bay is well signposted from the Southern Scenic Route. At the end of Curio Bay Road, turn right and a raised parking area is at the start of the track, shortly after on the left.


Follow the track past the flax then descend the wooden steps to the inter-tidal rock platform. Explore at leisure.

The platform is best explored at low tide, although you will still be able to see the forest remains 1-2 hours either side of low tide.

As you are enjoying the forest, remember that generations after you would also like the same experience. Leave it as it is and don’t be tempted into taking a memento.


The geology of the Catlins is distinct from the surrounding regions, with mostly sedimentary rocks deposited in a marine basin known as the Murihiku Syncline. Later tectonic pressures have been relatively gentle, allowing the rocks to stay relatively unaltered and the fossilised remnants to be preserved.

Around 180 million years ago in the Jurassic Period, the Earths’ continents we know of today were joined in to supercontinents, today’s southern hemisphere landmasses known as Gondwanaland. Birds had not yet evolved, but tuatara’s ancestors and dinosaurs roamed freely in the forest. Ferns and ancestors of kauri and matai formed the forest here, which over a period of 20,000 years was buried beneath successive lahars (mudflows from volcanic eruptions) and sediment from river flooding. This preserved the trees and over time silica minerals replaced the carbon content of the wood, literally turning the trees to stone. Notable tree families include Mesembrioxylon, Dadoxylon, and Pentoxylon.

Subsequent tectonic uplift has now re-exposed the layers in the rock. Some are still seen in the cliff faces and the most impressive are exposed on the inter-tidal rock platform.
Stumps and fallen logs abound, the petrification preserving the form of the wood.


Rock pools filled with Neptune’s necklace form in the hollows, and the bursts of foaming water mark the kelp fringed shoreline.


Keep watch for fur seals who inhabit the area.

While in the area you should also head left at the end of Curio Bay Road into the campground and view the yellow-eyed penguins from the lookout.

Nearby Porpoise Bay is one of the best locations to look for Maui’s or Hector’s dolphins. These are the world’ smallest dolphin and one of the rarest. Around 40 live near Porpoise Bay. They are only 1.4 metres long, coloured light grey or white and have a curved dorsal fin. They rarely jump out of the water and stay close to shore.


Feature Value Info


DOC Southland

Central government organisation


South IslandSouthlandPapatowai


  • Walking
  • Free


Car R's avatar

Car R

United Kingdom

Ranking: 8/10

Such a shame that many people don't come off the trail across from Dunedin to Queenstown to travel down and see this.
Yes, once you've had a good close look at a few of the fossilised trees and stumps the novelty wears off a little but it's really interesting, good fun jumping from petrified tree to petrified tree as you start to see the grain of the wood appearing. If you do go down to the Caitlins area, visit here. In fact, make a point of coming off the main tourist trail and head to the far south coast, lovely and quite, plenty of great surprises and things to see.

Reviewed over 4 years ago and experienced in February 2017

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner