Time: 20 min return
The carpark and track entrance are signposted on SH92, the Southern Scenic Route, five kilometres north of Owaka.
This historic reserve preserves a tunnel on the old Catlins River Railway. The line’s construction began at Balclutha in 1879. This tunnel section was completed in 1896 and the line reached Owaka a year later. The walk follows the fence line down to the old railway formation, which leads to the 250-metre tunnel. A torch is recommended to see the intricate brick work in the tunnel’s construction. The land beyond the light at the end of the tunnel is privately owned.
Time: 10 min return
Three kilometres south of Owaka on the Southern Scenic Route, turn right into Barr Road. Several areas suitable for parking are handy to the start of the track.
The track is in the Barrs Falls Scenic Reserve and suits all ages.
Pounawea Nature Walk
Pounawea Nature Walk and Estuary
Time: 15 min round trip
The track starts from the Pounawea Motor Camp, on the foreshore at the end of Pounawea Road. Vehicles should be parked outside the camping ground.
This loop track in the Pounawea Scenic Reserve was mainly formed for the use of school groups staying at Pounawea. The walk, through bush typical of the area, is well interpreted with plant and tree labelling.
Pounawea Bush Walking Track
Time: 45 min round trip
The track start is the same as the Pounawea Nature Walk at the motor camp.
This passes through a stand of virgin podocarp forest, well populated by birdlife. The return is through a salt marsh and estuary that shows an intact sequence of vegetation from shoreline to forest. The sand spit near the estuary mouth is home to wading birds, including godwits who annually return from northern Asia.
The salt marsh section of the track is only accessible at low tide.
Surat Bay Wildlife Walk
Time: 20 - 30 min return
From Owaka, turn off Pounawea Road onto Newhaven Road and turn right for the carpark.
Some of Surat Bay's resident sea lions
Cross the bridge over a small creek and follow the poled route to pass through the dunes. In most conditions you will find there’s a large colony of New Zealand sea lions interacting or sleeping on the beach. This species is the world’s rarest sealion and is only now rebuilding its mainland population, after being hunted to virtual extinction over 200 years ago.
Please take care around the sea lions. Keep 10 metres distant from sleeping animals and 20 metres from those that are active. If you are in a group do not surround them. Out of sight in the dunes you’re able to observe their behaviour and how they interact: young and old, male and female.
Please note that on this beach and among nearby dunes, and in similar situations all along the Otago coastline you will encounter sleeping sea lions. In many instances they will be completely motionless and may also have attracted a considerable number of flies. They are not dead! When sea lions come ashore after a major expedition at sea they are exhausted, please don't disturb them.
All these tracks are within 10 kilometres of Owaka township, which is on SH92, the Southern Scenic Route.
Dogs are allowed on Tunnel Hill Track, Barrs Falls Track, Pounawea Nature Walk, and Surat Bay, but must be on a lead.
The Otago coast is frequented by sea lions, other marine mammals and vulnerable bird life. Please keep your dog on a leash at all times and safe from harm.
Catlins field trip
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