Palmerston there are plenty of things to do.
Palmerston highlights, top sights
- Seal viewing walk to Shag Point Nature Reserve or lesser known Anderson’s Lagoon
- Several 19th monuments and church buildings, St Mary’s Anglican Church & Sacred Heart Catholic Church
- Puketapu a short steep climb to awesome views of rolling farmland, undisturbed coastline and the Shag River
Quiet unassuming, Palmerston has a rich history of human occupation. The small settlement is nestled at the junction of state highway one and state highway 85. The town is a gateway to the Central Otago goldfields heritage trails and Waitaki trails.
PUKETAPU HILL WALK
Need an energy boost then lace up the hiking boots and climb Palmerston’s landmark hill to view the surrounding countryside. The summit is the home to a monument to early politician, Sir John McKenzie. The trail crosses private farmland and is closed in the lambing season (October – November).
Start your walk from the former Palmerston railway station Puketapu and/or lookout carpark signposted from SH 1, Palmerston. There are two well signposted routes up to the top of the hill. The easier slower route wends its way around the hill or a short steeper route is a vertical climb up the hill.
Join the locals and participate in the annual Kelly’s Canter and run up the hill.
SHAG RIVER, PALMERSTON
Locals fish for brown trout. Between Dunback and Palmerston there are a number of accessible parts of the river. Flowing from the Kakanui Mountains, the river is 75 km long and meets the ocean at Shag Point, 7.5km east of Palmerston.
Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) – Shag River. The Māori name for the Shag River is Waihemo (Wai=water, hemo=to go to ground), possibly a reference to the very low flows observed in the lower reaches of the river during summer.
WHERE TO GO CAMPING AROUND SHAG POINT, OTAGO?
A quiet family standard campsite on the Otago coast in a bush setting. It connects with two riverside tracks. The standard camping grounds are managed by the Department of Conservation. Forward bookings are required, Trotters Gorge campsite.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, FIND SEALS AND SEA LIONS
Shag Point Matakaea Reserve
Shag Point/Matakaea Reserve is a great spot for wildlife viewing and is part of a geologically curious and intriguing coastline.
- New Zealand fur seals bask on the easily accessible flat rock platforms
- Intriguing history from pre-European Maori settlement to coal mining ventures in the area
- Fascinating flora and fauna
- One of New Zealand’s most complete reptile fossils (a 7m plesiosaur) was also discovered on the rock shelves of Shag Point (which now resides in the Otago Museum in Dunedin)
Seals have been known to come up and lay across the warm gravel paths, so please be wary and maintain at least several metres distance and never block access to the ocean.
There is a designated picnic area just before the reserve entrance, however, camping is not permitted. Strictly no dogs allowed.
HOW TO GET TO SHAG POINT SCENIC RESERVE, OTAGO?
From Bushy Hill Road follow signs to Shag Point Road and Matakaea Scenic Reserve Picnic Area (parking, compostable toilets and seating). The area is managed by Matakaea and is jointly managed by DOC and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. Shag Point/Matakaea.
Travelling on state highway one, Shag Point is signposted 9 km north of Palmerston on SH1. Turn at the sign onto Shag Point Road, and follow until you reach the reserve carpark.
Highlights for Shag Point
Flat rock platforms provide an easy haul-out site for New Zealand fur seals, and cliff-top viewing areas allow you to observe seal behaviour without disturbing their rest. Keep an eye out for whale or dolphin activity offshore.
Binoculars are recommended.
An unusual feature of this site is snow tussock and other alpine species, such as the large alpine daisy (Celmisia hookeri), growing at low altitude and so close to the coast. The rare lily Iphigenia novae-zelandiae also grows here.
The rocky shore is lined with rimurapa (bull kelp). Just offshore are dense forests of giant bladder kelp, which are among the best examples of macrocystis in New Zealand. Look for seals frolicking among the bull kelp.
No camping due to historic burial sites and areas of cultural significance for local Maori. Trotters Gorge campsite is nearby, and there are places to stay at Palmerston, Moeraki and Hampden. No dogs allowed.
Keep on designated tracks due to historic coal mining shafts and hidden deep vents.
- Length: 2 km (one way)
- Grade: easy
Where can I find the Anderson Lagoon, Otago?
No dogs allowed.
From Bushy Hill Road turn onto Anderson Road (no exit), follow signs to the lagoon and park on the roadside and cross stile to the beginning of the walk.
The gravel / boardwalk path leads to the beach. The north end of the beach has a steep staircase towards Shag River Mouth over the headlands. The carpark trail leads walkers through the natural dunes (home to nesting birds) and drops onto Shag beach (low tide).
Walking along the beach at low tide walk you will pass unstable cliff faces known for rock falls. The staircase leads to the high tide route. This is an isolated back country walk and it is possible you could be the sole person traversing the coastline. No dogs allowed.
- Allow: 2 – 3 hours
WHERE TO GO WITH THE KIDS IN PALMERSTON, OTAGO?
- Shag Point Scenic Reserve to spot seals
- Swim in the Shag River
- Visit the well known Moeraki Boulders
WHERE TO TAKE A SELFIE IN PALMERSTON, OTAGO?
- Triumph as you survey the view from the top of Puketapu hill using John MacKenzie’s monument as ‘proof’
- Seals in the background as you enjoy exploring Shag Point Reserve
PALMERSTON SOCIAL MEDIA
- A few kilometres inland, at the Shag Valley Station, Frank Bell made the first New Zealand to England radio contact on 18 October 1924, an event which attracted international media attention as the first round-the-world radio broadcast…source Wikipedia
- Kelly’s Canter contestants ran up Puketapu with the record time of 20 minutes. The festival remembers local constable Bert Kelly, who during World War II would regularly run up Puketapu on coastal watch for enemy ships. The track is open all year except during lambing season September through to November. Duration 60 minutes.
- Palmerston and Waihemo A&P Show. February, the first Saturday witnesses a rural A&P Show (agriculture and produce). Since 1881 the show has been known for its craft stalls, pop up food trucks from Dunedin and elsewhere, displays of flowers and vegetables, the lambs with awards for best in show, street entertainers and vintage machinery.
- Palmerston Mini Show, September is home to the Palmerston Mini Show which is held annually late in March. It is an Equestrian Show that encourages riders of all levels of competition. There is a theme of fancy dress for bike riders, horses and attendees. The Palmerston Mini Show Fun Day is held annually late in September.
WHERE TO STAY IN PALMERSTON?
An enterprising local accommodation provider tempts visitors to stay awhile with a guide to travelling distances.
ENTERPRISING PIONEER MOTEL
A classic roadside motel comfortable, no frills accommodation is found at Pioneer Motel, Palmerston reasonably priced.
FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN PALMERSTON CHECK OUT
Travel distances to Palmerston:
- 23 km from Moeraki
- 51 km from Oamaru
- 58 km from Dunedin
- 164 km from Alexandra
- 250 km from Queenstown
- 301 km from Christchurch
- 948 (2018)
WHAT MAKES PALMERSTON TICK?
- An agricultural hub as well as a convenient low cost accommodation option for commuting workers based in Dunedin or Oamaru.
JUDGEMENT ON PALMERSTON
- Palmerston offers a cost effective accommodation option for exploration of the Waitaki district as well as convenient access to Central Otago. Consider bucket list attractions and evaluate travel times while weighing up your stay choices.
Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Dunedin & Otago Region nearby attractions and events.
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