Curio Bay is known for its petrified forest and endangered wildlife and is considered a ‘must-see’ on the Southern Scenic Route.

Venture Southland supports a number of projects that help to develop Curio Bay and the wider Catlins area, including supporting infrastructure upgrades that embrace the shared vision for the area. 

The South Catlins Development Trust, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Southland District Council (SDC) entered into a Memorandum of understanding in 2012 which outlined a shared vision for Curio Bay. This resulted in the development of a $5 million upgrade to enhance the area to address wastewater, car parking, roading and toilet requirements in the area, with additional investment in sealing the “Penguin Highway” from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Why Curio Bay?

Curio Bay, a fragile ecosystem with endangered species including hectors dolphins, yellow-eyed penguins, sea lions and an internationally significant geological specimen, the petrified forest, attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Visitor numbers continue to increase each year with between 100,000 and 150,000 people visiting each year. Curio Bay is situated on the “Southern Scenic Route” and in “the Catlins” which are two brands that are growing in international significance. The Australian Traveller magazine labelled the Southern Scenic Route as one of the best 10 travel routes in the world.

It is also important to note that the Southland Regional Development Strategy acknowledged Curio Bay as one of three key transformational projects to help drive the value and benefit of tourism for Southland.

Tumu Toka Curioscape

Tumu Toka Curioscape was opened to the public on the 16th of December 2017, sixteen years after the project’s initial inception. The visitor centre, which cost $2.5million, is a result of The South Catlins Charitable Trust’s ambition to preserve the Catlins natural environment, and cater to a growing number of visitors to the region.

Including a café, public toilets and the Gateway Experience, where visitors learn about the history, Maori connection, geology and wildlife of Curio Bay through interactive technology, the visitor centre provides essential tourism infrastructure in the area and is of significance to the wider Catlins and Southland region.

Venture Southland worked alongside the South Catlins Charitable Trust to support the project's development. This included the preparation of funding applications, feasibility studies and the business case for Tumu Toka Curioscape

Project Timeline


  • Secured core funding, including Community Trust of Southland, Lotteries Grants and MBIE Tourism Growth Partnership Funding
  • The Living Forest Walkway opened
  • Ablution block at campground upgraded


  • New carpark and road alignment completed
  • New track to the petrified forest with penguin walkway completed
  • Sealing of the “Penguin Highway” connecting Waikawa and Fortrose, passing Curio Bay, Slope Point and Waipapa Point has commenced
  • Tumu Toka Curioscape opened to the public in December 2017 


  • Tumu Toka Curioscape officially opened in July 2018
For further information contact
Rhiannon Suter - Venture Southland

Rhiannon Suter

Strategic Projects Manager