Curio Bay, a fragile ecosystem, is known for its petrified forest and endangered wildlife and is considered a ‘must-see’ on the Southern Scenic Route, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

With visitor numbers continuing to increase each year to between 100,000 and 150,000 people visiting each year, it is important that the area has the infrastructure and attractions required to meet visitor demand

Curio Bay is situated on the “Southern Scenic Route”, which The Australian Traveller magazine has labelled as one of the best 10 travel routes in the world. Venture Southland supports a number of projects that help to develop Curio Bay and the wider Catlins area, including supporting infrastructure upgrades, tourism products 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 and 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.

Along with supporting the shared vision for Curio Bay, Venture Southland also worked alongside the South Catlins Charitable Trust to support the establishment of Tumu Toka Curioscape

As a result of the dedication, integrated approach and community collaboration to achieve this vision, the South Catlins Charitable Trust was awarded the supreme award at the national Trustpower Community Awards in 2019. 

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.

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


  • Southland Catlins Charitable Trust awarded runners up to the supreme award at the national Trustpower Community Awards