What is a Geopark?
A Geopark is the new UNESCO designation that gives world-wide status to a defined area of international geological significance; telling the story of how the geology and landscape has shaped the lives of its inhabitants: be they people, animals or plants.
A Geopark is managed within a holistic framework of protection, education and sustainable development. But it is about much more than just geology. It also creates a unifying platform which explores, links and celebrates the identity, history, culture and diversity of the area.
The Vanished World Discovery Centre lies in the heart of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, which is formed under an ancient sea and built on the remains of prehistoric creatures.
Straddling the 45th parallel South on the east coast of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) of Aotearoa (New Zealand), the geopark is bounded by mountains and sea, the remnants of fire and ice, and the powerful Waitaki River.
The park covers just over 7,200 square kilometres. At the heart of it all are spectacular areas of karst; landscape underlain by limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and other characteristic landforms. The karst landscape and its ‘whitestone’ are integral to the identity of the Waitaki region. The first people to the area found shelter in limestone caves, leaving now-treasured rock art. Waitaki’s largest town, Ōamaru, is renowned for fine limestone architecture. Today, the Vanished World Discovery Centre celebrates the wonderous fossils that continue to emerge from the region’s whitestone. This is why our geopark is proudly named the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark
Download the FREE Geopark app
Download the FREE Waitaki Whitestone Geopark app to explore a land of geological marvels! This app is designed to direct you to the highlights of our geopark. Follow the map on each tour or just leave the tour open and let it announce when you’re near a highlight of interest.