HistoryOwaka, located 38kms south of Balclutha, is the largest township in the Catlins. Founded in 1865, the township was originally located between the Catlins and Owaka Rivers, however shifted next to the railway in 1896. Between 1865 and the 1890s Owaka was dominated by shipping and sawmilling. Interestingly it also had a gunpower factory. This blew up in 1885 and was not replaced. During this period, the post office (1867-1988), telegraph office (1879), banks (1880), telephone service (1882), and school (1870) were established. From the 1890s, the settlement shifted to a service town for the surrounding sawmilling and farming settlements. During this time, the District High School (1922) and butter factory (1923) were established, and the town had a wealth of services for this surrounding community including a butcher, baker, drapery, hospital etc. Today the area is primarily a mixed farming and tourist centre. As the hub for Catlins tourists Owaka has several coffee shops, giftstores, an art gallery, and museum. Additionally, the Catlins Area School (1978) continues to provide educational services for local children.