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No trip to New Zealand’s south island is complete without a trip to the mysterious Moeraki Boulders, situated on the North Otago coastline. There are lots of theories about how they came to be here (some practical, some magical) but these amazing spherical stones draw tourists from all over the world.
There are ‘heaps’ (Kiwi lingo, innit) of these boulders dotted across the beach, each weighing several tonnes and some as tall as 2 metres. The scientific explanation is that they are calcium concretions formed over 60 millions years ago (woooooow!). Maori legend states that the stones are gourds that came from the legendary voyaging canoe Araiteuru, that washed ashore when the vessel was wrecked when it hit rocks hundreds of years ago.
Whatever your belief, there is something rather magical about being able to get so close to something so old and mysterious, and freely wander around. We’re not entirely sure what the protocol is but many visitors also touch and climb on the boulders. The setting is also serene, with amazing coastal views – one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
To visit the boulders, head to Koekohe Beach, between Moeraki and Hampden on State Highway 1. It is ‘free’ to visit the boulders although there is a weird situation whereby if you want to reach the boulders by the boardwalk, you are supposed to pay $2 as the boardwalk is built, owned and maintained by the cafe onsite there.
You can also reach the boulders on the ‘free’ path through a short 10 minute woodland track (the Department of Conservation signposted route). That said, we visited at sunrise when both the cafe and gift-shop were closed so we ‘naughtily’ used the boardwalk without paying the suggested $2 fee (we aren’t sure if it is manned to take payments when the cafe is open, or whether you just drop coins into a box).
The main reason for visiting at sunrise was that we wanted to visit the Moeraki Boulders at as quiet a time as possible, when most travellers were likely still in bed. But how wrong can you be? As we pulled into the carpark at 7.30am, we saw a massive great tour bus pull in immediately behind us, packed full of bleary eyed tourists. So we ran down to the boulders as quick as possible to get some quick sunrise shots without people, before the masses started clamouring on the boulders.
FURTHER READING – Ultimate New Zealand bucket list – top 50 things to do
To achieve our sunrise start, we stayed at the nearby Moeraki Village Holiday Park, which is just a short 10 minute drive away from the Moeraki Boulders car park. Our original intention was to visit the boulders the night before, bur heavy evening rain put pay to that so we stayed in our cabin.
To be honest, we can only recommend the Moeraki Village Holiday Park for the views (definitely not the facilities), as we had an incredible vista of the harbour from our cabin (it kind of felt like a scene from ‘Doc Martin’). Given it was the same price as a private room in a hostel, we were surprised how incredible the view was, but the shared shower and toilet facilities were pretty grim and the women behind reception was just a bit offhand when we realised the room didn’t include bedding (every other holiday park we’d stayed at included this in the rate).
Having said that, our cabin was perfect for a one night stay and also within walking distance of the Moeraki Tavern, the local watering hole.
When planning your New Zealand road-trip of the south island, make sure you allow time to visit the mystical Moeraki Boulders. And if you totally sad like us, make sure you are singing ‘boulders’ to the tune of Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers when you arrive…
More New Zealand blog posts
- Things to do in Dunedin, New Zealand
- A Guide to Arrowtown, New Zealand
- Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
- A day trip to Milford Sound, New Zealand
- Steampunk HQ Gallery in Oamaru
- Baldwin Street – the world’s steepest street in Dunedin
- Visiting the Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth
Backpacker: Riverside Haven Lodge / Moeraki Village Holiday Park / Moeraki Ocean Breeze
Flashpacker: Noah’s Boutique Accommodation / Three Bays / Happy Valley B&B
Watch our New Zealand South Island video
Words by Neil Hassall. Photography by Neil Hassall and Caroline Keyzor.
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