Thirteen days flew by seemingly at the speed of light, and our time with Jason’s parents was drawing to a close. We had one more night before we’d be parting ways, and a few hundred kilometers to cover. We departed the Otago Peninsula, where we’d spent a busy couple of days, and headed north for Oamaru, but not before checking off an item from Gina’s must-see list, the Moeraki Boulders.
As the old adage goes…
Two heads are better than one. When Gina and Jeff arrived nearly two weeks earlier, I had never even heard of the Moeraki Boulders. When Gina mentioned she wanted to see them, I was thrilled to find that we would pass by them on our chosen route. It would be the perfect ending to our adventuring around the South Island. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how much planning any one person does, there is always an opportunity for insight from outside minds. And I’m so glad for it, as it has been one of the coolest things we’ve seen so far in New Zealand.
The Moeraki Boulders are natural occurrences called concretions. They’re essentially clumps of an organic glue material combined with sediment. They gradually grew larger and larger, somewhat like a monstrous stone pearl. I know, my description is awesome. The official website has a video that explains their creation much better. I highly recommend watching it. If I were to try and relay that information here without plagiarising, it would become a jumbled, nonsensical mess. Science is not my bag.
A little lighthouse and a little light show.
Our first stop of the day was at Katiki Point Lighthouse. It was a nice little stopping point that would have been exponentially nicer had it not been raining. It wasn’t the easiest side road attraction to get to – signage is minimal. The proprietor at our previous night’s accommodation relayed directions to Gina, and that is how we found it. Although, we didn’t have its proper name at the time. If you type “Katiki Point Lighthouse” into Google maps, it’ll get you there. Supposedly there is a fur seal colony at the end of the nature walk that passes alongside the lighthouse, but we didn’t make it that far. We did enjoy a lovely rainbow, so I can’t really complain too much about the sprinkles.
On to Moeraki.
We returned to the main highway and shortly found ourselves at the Moeraki Boulders Cafe – strangely the entrance point for the site. I grabbed a coffee and we had a final lunch in J’s parents rented camper.
Jason, Gina and myself had a blast wandering around, climbing on and taking photos of the boulders. Like many big attractions in New Zealand, even though it was busy by Kiwi standards, we still felt like we had it mostly to ourselves. And Mother Earth wasn’t finished showing off yet, either. We had a spectacular double rainbow splashing color into our photo sesh.
More than 50 boulders sit perfectly in the sand on this remote East coast beach. It creates an eerily beautiful landscape, almost alien. A few are smashed to pieces, scattered along the coastline, their burnt-orange crystalline centers contrasting the smooth gray stone. A few kids were playing tag with the waves, and per usual, we arrived just in time for the rising tide. Note to self – remember to check tide times before venturing out to seaside attractions.
Plan your visit.
The Moeraki Boulders are an easy stop if you’ll be traveling between Dunedin and Christchurch (or Oamaru). They are located on Koekohe Beach between the towns of Moeraki and Hampden and situated off State Highway 1. The Moeraki Cafe charges a small fee (I think it was $2 NZD) for the use of their walkway down to the beach, but any purchase at the restaurant or adjoining shop grants you access.
Definitely check the times of low and high tide so you can plan accordingly. Low tide is when you want to be there so you have full access to the boulders.
If you aren’t self-driving, Dunedin Railways has a scenic coastline route that stops at the boulders and would be a fantastic way to spend a day.
On to Oamaru.
After hanging around with a bunch of rocks, we headed on to spend the night in the self-proclaimed Steampunk Capital of the World, Oamaru. More on that to come.