The Fascinating and Ancient Moeraki Boulders

On Koekohe beach, between Dunedin and Oamaru in the South Island of New Zealand, is a natural phenomenon steeped in Maori folklore. The Moeraki Boulders are one of the most photographed landscapes in New Zealand. Numerous wonderfully circular orbs of stone littering the Otago beachside.

Local legend says the boulders are the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck at nearby Shag Point from a large canoe of Arai-te-Uru. The patterning on the boulders, according to legend, are the remains of the canoe’s fishing nets.

Over 50 boulders have been unearthed from the eroding shoreline, with stones still half hidden in the banks of the beach. Some were weighing seven tonnes and measuring two metres wide. On the initial discovery of the site, people took home the boulders as garden ornaments.

Captivating geologists, it is believed that these boulders initially started forming in ancient sea floor sediments (Paleocene mudstone) around 60 million years ago, and the biggest rocks are estimated to have taken roughly 4 million years to get to their current size.

Top Tips for Visiting Moeraki

  • For photography, it is best to get there either early or late, as the beach is emptier (and the light is prettier)
  • The boulders are free to visit if you follow the Department of Conservation (DOC) signposting. If you head to the cafe, you will be charged to get to the beach front a small cleaning fee $2.
  • Do not damage any of the boulders or take any pieces home; they are not souvenirs
  • Best to go in low tide to get the full effect of the whole boulders scene
  • Please properly discard of any rubbish with you, leave only footprints
  • Check out nearby Shag Point and Katika Lighthouse for nearby wildlife

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