The Boulders of Moeraki

Once we had departed Oamaru we took the scenic route away from the town this follows the coast down through Kakanui we did however have an unexpected detour when we got close to the town as the bridge at the north end was closed whilst they carried out structural repairs to the bridge to replace parts found to be rotten during a recent check of the 120 year old bridge.


The road to Kakanui runs along the seashore diverting inland at one point where the road had been eroded by the sea we almost had the road to ourselves making it easy to travel at our own pace taking in the scenery rather than travelling down State Highway 1 having large trucks right up our backside, Yes I do pull over when safety allows and most of the time we are travelling 100 but it’s far more enjoyable to do it slowly.


Further up the road is All Day Bay a freedom camping area (#8267) a great spot set just off the road however the flooding from the previous days had yet to dissipate so unless we wanted to wade through 6 inches of water to get out of the van it wasn’t really an option so we moved on.


Slightly further up the road back on State Highway 1 is the village of Hampden and Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park (#8292) where we had decided to stay. With the NZMCA discount it was $30.60 including power which we wanted to restore full charge to the batteries after 3 days of rain. The campground has nice level spots the soil must also be very free draining as it was firm underneath the wheels. Alex the camp owner was very helpful giving us clear instructions about the walk to the boulders telling us if we managed to cross the first stream we would be OK from there.


The first interesting thing to me was that I had always thought the boulders were at one point of the beach but it turns out the whole beach is full of what remains of multiple boulders spread over kilometres. The camp is situated 2.5kms from the main site but soon after setting out we came across these broken examples.


The second really interesting thing was that these boulders are “hatched” from the cliff face as the coastline recedes with erosion since both of these boulders are some distance from the main site this is something that we would not have seen had we just parked at one of the two car parks near the boulders and wandered down. Knowing this made the walk well and truly worthwhile.



A bit of research online regarding the formation of the boulders leads to the fact no one quite knows for sure how they formed but that they are a combination of mudstone and calcite and are much harder on the outside than the inside so once they break open the deterioration is quite rapid.


I never took photos of the two main streams that we forded on our way to the boulders but there was still quite a flow of water coming down out of the hills. I would not say that the crossings were dangerous but it was almost knee deep at one crossing point, I advised Sarah to cross further down towards the low tide line. The waterfall above is one of many that were cascading down the cliffs after all the rain.


As we got closer to the main tourist area and the majority of boulders I was reminded of Hot Water Beach and the hundreds of tourists all crammed into the one area. But as we got closer to the boulders the crowd thinned out with what must have been a coach tour departing.


I know I mentioned seeing the boulders “hatch” further down the coast with the tourists missing out with these two examples contradicting me at the main site however i think the ones we saw further up the cliff are in some ways more dramatic capturing the birth of the boulders.


As we walked up to the main carpark to have a look at the beach from above I noticed someone had been busy with a bit of flax weaving. I have seen this many times in Northland but it’s the first time I have seen it in the South Island.


Wandering back along the beach to the camp there was time to take in the scenery looking at some of the landslides that had occurred during the storm, given the amount of water that was coming out of the waterfalls it was hardly surprising that the slips had happened. The beach is so desolate once you step away from the main area of the boulders in fact the only other life to be seen was this poor lonely shag.


Speaking of shags next morning it was back on the road to visit Shag Point but along the way we found this stopping area with the cloud display the way it was I just couldn’t help but stop to take a few photos. It was also good to see the sea much flatter that it had been the previous day.


Arriving at Shag Point the thing that was most noticeable was the seals not the shags. In fact where we stopped I looked down at the rocks noticing the seals down there I completely missed the ones right next to me in the grass till Sarah pointed them out.


The history of Shag Point is coal mining with signs warning of open shafts we made sure we stuck to the formed paths. Apparently the mine stretched out under the sea with coal either shipped out through the bay or trucked out via the narrow road into the small village.


There are a number of quite nice bach’s lining the road into the point but the real residents appear to be the seals who have made themselves quite at home both on the rocks and in what appeared to be someones back garden. I should also mention that we didn’t see a single shag so maybe it needs to be renamed Seal Point.


The drive to Shag Point is only a short detour from State Highway 1 with plenty of parking at the end of the road by the seal colony a visit well worth making. I was also really interested reading the sign shown above that there are boulders here as well although they are a different type although searching for them remains a project for another day as we climbed back into the van to continue our journey.

Dunedin here we come……………..
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4 thoughts on “The Boulders of Moeraki

  1. Well done! You’ll be quite a wild life expert by the time you’ve finished your trip. There’s talk of fur seals becoming endangered, so it’s good to know that there’s a colony there. Sounds as if it’s thriving, too ..

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