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20 Crazy Rock Formations in New Zealand

macronix on Flickr

You thought rocks were boring? Think Again!

If you hadn’t noticed, landscapes are a pretty big deal in New Zealand. Just another fundamental part of that is some of the wacky and weird rock formations found all over the country. We just want to thank Mother Nature for the erosion and weathering it took to create these wonderful photo opportunities.

Here are some of the best rock formations found in New Zealand. Plus, if you like landforms, don’t forget to take a look at: 12 Most Wonderful Waterfalls in New Zealand.

Take our survey

1. The Moeraki Boulders

We are talking the type of perfectly spherical boulders that look like they could chase Indiana Jones! Except you don’t have to go scrambling through tombs to find them… The most famous boulders are the Moeraki Boulders on the South Island, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are the only ones – there are tons!

Location: Moeraki Beach, South Island
macronix on Wikipedia

2. Cathedral Cove

This spot in Coromandel attracts the masses with its white stone stack, arch and cliffs. Cathedral Cove as even made it to the big screen in the Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian and a Macklemore music video.

Location: Hahei, Coromandel, North Island

3. Pancake Rocks and blowholes

The aptly named Pancake Rocks, indeed look like stacked pancakes. Not only that but time your visit to the rocks at high tide to see the blowholes in action. Check it out in Punakaiki in the Paparoa National Park.

Location: Punakaiki, West Coast, South Island
Cecilia Lindqvist

4. Basalt Columns

If you manage to reach these hexagonal prisms located in the Chatham Islands, then you are one badass backpacker. Not many people of their gap year in New Zealand manage to make it over to this island 788km away from the North Island. Nevertheless, we couldn’t resist adding this crazy rock formation to the list.

Location: Chatham Islands

5. Tunnel Beach

See these sandstone cliffs, arch and cave just south of Dunedin. Not only does the Tunnel Beach Walk bring you to views of beautiful coastal scenery, but you can also delve into the manmade tunnel where you may discover some fossils.

Location: Dunedin, Coastal Otago, South Island

6. Archway Islands

As you can probably tell, we are fond of arches on this list. The Archway Islands at Wharariki Beach create the perfect backdrop for some stunning photos. They are just some of the 19 Epic Natural Attractions in Golden Bay.

Location: Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay, South Island
 imagea.org on Flickr

7. Split Apple Rock

Just casually hanging out off the coast between Marahau and Kaiteriteri, Split Apple Rock is a gargantuan boulder that is split down the centre. Kayak, paddleboard or water taxi right up to this cool rock formation in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Location: Towers Bay, Tasman/Nelson, South Island.
 macronix on Flickr

8. Hole in the Rock

Shocker: more arches! This particular lovely looking arch is in the Bay of Islands. A cruise out to this iconic rock may also include some bottlenose dolphin sightings.

Location: Piercy Island, Bay of Islands, North Island

9. Ngarau Cave

Get your stalagmite and stalactite fix at the Ngarua Cave. Your guide will take you on a 300m trail through this underworld, where you can even see the bones of the extinct moa. Check it out near Takaka in Golden Bay.

Location: Takaka, Tasman/Nelson, South Island
Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia

10. Horeke Basalts

These jagged basalt boulders stick out like a saw thumb amongst the subtropical forest of the Wairere Valley.

Location: Wairere Valley, Northland, North Island
(WT-en) Tramp at English Wikivoyage

11. Cape Kidnappers

This mudstone cape which extends out to sea is home to one of New Zealand’s largest gannet colonies. Find it in the Hawke’s Bay region.

Location: Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay, North Island

12. Rawhiti Cave

Another option to see an awesome cave structure in the Tasman/Nelson region is in the Rawhiti Caves. Follow the trail to a viewing platform and enjoy the magnificent limestone formations.

Location: Takaka, Tasman/Nelson, South Island
Pseudopanax at English Wikipedia

13. Kupe’s Sail

Kupe’s Sail is the result of an earthquake creating this flat ridge, which is said to look like a sail. That’s why it’s named after Kupe from Maori mythology.

Location: Palliser Bay, Wairarapa, North Island
 Karora on Wikipedia

14. Rapanui (Shag Rock)

Once standing around 11 metres high, Rapanui Rock was significantly reduced after the 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes. Nevertheless, the rock stack stands in the entrance of the Avon Estuary in Christchurch and is still visible from the road.

Location: Christchurch, Canterbury, South Island
Schwede66 oon Wikipedia

15. Clay Cliffs

There are many crazy rock formations in the Waitaki Valley, and the one that steals the limelight has to be the Clay Cliffs! Stepping inside the Clay Cliffs is much like stepping onto another planet (we imagine). Check them out between Omarama and Ohau.

Location: Waitaki Valley, South Island

16. Orakei Korako

Geothermal activity has created many weird and wonderfully coloured formations in the Orakei Korako geothermal park. Find it between Rotorua and Taupo!

Location: Near Taupo, Bay of Plenty, North Island

17. Nugget POint

A short walk to this lighthouse in The Catlins gives a spectacular view of these “nuggets” of rock protruding out of the ocean. Seal pups use the pools within the rocks to splash about it.

Location: Catlins Coast, Otago, South Island
 Omer Simkha on FLickr

18. Putangirua Pinnacles

A Lord of the Rings location and an amazing example of badlands erosion, you can hike to these surreal pillars via the Pinnacles Track starting from the Pinnacles Campsite.

Location: Aorangi Ranges, Wellington, North Island
Michal Klajban (Hikingisgood.com) on Wikipedia

19. Castle Hill

Climbers can’t resist taking on the limestone boulders all around this Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area. This makes Castle Hill the number one spot for “bouldering”. Find this rocky outcrop landscape between Darfield and Arthurs Pass.

Location: Canterbury, South Island
 Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr

20. Cape Farewell

How else can we end this list than with one last arch? Farewell Spit, on its own, is an amazing sight as a huge sandspit, but these sandstone cliffs of Cape Farewell are the icing on the cake.

Location: Golden Bay, South Island
Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com on Wikipedia

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