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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Moeraki Boulders

Tourism NZ - Miles Holden

What, where and when to see the Moeraki Boulders.

Snapping up a pic of those unusual and perfect spherical boulders is a must when travelling along Coastal Otago on the South Island. The Moeraki Boulders is one of the natural wonders of New Zealand that’s not only free to visit but a must on any road trip around the South Island. However, for the best viewing experience, it’s best to plan when you go to the Moeraki Boulders and know the best way to access them. We’ll go through all of that and more in this guide to the Moeraki Boulders!

On top of telling you how to get to the boulders, this guide also goes through the best times of day to visit the boulders in time with the tide. You’ll also learn about more awesome things to do in Moeraki after seeing the boulders.

10 Fascinating Facts about the Moeraki Boulders

  • Some of the boulders are believed to have been formed around 60 million years ago
  • The largest boulders weigh around 7 tonnes
  • It’s believed that the largest boulders took about 5 to 6 million years to form to the size they are now
  • When the boulders were first discovered in the 19th Century, many more boulders existed on the beach until people used to take them home as souvenirs
  • It is illegal to take a Moeraki Boulder today (although, we’d like to see you try and lift one)
  • Some of the boulders that used to be on the beach are now in the Otago Museum in Dunedin
  • The Maori call the boulders “eel pots” after a legend that says the boulders represented food baskets from a famous shipwreck nearby
  • The Moeraki Boulders have large cracks called “septaria”, which radiate from the hollow core and are filled with yellow or brown calcite, dolomite, and quartz
  • Some theorise that the Moeraki Boulders are alien eggs and the cracked boulders are eggs that have already hatched (they walk among us!)
  • More boulders around New Zealand like this exist, such as the Katiki Boulders about 20km south of Moeraki and the Koutu Boulders in Hokianga.
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 Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr

What are the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders refer to around 50 boulders on Koekohe Beach in Moeraki. Many of them are perfectly spherical with large cracks in them. About two-thirds of the boulders are the size of 1.5-2.2m in diameter. With the backdrop of the sea, these geological oddities have become a popular photo stop on the South Island.

How were the Boulders formed?

While there is no solid explanation for how the Moeraki Boulders were formed, the most common belief is that they formed on the seabed around 60 million years ago through a process called concretion. Since the land has risen from the sea, the waves have eroded the soft mudstone surrounding the bounders, exposing and releasing the boulders onto the beach.

The Maori legend of the Moeraki boulders

In Maori legend, the boulders represented the remains eel, kumara and food baskets that washed up on the shores after the legendary waka (canoe), Araiteuru, wrecked off the nearby shores of Shag Point (Matakaea).

 Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr

Where are the Moeraki Boulders

Find the Moeraki Boulders are in the Otago region of the South Island. They are situated along Koekohe Beach between Moeraki and Hampden.

There are a couple of ways to access the boulders:

  • Via the Moeraki Boulders Scenic Reserve car park: at the end of Moeraki Boulders Road off State Highway 1. Follow the walking signs from the car park and walk about 300m.
  • Via the Moeraki Boulders cafe: take the private road immediately left after turning onto Moeraki Boulders Road off State Highway 1. A short walkway leads to the boulders from behind the cafe.
Driving Distances
  • From Oamaru: 40km/30 minutes drive south of Oamaru
  • From Dunedin: 75km/1 hour drive north of Dunedin
  • From Cromwell: 209km/2h30min drive west of Cromwell

Tourism NZ - Miles Holden

The best times to see the Moeraki Boulders

Tide Times for the Moeraki boulders

The best time to see the Moeraki Boulders is during low tide. Low tide occurs twice a day and exposes all the boulders on the beach so you are able to appreciate their full size. Get up-to-date tide times at Moeraki on this MetService page.

It is still possible to see the Moeraki Boulders while the tide is rising, however, it’s likely that you will only be able to see the tops of the boulders poking out of the water.

Other times to see the boulders

On top of seeing the boulders at low tide, early morning or late afternoon provides the best times for taking photos with brilliant lights cast across the boulders. During stormy conditions also makes a good time to visit for a more “atmospheric” look to the boulders.

Schwede66 on Wikipedia

Other things to do in Moeraki

The boulders are not the only attraction in the area! Check out these other things to do while you’re there.

  • Katiki Point Lighthouse: Visit a historic lighthouse and get some awesome viewing of wildlife such as seals and yellow-eyed penguins. A 20-minute walk from the end of Lighthouse Road takes you to various viewing hides for bird watching and viewpoints.
  • Hampden Beach: For a quiet beach and great swimming spot, head to Hampden Beach.
  • Have a bite to eat: Choose from the Moeraki Boulders Cafe or Fleurs Cafe for waterfront views and great food.

Nearby is the town of Oamaru, famous for its little blue penguins, Victorian-style architecture, and steampunk obsession. See what there is to do there in our 5 Oamaru Must-Dos.

Videos About the Moeraki Boulders

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