The Moeraki Boulders – dinosaur eggs, food baskets and septarian concretions

Shrouded in legends, the Moeraki Boulders are a South Island natural tourist attraction en route from Oamaru to Dunedin.

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders are rock formations, round in shape, and lie on Koekohe Beach in northern Otago. They look like otherworldly spheres of rock that were cut in half and arbitrarily placed on the beach. Many show lines and cracks that make them resemble turtle shells. In fact, you will overhear other visitors discussing many a theory regarding the origin of the boulders as you stroll along the beach. Some suggest they landed there after a volcanic explosion, others refer to them as dinosaur eggs or even go as far as claiming they have something to do with aliens.

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

Geological wonders
The scientific explanation behind the boulders, albeit less glamorous, is nonetheless quite fascinating: the rocks are the product of sediments that accumulated at the bottom of the sea over 60 million years ago. Over time, coastal erosion revealed what scientists call septarian concretions. Quite a fancy name. In this magical atmosphere, it almost sounds like an incantation.

The legend of Araiteuru
But, more importantly, a Maori legend surrounds these mystical spheres on the South Island’s east coast. Maori legends tell of a great migration, when their ancestors travelled from their homeland of Hawaiki to Aotearoa in over 40 large wakas (canoes).

Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

Araiteuru, a famous canoe on a journey to find precious pounamu (greenstone), fell victim to a storm near Matakaea (Shag Point) and sank. The legend says the hull of the canoe became the reef, the kumara (sweet potato) it carried turned into stones and the round food baskets and water-carrying gourds transformed into the Te Kaihinaki, the Moeraki Boulders, forever petrified on Koekohe Beach.

No matter what theory around the Moeraki Boulders you subscribe to, you will find them a worthy stop on your road trip. Try to visit at sunrise for some spectacular nature photography!

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand

How to get there
The boulders are on Koekohe Beach, right off SH1, between Oamaru and Dunedin. There’s a car park with a cafe and souvenir shop; just follow the path that leads down to the beach.
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Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  20 comments for “The Moeraki Boulders – dinosaur eggs, food baskets and septarian concretions

  1. 19 April, 2011 at 19:23

    My favorite time of day to visit most things is sunrise- far fewer people than sunset and everything is just starting to come alive.

    • Christina
      19 April, 2011 at 20:11

      Shhh, don’t tell anyone! As a morning person I concur.

  2. 19 April, 2011 at 23:28

    We’ve tried so many times to get up by sunrise for some nature photography, and we just can’t do it! It would probably be different if we were professional photographers and HAD to, but I always turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. 😛

    Great photos, though!

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 01:52

      Thanks Christy! Glad you enjoyed the pictures!

  3. 20 April, 2011 at 00:52

    Beautiful photography! I’ve never heard of the Moeraki Boulders before, so it’s nice to learn about something new 🙂

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 01:54

      Thanks Michael! I ignored the boulders on my first trip to NZ, an on the second trip had to go twice because they were so stunning!

  4. 20 April, 2011 at 02:42

    So interesting! This was an education for me since I didn’t know about the Moeraki Boulders before — Thanks! I keep learning more cool things about New Zealand. hope to get there someday.

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 19:57

      Thanks, Cathy! You should definitely go to New Zealand someday. I always find there are new things or landscapes to discover around every corner. The country is just so diverse and landscapes so varied!

  5. 20 April, 2011 at 05:05

    I lov legends and like Jade, sunrises. Great story and pictures.

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 20:01

      Thanks, Inka! I hope you can see the boulders yourself someday, they’re magical!

  6. 20 April, 2011 at 14:36

    Very cool, who knew that rocks could be so interesting?

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 20:04

      Haha, exactly! I’m not a geologist either, but I find rocks fascinating, especially if they have a good story!

  7. 20 April, 2011 at 16:26

    Thanks for sharing the Maori legend! It makes the stones so interesting!

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 20:06

      You’re welcome, Jillian! I love Maori legends and I regret that I haven’t spent more time in New Zealand discovering them or learning about Maori culture. It’s on the list for next time!

  8. 20 April, 2011 at 19:47

    The rocks look like large ancient alien brains. I have never seen a rock with so much cracks and lines

    • Christina
      20 April, 2011 at 20:07

      Alien brains, nice one! Hadn’t heard that one before!

  9. 21 April, 2011 at 03:15

    I’ve never heard of these, but they are way cool. Gotta add them to my list.

    • Christina
      21 April, 2011 at 03:25

      Glad to have contributed to your must-see list, Ben!

  10. 13 May, 2011 at 06:27

    I like that one picture where the boulders look like they are huddled together. Probably waiting for the mother ship. 😉

  11. Christina
    13 May, 2011 at 16:38

    So you subscribe to the alien theory, Raymond? 😀

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