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