nau mai, haere mai

elephant

rocks

elephants eroded from limestone

Can you see a herd of elephants? These ‘elephants’ are the remains of an ancient seabed. Changes in sea level and the action of tectonic plates have exposed limestone from the seafloor. When first exposed the limestone was in large unbroken sheets. Over time weathering erodes the limestone leaving behind isolated ‘elephants’. Softer sediments erode more readily, especially at joints. That’s how we end up with these amazing shapes. See what other forms you can find.

Limestone weathering © NERC based on P551762

a prehistoric seafloor

If you were standing here 25 million years ago you’d be under the water! This area was part of a wide, shallow warm sea. When plants and animals living in that sea died, their remains sank to the seafloor. Layers of dead plants and animals piled up. The calcium carbonate from these shells and bones transformed into large flat areas of limestone. People have found fossils of prehistoric sea life within this limestone such as lamp shells, shark teeth and whales.

Above: tiny Bryozoan fossils from Waitaki Limestone, Image credit: Ruth K Bladwin

Left: Waipatia dolphin with shark-like teeth, along with giant penguins and baleen whales swam here millions of years ago

building a District

Local people call limestone Ōamaru stone or whitestone. When you visit towns in the Geopark you will see many buildings made from this beautiful stone. Ōamaru stone can be skilfully carved into intricate details. During the 19th century people developed the town of Ōamaru. The area now called the Victorian Precinct was the centre of trade for the district. People have preserved the striking Ōamaru stone buildings from this time. The stone is still used today for building, sculptures, and lime for agricultural use.

Built out of Ōamaru Stone, Saint Martins Church in nearby Duntroon stands as a proud testament to the craftsmanship of the time and the spirit of its age.

Fast

Facts

  • This area was once under the sea but is now 220 metres above sea level.

 

  • The largest stone ‘elephants’ would weight over 10,000 kilograms.

 

  • The Elephant Rocks area was used as a filming location for the first Chronicles of Narnia movie in 2005.

explore nearby places

explore the anatini fossil site

discover māori rock art at takiroa & maerewhenua 

visit duntroon 

Explore fascinating limestone
features that have been exposed
and eroded over many years with
the fossil of an ancient whale
visible in the limestone.

A 1 minute drive, 5min walk from
here

A significant landmark in the
traditions of Ngāi Tahu Whānui. These limestone overhangs were shelter for early travellers along a seasonal route up the Waitaki Valley. Imagery ranges from abstract forms, to bird and animal life, people and first
impressions of European settlers.

A 15 minute drive from here

A heritage village where you can
take a relaxed walk through the nearby wetlands, or be ‘gaoled and bailed’ at the old Gaol. Picnic on the Village Green, or have a meal at the historic  Duntroon Hotel. Visit Nicol’s
Blacksmith - a piece of NZ history. Explore the legendary ‘Brewery Hole’, and discover the resident moa.

A 10 minute drive from here

we are part of a world-wide movement

Our Geopark is one of over 140 Geoparks around the world. A Geopark is a defined area of international geological significance which tells the story of how the geology and landscape has shaped the lives of its people, animals and plants.

take care

Elephant Rocks is on private land. Please respect this special place and take care not to cause damage. Please go quietly if animals are present and remember to shut the gates. You can help care for this site. Please pick up any rubbish. Tread lightly and leave no trace.

visit the Vanished World discovery centre

Explore the evolution of marine animals at the Vanished World Geology & Fossil Discovery Centre in nearby Duntroon. See famous marine fossils like Waipatia dolphin, with shark-like teeth, ancient whales and giant penguins. Browse the great selection of books and gifts and dig your own fossils in the ‘Discovery Room’.

A 10 minute drive from here

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"What a fantastic window into the past. Today we saw fossil bones in limestone at two different sites. One set were whale bones. Just awesome that this trail has been put together, maintained and promoted."

— Mark Shipman, 

Vanished World visitor

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