top of page
Kakanui aerial.jpg

KĀkaunui River (kakanui) Mouth


Welcome to Kākaunui / Kakanui


You are looking at the mouth of the Kākaunui River. Kākaunui, named for a crew member of the famous ancestral waka (canoe) Araiteuru, has had a long history for Kāi Tahu whānui as an ancient pā site and kāika mahika kai (food-gathering place). Traditionally weka, tuna (eels), tutu, and kōareare (edible root of raupō) were gathered here. The area continues to be treasured for its provision of tuna, īnaka (whitebait), pātiki (flounder), kanae (mullet), kanakana (lamprey), shellfish and other fish. 

Kāi Tahu whānau are carrying on the food gathering traditions. 

Remnants of an ancient volcano


Looking further east towards the headland, layered rocks are exposed on the shore platform at low tide. These layers form a semi-circular pattern that reveals the flanks of a volcano that formed 34 million years ago. This volcano erupted underwater. When the hot magma interacted with the cold seawater, the eruption became explosive. It deposited volcanic rocks in the centre as a breccia (see definition below) and at the margins as a tuff ring. Tuff is a rock dominated by particles smaller than 2 mm, erupted a volcano as ash. 

The semi-circular pattern of the ancient volcanic vent can be seen particularly well at low tide. 

What lies beneath our feet?


The central breccia of the vent tell geologists about what lies deep beneath Earth's surface. A volcanic breccia is a rock made mostly of angular fragments of volcanic rock larger than 64 millimetres. As the magma rose, it plucked and transported bits of rock towards the surface. You might find white rocks that contain small red garnet crystals. This is granulite. It originated about 20 kilometres beneath your feet. The breccia also contains many orange-green fragments. This is peridotite from the Earth's mantle. These come from between 70 and 30 km depth! There are also large crystals of amphibole, feldspar and garnet that formed in the magma. 

Screenshot 2022-11-07 140607.jpg

Large crystals like amphibole and garnet can be found in the breccia here © James Scott

Fast facts


  • The Araiteuru waka sank near the mouth of the Waihemo River, just south of Moeraki. 

  • The township of Kākaunui/Kakanui is home to two volcanic vents. 

  • The breccia has brought to the surface minerals directly from the Earth's mantle. 

Please be aware the following hazards include: tides, wildlife, sharp and slippery rock underfoot, and falling debris from cliffs.  Tsunami risk - If an earthquake is strong or long, get gone.

Latitude: -45:18:89.35
Longitude: 170:89:81.45

Easy walk

2 min

Public Toilets

Scenic views  & Photo opportunities


To get to Kakanui River Mouth, take Beach Rd into Kakanui. By the Kakanui Store, turn right into Kakanui Rd and follow this road until the Kakanui Camping Ground. Turn left into Harbour Terrace and follow the road for 650m. Parking, public toilets and playground available.


Protection and guardianship are at the heart of the Geopark philosophy. We ask you to treat this site with respect, do not remove anything from this site and preserve it for our future generations.

bottom of page