Kia ora, nau mai, tauti mai ki Te Kaihīnaki
Kāi Tahu - the kaitiaki (guardians) of this land - welcome you to our special place of Te Kaihīnaki.
Kāi Tahu are the indigenous people who hold manawhenua (authority) over the majority of Te Waipounamu (South Island). We are the collective of individuals who descend from the primary iwi (Māori tribes) of Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe and Kāi Tahu. We also acknowledge our whakapapa (genealogy) to earlier iwi including Kāti Māmoe and Rapuwai.
Te Kaihīnaki (Moeraki Boulders) is of immense historical and cultural significance to Kāi Tahu whānui. In our traditions Te Kaihīnaki are the round food baskets and hue (gourds) washed ashore from the famous Araiteuru waka. We invite you to read our stories and learn about the special relationship that Kāi Tahu whānui has with Te Kaihīnaki.
The Araiteuru tradition explains the origins of kūmara and numerous geographical features of Te Waipounamu (South Island).
Under the leadership of Pakihiwitahi and Hipo, the Araiteuru waka travelled to the ancient homeland of Hawaiki to gather seed to establish kūmara throughout Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu (New Zealand). The gruelling return journey across Te Moananui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) went relatively smoothly, until the waka encountered heavy seas just north of here.
As the waka took on water, some of its cargo including round food-baskets and hue (gourds) were washed ashore. These formed the world-famous Moeraki Boulders. As the waterlogged waka continued travelling south, more cargo was lost at nearby Kātiki Beach before capsizing at Matakaea (Shag Point). The hull of the waka now forms the reef there, and the large rock is the navigator Hipo.
Many of the passengers who went ashore were later transformed into many of the rivers and peaks of Te Waipounamu (South Island), including Waiwherowhero Stream that flows next to this carpark. The nearby hills also represent the great waves that overwhelmed the waka. For Kāi Tahu whānui the Otago coastline is known as Te Tai-o-Araiteuru (the Araiteuru coast) in recognition of the famous ocean voyaging waka that capsized on this coast.
Large double-hulled waka (canoe) were developed by early Polynesians to travel long distances in the rougher open ocean waters of Te Moananui-a-Kiwa (The Pacific Ocean). The two hulls are joined together by long crossbeams to form a platform. Such waka occasionally had two sails and were capable of traveling between 150 and 250km a day. Some of these waka were up to 40 meters long and could carry large numbers of people.
Take a 15-minute walk along the beach to Te Kaihīnaki (Moeraki Boulders). Walk amongst these geological marvels, exposed by the erosion of surrounding mudstone laid down around 60 millions years ago.
These large spherical boulders were formed within the mudstone millions of years ago. Calcite from circulating groundwater formed cement within the mudstone around shell fragments or pebbles. As this process continued the boulders ‘grew’ larger. Cracks later formed in the boulders and were infilled with calcite crystals - visible as striking patterns on their otherwise smooth surfaces.
Eventually the land was uplifted out of the sea and the soft mudstone eroded away leaving behind the harder boulders. Erosion continues to expose more boulders in the bank.
Check out this awesome video about the Moeraki Boulders and their formation: https://youtu.be/m3oBWhHW4Lk
A wildlife haven
During your visit to Te Kaihīnaki, you may see wildlife here. As visitors, we have a responsibility to ensure that this continues to be a safe place for wildlife to live and breed.
Takaraka are one of the rarest species of penguin in the world. You are unlikely to see penguins here, but they are known to visit. Takaraka are shy. The presence of people causes them stress. They freeze and although may appear calm, this is not the case. Stress uses a lot of energy for takaraka which is not good for their health or survival.
To keep takaraka happy – stay as far away as you can, do not approach and stay quiet.
New Zealand sea lion
Rāpoka (New Zealand sea lion) are one of the rarest sea lion species in the world and are only found in New Zealand. They are becoming more common on the Otago coastline. Rāpoka are not scared of people and may approach.
For your safety and their well-being, stay at least 10m away.
Dogs must be on a lead at all times. Let other dog owners know if there is a rāpoka (sea lion) on the beach. Rāpoka on the beach may prevent access along the beach to the boulders, especially at high tide. Enjoy watching from a distance and find another way to the boulders.
Please be aware the following hazards include: tides, wildlife, cliff face erosion (falling debris) and uneven loose / slippery surfaces. Tsunami risk – if an earthquake is strong or long, get gone.
Latitude: -45:20:50.824 Longitude: 170:49:33.972
Scenic views & Photo opportunities
Moeraki Boulders are signposted on SH1 3 km south of Hampden.
Stroll along the beach from Moeraki Boulders Scenic Reserve carpark and picnic area.
Alternatively, take the track directly to the beach from the cafe at the end of a private road. Or take a short loop track (150 metres) from the cafe to view the boulders from above. These tracks are suitable for pushchairs but not wheelchairs, as they start with several steps.
The Moeraki Boulders Cafe offers takeaway or sit down meals
Good to know
Early in the morning is a good time to visit as can get crowded later in the day. It can also be the best time to photograph the boulders as the light from the sunrise hits these striking formations
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.