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TAKIROA rock art


On an ancient pathway


This rock shelter lies on an ara tawhito (ancient pathway) following the Waitaki River from the mountains to the sea. The headwaters of the Waitaki River are fed from Kā Roimata o Aoraki - the tears of Aoraki - the ancestral mountain of Kāi Tahu Whānui. Takiroa is a physical reminder of the ancestors who have passed through this landscape. It provided shelter, sustenance, and guidance to them and was and still is a place to share knowledge, a place to learn from, and a repository of people and treasures from the past. 

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This sketch of Takiroa was produced in 1851 by Walter Mantell, the commissioner of Crown Lands for the South Island. © E-332-022, Alexander Turnbull Library

How did these cliffs form?


The limestone forming these cliffs is made from dead sea organisms accumulated on the seafloor around 25 million years ago. At this time much of Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia, the continent New Zealand is part of, was still submerged beneath a warm shallow sea. Blocks of limestone at the foot of the cliff are evidence of past rock falls - with a significant cliff failure in 2010. Unweathered and freshly exposed limestone is creamy yellow in colour. Limestone becomes discoloured by weathering, forming a greyish appearance on its surface. 

The braided Waitaki River


Looking north across the Waitaki Valley, uplift by local faults have formed steep hills. The Waitaki River has its origin in the Southern Alps and adjacent waterways. It has been dammed to create the Waitaki, Aviemore and Benmore lakes. The lower Waitaki catchment showcases river terraces. These have formed where the river has eroded down through its older deposits. The riverbed contains many braided channels separated by gravel bars. The active channels change - making the river a dynamic environment. Braided rivers have high ecological values - being home to many native species. 

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The braided Waitaki River flowing towards the Pacific Ocean.

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The extent of the cliff failure in 2010. Around 35m3 collapsed © Figure: S. Cox/GNS Science

Fast facts


  • Takiroa is a significant landmark in the tradition of Kāi Tahu Whānui.

  • Ledges and shelters are created in the limestone due to differences in weathering between harder and softer limestone. 

  • Blocks of limestone on the ground are from past cliff failure. 

Please be aware the following hazards include: rock / block fall from above / overhang, slippery when wet.

Latitude: -44.842946  Longitude: 170.644710

Easy walk


Scenic views  & Photo opportunities


To get Takiroa rock drawings from the north end of Duntroon, head up SH83 about 3km and look for the information sign and carpark. There's a brief walk up uneven path. 

Park at the information sign. Caution! Rocks still fall. Please treat this rock art site with care and respect to ensure this continues to be a special place to stop. 

Visitors are requested to eat and drink only in designated areas.


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.

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