The Legend of the Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders New Zealand

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I came across the Moeraki Boulders by accident, driving past on the road between Dunedin and Oamaru. I was unprepared for what I found: a group of ancient boulders so spherical they surely couldn’t have been fashioned by nature. And, as so often with New Zealand’s natural wonders, the boulders are surrounded by mystery, the subject of ancient legends.

Legendary Origins: Maori Eel Baskets

The shape of the rocks is so unusual that it is hardly surprising that legends should have grown up around them. Scattered across the beach, the boulders are up to three metres wide, many of them with strange cracks and markings on their sides.

Moeraki Boulders New Zealand
The surfaces of the Boulders are covered in strange markings

As with many Maori legends and traditions, the origin of the Moeraki Boulders has a connection with food. The story is that a large canoe, the Arai-te-uru, was shipwrecked in the surrounding waters: the canoe itself was transformed into a nearby reef and its captain became a large rock. The Boulders formed when eel baskets, calabashes (a sort of squash) and kumaras (sweet potatoes) from the canoe were washed ashore.

Of course there is a more prosaic explanation. It is thought that the Boulders were created from sea sediments almost 60m years ago, and that time and weathering have gradually rounded their edges. And the distinctive markings around the cracks have arisen from the presence of dolomite and quartz within the rock.

Exploring the Moeraki Boulders

Whatever their origins, the Boulders are old enough to have an aura of mystery. They are popular with tourists: we followed a coach party down the walkway to the beach. There were already people there, snapping the rocks from every angle. It seemed to be almost obligatory to be pictured standing on top of the boulders!

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
The obligatory ‘standing on the boulders’ photo!

Fortunately the beach is large enough to accommodate plenty of visitors, and it didn’t feel crowded. We took our pictures then spent some time walking along the sand, appreciating the warm Pacific morning. It was yet another reminder of the natural wonders that New Zealand has to offer.

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
There is plenty of room on the beach for everyone


5 thoughts on “The Legend of the Moeraki Boulders”

  1. The wonders of nature are indeed amazing. I love the stories that build up around rocks. There are some in Cornwall, England, said to have been formed when giants hurled rocks at each other. Visiting from UBC.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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