On the rocks
ŌAMnAdRU What to see and where to stay in the land of stone and cheese.
Words Carolyn Enting
Discover Ōamaru’s geological and gastronomical marvels. One of the most magical things about visiting Ōamaru is the sense of stepping back in time. Not just to the Victorian era but also millions of years. Ōamaru is home to possibly the best examples of neoclassical architecture in New Zealand and Waitaki Whitestone Geopark – an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark – is on its doorstep. The Waitaki district boasts a range of interesting geosites, including Elephant Rocks, Moeraki Boulders and Clay Cli s, just to name a few. If visiting Elephant Rocks feels strangely familiar, the reason could be that it was used as a location for film Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). And being here really does feel like you’ve stepped through a wardrobe into another world as you wander through these towering “elephants” (stones) formed from Otekaike limestone which long ago were under the ocean. These sedimentary rocks, laid down between 23 to 25 million years ago, have been revealed over time through natural erosion to produce a boulder field of gigantic proportions. Accessing Elephant Rocks is easy, though be careful climbing them if it’s wet as the limestone can get very slippery. They’re just a 5-minute walk from the road and the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail also runs right past here. The Anatini fossil site is also a one-minute drive from Elephant Rocks, where you can see the fossil of an ancient whale in the limestone. Six kilometres down the road near Duntroon you can find examples of Māori rock art at Maerewhenua and Takiroa sites. The limestone overhangs presented shelter for early travellers along a seasonal route up the Waitaki Valley and are sites of significance for Ngāi Tahu Whānui. Today, it is still a travel route, with roads running parallel to both sites. The examples of rock art are more impressive at Takiroa where you can view images of bird and animal life, people and first impressions of European settlers. The earliest known European recordings of rock art in New Zealand were taken here by Walter Mantell, who sketched a group of drawings at the site in 1852. It was also photographed in 1896 by Augustus Hamilton, then director of Otago Museum. And thankfully so, as some of these were later cut out in the early 1900s by a visiting scholar, Dr J. L. Emore and taken to museums around New Zealand; sadly, many were destroyed in the process. Reading stu like this really does make you wish you could turn back the clock and implore Emore to leave them in situ. Even so, the art that remains is worthy of a visit. South of Ōamaru, the marvellous Moeraki Boulders are also part of the Geopark and undisputedly geological marvels. Like Elephant Rocks, these boulders have been exposed by the erosion of the surrounding mudstone laid down around 60 million years ago. What makes them so