New Zealand is full of mystery, wonder, and spectacular scenery. Moeraki Boulders, the huge spherical rocks on Koekohe beach on the east coast of the South Island, combine all three. There are several different theories as to how these giant rocks ended up here, ranging from a Moeraki Boulders legend to a conspiracy theory.
Even the timelines vary from 60 million years ago to only a few thousand years. And, of course, there are a few scientific possibilities.
Currently, there are over 50 boulders. Today, they are protected by laws; however, that wasn’t always the case. The largest of the New Zealand Moeraki Boulders are up to three metres in diameter, and weighing several tonnes. Interestingly, the majority are almost perfectly round rocks.
Where did these almost perfectly round Moeraki Boulders really originate?
The five theories below include:
- A Māori legend
- Aliens eggs
- Shot from a volcano
- Scientific explanation
Which one is correct? Well, that’s up to you. Have a read and decide for yourself.
But first, let us tempt you with the rest of our beautiful country…
The Moeraki Boulders legend and a few other theories
A Māori legend
Legend tells us that the boulders are remains of calabash (a gourd-bearing tree), kumara (a sweet potato), and eel baskets that washed ashore when a canoe was shipwrecked. The rocky shoals that extend seaward from nearby Shag Point (to the south, but not visible from Moeraki Beach) are the canoe’s petrified hull.
Conspiracy theorists tell us the Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand are actually alien eggs sent from space or washed up by the ocean. What do you think? Could the image just below be a hatched egg?
Volcanic activity is a plausible explanation.
According to this theory, these New Zealand boulders were shot out of an ancient volcano, and Koekohe Beach is where they landed.
Mass lightning strikes passed through the region, forming canyons, boulders and other unusual geological formations. High-powered electric arcs can smash matter, spinning it in a vortex and melting and/or compressing it into round shapes – or boulders.
Science classifies them as septarian concretions. Accordingly, the Moeraki Boulders formation began on the ancient seafloor sediments 60 million years ago, during the early Tertiary period.
Each may have started as a core of a fossil shell, bone fragment, or piece of wood. Lime crystals in the sea gathered on the core over millions of years and then accumulated other minerals around it to make the boulder shape.
Over time, the original mudstone seabed became uplifted and formed coastal cliffs. The captive boulders released as the cliffs eroded.
Practical information on Koekohe Beach and Moeraki Boulders
- Stairs lead down to Koekohe “boulders” Beach. Access requires a $2 fee to use the stairs. Money collection is on an honour system and used for maintenance and upkeep.
- Locals and other adventure seekers often park their car a kilometre down the road and walk along the public beach to access the boulders.
- The Moeraki Boulders Cafe, an upscale New Zealand café, is at the top of the stairs.
- Check the times for Moeraki Boulders tides before you plan your day. Ideally, arrive closer to low tide than to high tide.
Moeraki Boulders are better seen at low tide
We first learned of the Moeraki Boulders legend in 2007. At the time, we were living on the South Island for the winter ski season, and the house we rented had a photo of them on the wall. They called to me, and I had to see them for myself. Back then, we arrived at low tide, a far better time for seeing the boulders.
How to get to Moeraki Boulders
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Moeraki Boulders are on Koekohe beach, which is located on the east coast of the South Island between Oamaru (37 km) and Dunedin (76k m).
The easiest way to arrive at the boulders is with your own vehicle, and with one, you can travel down the road to the Katiki Point Lighthouse, where you might see penguins, seals, or other wildlife. Other options for getting here:
- Scenic train ride: The Waitati Seasider is a stunning train ride that runs from Dunedin to Oamaru and back. It offers an option to disembark at the boulders, allowing visitors a two-hour window to catch the train on its return from Oamaru to Moeraki boulders.
- Small group tour: Small group tour with scenic train and boulders: This one takes the Silverfern train.
Koekohe Beach was a stop on our road trip from Dunedin to Christchurch.
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- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in New Zealand, we use Bookabach.
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
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We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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Have you been to Koekohe Beach? Which Moeraki Boulders legend do you believe?
For more on New Zealand, start here: New Zealand Road Trips: Itineraries for North or South Island Adventures, or you might like …
I am very much inclined to go with the alien egg theory. It’s only a matter of time before they hatch…you heard it here first 😁
They are amazing. I’d love to see them in person. – Margy
Very cool. An amazing place to see and to imagine.
Great beach to visit in New Zealand 🙂
They are very photogenic! I am glad they haven’t cordoned them off and people can still go and inspect them at close quarters.
Thank you for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme.
Very interesting and beautiful but very fascinating at the same time. Nature is so great. Thanks for sharing these.
Alien eggs, for sure 🙂
Those are super pretty. I like the alien rocks. 🙂
Andy Goldsworthy would love it there! He’s big into nature art.
Paul F. Pietrangelo
Oh my God! I’m shocked with these boulders. They are perfect circles with marks on them. I could believe with the idea of alien eggs. Did anybody try to bring one in to be tested? It could be just like the pyramids blocks. Maybe they came from inside a volcano that erupted. So many ideas. Thanks Rhonda for these wonderful boulders. They could be just big rocks but I don’t think so. See ya.
I have never seen such round boulders. So strange and interesting. Wonder which theory behind its creation is correct. Examples like these show the Power of Mother Nature.
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Thanks so much for sharing this. I love WW because everyone shares such interesting scenery and places they have visited. I go with the scientific theory- great photos
Jim, Sydney, Australia
What a fascinating formation! I love places like this, that leave a lot of room for imagination. Alien eggs? Who knows? Maybe they are …
I like the alien theory. It’s like in Cocoon. Their friends will come back for them eventually.
I wanted to see the moeraki boulders during my trip to NZ but 2.5 weeks on South Island are sooooo short that we had to made some decisions and we went straight to Milford area. Thanks for an insight to their origin (Lonely Planet did not tell much about it on their guidebook). Which one of the theories do you prefer?
The scientific explanation does seem very realistic. I would prefer though to believe in the alien theory because it is much more fun 🙂 The rocks are so spherical, never seen anything like that before!
I’m so ashamed that as a Kiwi I have never been here! I have heard so much about it. They look so fascinating! We have a lot of Maori legends that are really interesting to learn about
Fascinating stones. Love the different theories and myths. They look sort of mystical but probably came from your scientific explanation of developing deep in the sea over time.
I vote for the alien egg theory. One of them hatched Donald Trump.
Amazing never seen anything like that before, so round. Go with the volcano explanation
Nature has its mysterious ways and continues to stun us. Despite all the advancements that we make, we will never match up to nature’s craft. Whether it comes to creativity, perfection or mystery, nature will always remain million steps ahead. So, all we need to do is marvel.
I would really like to believe the alien eggs legend because it sounds so interesting, but the Volcano legend seems plausible. Beautiful photos!
How very strange quite eerie and fascinating like something out of a sci-fi film lol loved the photos
Have an eerietastic week Rhonda 🙂
I had never heard of the Moeraki Boulders before, so thanks so much for enlightening me! There is a scientific explanation for their origin of course, but this does not make them less mysterious and intriguing…
Aren’t they captivating! Great photos. They are actually beautiful … for boulders.
Elaine J Masters
These are seriously strange and beautiful. I love all the theories but the Maori best. Would love to see them myself and understand how truly large and odd they are.
Such mysterious boulders! I like the alien theory the best though. 😀
I’ll have to get to Koekohe beach on our next trip to NZ – Moeraki Boulders sounds like an incredible, and mystical spot. Love your panoramic shots.
While I love a good conspiracy theory, I would have to say that I find logic in the scientific explanation lol. Their unique shape remind me of the boulders which come to life in Disney’s Frozen 😀
Thanks for the background on these! I visited these a few years ago, but had come down with a terrible flu, so we only stayed very briefly…plus it was extremely cold, from memory. Definitely a neat thing to see though!
Thanks for this post! It reminded me when I traveled to NZ and saw a sunrise among these incredible boulders. Without any doubt, this is one of my favourite landscapes in NZ!
Wow these Boulders are unbelievable! I never imagine that a formation can happen like this near a beach. Totally mind blowing and I love your explanation 🙂 I wish to visit New Zealand too….
These are mysterious! How fun to see them in person. I love the photo of the photographer with the tripod — yes, what a unique wonder of nature to photograph!
I read this yesterday and returned again today to leave a comment and read it again! I love stuff like this – I love the alien egg theory wouldn’t that be cool and also the volcano idea – you can just imagine them shooting out of a volcano! I am really enjoying finding out more about New Zealand. We have just relocated to Australia so it makes NZ so much closer for us to get to! I cannot wait to explore – I shared you train post with my husband in an effort to get him as enthusiastic as i am! Will check out more of your posts in my research!!
I’ve never heard of these boulders and I can see why you were so captivated by the photo you saw of them. I love learning about all the stories behind them. How interesting! Hopefully, I can see these for myself one day.
What amazing boulders! They almost look like petrified eggs of some sort. The world is full of such interesting sights to see
I’ve never been here but I’ve wanted to for a long time, I would think volcanic activity would be my guess.
Must say I have never heard of these rock formations before but wow how interesting are they. I have never seen rounded rocks before love the theories behind them I am going for the volcano theory myself,
It’s kind of embarrassing that I am a Kiwi and have never seen these beautiful boulders. We are heading back to New Zealand in the next couple of years for a proper tour of the south island (I’m a Wellingtonian), so will definitely include a stop there. Aren’t they so aesthetically pleasing?! Your pictures are fab.
That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of that before. It does look and sound very strange! I love the Maori theory and Alien one; it’s really funny. Thank you for all these insights.
Oh I love places like this! A bit weird, a bit wacky, a bit mysterious. I have never heard of the boulders before. You captured them really well. At first, I thought they were just sitting in the water but looks like they are also in the dunes and on the sand – there is one in the picture that looks like a cannonball that got off-course! The scientific explanation makes sense but I love the Maori one better, haha. Now that I know about them I’d love to visit them one day. Hopefully, I will get the chance to get back to New Zealand and then I will definitely check them out!
All of these theories were so interesting to read! I definitely though it’s from a volcano but then one of your pictures looks like an egg cracked open! No wonder there are so many thoughts about where they came from!
Rhonda I love how you capture a lot of little known treasures in New Zealand. These round boulders are very mysterious indeed. Some of them look like turtles in the water.
Ok, all those legends and theories are interesting and even fun. I can see why this place takes the mind to another level. The boulders are so smooth. Seems like people get surprised by seeing so much perfection on the natural world. I think we have a similar phenomenon in Northern California (Bowling Ball Beach). Not sure how the “balls” compare in size to the boulders in New Zealand.
These boulders are fascinating. I can see why they ‘speak’ to you, Rhonda. I would love to see them in person. Your fantastic photos will have to suffice, as I probably won’t ever get to New Zealand (though I would love to). Today’s technology is terrific since it gives us a way to have a ‘virtual visit’.
Wow! I’ve been to a smaller boulder beach in California and just recently went to one in North Carolina with coquina rocks but those boulders are really something! I’ve never seen anything quite like them. I love the whole mystery about them also. Gonna have to get there someday to see them in person.
I love the way the boulders are born from the cliffs. It’s a gorgeous place to visit and your photos are fantastic.
They are concretions and were formed exactly as described. I live on Kodiak Island in Alaska and there is a beach called Fossil Beach which has concretions eroding out the cliffs of mud/sandstone. Little round boulders and mid-size round boulders litter the beach below. Mystery solved.
OT, will you be in NZ next year? We plan on spending a few months fishing in Gore. I sure enjoy your posts about the North Island as we have never been there and hope to vacation north on our vacation.
These look very interesting, would love to see them 🙂
The Mouraki Boulders are for sure spectacular. I love all the theories about where they came from.
I will be able to see them with my own eyes beginning January as I’m traveling for 3 and a half weeks to the South Island. Visiting the South Island has been on my bucket list forever and this December I will finally get to go there, I cannot wait 🙂
Stephanie Rose Bird
Truly captivating formations! My vote goes to the Maoris.
they are very odd aren’t they? wish we knew where they came from – sort of bugs me that we don’t – beautiful photos
I have never been to the Moeraki Boulders.
I think the legend is correct.
Rhonda, I agree. I loved seeing the Moeraki boulders….great site. I love the alien scenario!
Those are so cool. Your photos are too cool.
Rhonda it was so many years ago now with my (late) husband that we travelled to NZ and saw these amazing boulders. As I remember it, the weather was frightful, and instead of venturing down the steps to the waters edge, instead we sipped hot coffee from the cafe’ up top. I guess it was an information centre spot? My memory is dim but I’d never forget the shapes of those wonderful boulders. Your photos are fantastic
I was laughing at the alien idea – silly conspiracy theorists. Then I saw the picture. OMG! It IS a hatched alien egg!! Yikes!! Thanks for the entertaining post! 🙂
Interesting theories, I’ll go with alien eggs, dropped in the ocean and washed ashore. But where are they? Thats a creepy thought. They are very interesting thats for sure.
L. Diane Wolfe
They’re fascinating. I would’ve had a field day taking pictures of them.
Well…. it could be alien eggs, but personally I think those guys over on Easter Island lost their marbles in the ocean! 😀 Thanks for the beautiful pictures. This is something new for me to put on my bucket list. Have a great weekend.
i think aliens or millions of years are the most common answers for the unexplained. ha ha ha! silly man – always trying to figure things out!
hope things are going well on your side of the globe!
they sure are a fascinating formation
We saw these. They’re amazing.
Yup We’ve been.
I like the alien theory but yeah probably the scientific one. Way over my head though.
I’ve not a clue what to believe. They are unique though.
Have a fabulous day. 🙂
Those boulders are awesome. And I love mysteries …
Alex J. Cavanaugh
If they are alien eggs, then we should be really worried about the one that hatched…
Cool shots of the boulders, Rhonda.
We loved this place too, such a magical place!