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Art & Heritage

Maori Rock Art places to visit and what to do nearby

  • 2 minutes

Oamaru, New Zealand

Takiroa Rock Art

Pre-European Maori navigated the length of the Waitaki River and found shelter under the limestone cliffs at Takiroa. The site is well signposted with extensive information panels describing the painted works.

Takiroa Rock Art Shelter art has been carbon dated between 1400 to 1900. The seasonal summer hunting and fishing route with its large open limestone caves was an ideal spot to shelter from bad weather while maintaining a lookout for strangers. The presence of extinct Moa bones and extinct quail points to very early occupation in the settlement of Aotearoa New Zealand. The latest art work is of European sailing ships and animals.

The vanished world of rock art has survived major deforestation caused by fires, probably mainly human-induced, ravaged the South Island East Coast and produced the familiar landscape of rural farmland that is so familiar today. People and livestock have also ravaged places such as Takiroa. It lost some drawings during the First World War when J.L. Elmore extracted them for museums. The fences that went up in 1930 and again in 1964 deterred neither people nor stock.

There are two ‘galleries’, with the older material in the larger one to the left, post-contact era drawings in the overhang to the right. Ngāi Tahu, who invaded the south in the 18th century, now manages Takiroa.

source Takiroa Rock Art Shelter

Yes, you can visit Takiroa Rock Art Shelter. There are paved footpaths and extensive information panels throughout the short walk.

Getting to Maori Rock Art

To get Takiroa rock drawings from the north end of Duntroon, head up SH83 about 3km and look for the information sign and car park. There’s a brief walk up an uneven path (50 metres). Takiroa is less than 35 minutes from Oamaru.

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.

Takiroa Rock Art site near Duntroon village in South Island, New Zealand
Takiroa Rock Art site near Duntroon village in South Island
  • 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

SOURCE: Takiroa | Waitaki Whitestone Geopark

Maori Rock Art, Waitaki Valley, Oamaru, New Zealand
Maori Rock Art

Protecting Māori Rock Art

Māori rock art sites are a distinctive feature of the mana whenua history of the North Otago region, with close to 300 sites recorded in the area. While these significant heritage sites are protected by legislation, at a practical level, their placement on limestone outcrops means they are exposed to the elements, and vulnerable to changing land use around the sites.

Takiroa Maori rock art is part of the heritage trails in the Waitaki Valley and Oamaru. For more places to visit check out Heritage Trails Oamaru and Waitaki Valley.

Maerewhenua Historic Rock Art shelter

The Maerewhenua Historic Area is one of the most well known sites with extant Maori rock art in Aotearoa New Zealand. The historic area includes both pre and post-European occupation sites. The painted rock art is within a limestone shelter. Some is believed to pre-date European contact. The region that this historic area is located within has many early traditional stories associated with it. The historic site is caged to provide the art from foraging animals and damage from visitors. The historic place consists of a deep, partly stone-floored shelter. The surface has been decorated with many drawings. This historic place is located on private land, but a path to the rock art site has been made accessible to public for the purpose of viewing this historic place.

For the Maerewhenua site travel towards Oamaru from Kurow on Kurow– Duntroon Road (State Highway 83), at the Maerewhenua Bridge at the eastern end of Duntroon turn right onto Dansey’s Pass Road. The art is about 500m on your left at the Settlement Road intersection.


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