Geology, rocks, NZ fantastic natural sculptural landscapes
New Zealand rock stars where to go and what to see
From the tip of the North Island to the Southern Oceans New Zealand is a wealth of geological wonders to explore. Volcanically active, earthquakes and natural elements have formed extraordinary shapes and stunning landscapes. Your journey starts from North to South.
BEST TIME TO GO
Year round as nature is not fussy when winter bites.
Northland – Waro Reserve
Karst limestone wind and rain shaped vertically carved cliff faces are sculptural fantasy located on a side road going North. Hikurangi’s former coal mining bush tram site is now a quiet reserve with farmer’s cows watching the occasional visitor wander past. Imagination created by nature and the path around the pinnacles is a flat easy 2.5km walk.
Check our escorted tour Northland explorer – Day one highlights
Northland – Hokianga Harbour Sand Dunes
Hills made of sand and we are not discussing mere sand dunes. Massive folded hills rounded soft pillows entirely of sand face the harbour as you enter the Hokianga. The Hokianga sand dunes are made for sand boarding, exploration and simply looking at the light play on the sides of the sand hills. Beyond the sand dunes is sand pressured into contorted shapes and form. More sand splendor.
Hokianga Koutu Boulders
Up to 3m in diameter, the massive boulders are hidden rock stars. The beach between Koutu and Kauwhare has concretions, hardened nodules formed within sedimentary rocks. Similar to the rock instagram favourites of Moeraki here visitors can wander without the crowds. The boulders are ‘growing’ in size and it has been estimated that the largest of the boulders may have taken 5 million years to grow.
Check our article on TOP-10 things to do in Hokianga, activities — trip guide
And Where it all started, Hokianga Harbour, Kupe and the story of Aotearoa, New Zealand for inspiration what to do while marvelling nature’s creations in the Hokianga
AUCKLAND – A VOLCANIC ISLAND
A mere 500 years old Rangitoto is a stone’s throw from the bustle of the central city. Lava fields, a nascent pohutukawa forest generating on the fertile aftermath of an eruption is a must visit for geology rock buffs. A day trip favourite for locals and boating destination.
Waikato – Waitomo Caves
Underground rivers silently flowing past statacities, stalagmites and glow worms are the staple of many a tour in New Zealand. From the day into night your world is reduced to cave walls. It is a stunning contrast that Waitomo Cave experiences excel at.
MANGAOTAKI WALK – HIGHLIGHT FAMILY FRIENDLY KIDS WALK
This gentle loop walking track is an 800m fantasy walk worthy of inclusion in the Lord of the Rings film locations. The massive boulders littering the landscape are covered in mosses and gnarled kahikatea trees artly grow up and around the boulders. The shaded walk is another imaginative landscape perfect for kids.
- Length: 800m
- Duration: ½ hour
- Grade: Easy
The Mangaotaki Valley was the filming location for Trollshaw Forest in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
MANGAPOHUE NATURAL BRIDGE
Mangapohue Natural Bridge has spectacular sights. The 17 metre-high limestone arch which spans Mangapohue Stream is the remnants of an ancient cave system. SHORT EASY WALK FOR KIDS
Check Waikato Kiwi Towns for more inspiration what to do and where to go in the area:
WAIKATO – RAGLAN ROCK
Get up close and personal with the rock stars, scoot down sliding rock faces coated with rushing water and skip over boulders exploring the wild side of Raglan with Raglan Rock. This is an adventure where adrenaline and sheer joy is packaged with safety in mind. Raglan Rock together with Raglan Surfing School offer exhilarating programmes for the young at heart. Whether you count the years in decades or in months check with Raglan Rock when their next expedition is heading out.
Coromandel Cathedral Cove
A picturesque walk to one of New Zealand’s amazing beaches complete with an open sea cave is a highlight for many visitors. The area has several sea caves with Ocean Leopard Tours – Cathedral Cove Scenic Cruise Boat Tour Whitianga you can in comfort have a front row seat to the magnificent Cathedral Cove as well as cruise to view one of New Zealand’s larger sea caves.
Volcanic eruptions and a buried village. Mount Tarawera’s destructive display at Rotorua Buried Village, the story of the Tarawera eruption: NZ Jane is a powerfully told story. Combined with a heli flight to the summit and guided walk to view the volcanic crater is to look into the visible heart of geological power. The self-guided tour of Waimangu Volcanic Valley | Rotorua’s Geothermal Valley or a cruise on the newly formed lake is a stunning highlight for any Rotorua holiday. You are in the steaming, boiling centre where the earth erupted over a hundred years ago. A blip in geological time. Whitened cliffs gleam with pink and yellow streaks of deposits from hot mineral waters. Truly spectacular and a year round treat.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
The slumbering giant, Mt Taranaki with its perpetually snowy peaks dominates the Taranaki plains. The volcano erupted over 200 years ago. Walkers can explore the volcano and spend time wondering about the power of a volcanic eruption.
An active volcano Ruapehu is part of the Tongariro Crossing. The incredible mountain beauty and turquoise lakes are as close as many will get to an active volcano. The remarkable alpine terrain is capped off by its own crater lake, heated by volcanic activity, steaming at the summit. Mount Ruapehu is a year round pleasure for hikers, skiers, snowboarders, botanists, geologists and nature lovers alike.
PART TWO: SOUTH ISLAND ROCK STARS
NELSON / TASMAN
Discover Cape Farewell spit’s dramatic sandstone cliffs on a guided tour with Farewell Spit Eco Tours. Farewell Spit Eco Tours, Golden Bay, New Zealand have transversed the sandbar for more than 70 years. It began as a postal service for the keepers, Trek to Wharariki Beach through windswept sand dunes to a beach where sea rock bridges, rock sculptures appear to float on the waves and incoming tide. One of the favourite places for photos of the Nelson landscape.
Split Apple Rock beach has a magnificent view of enormous split rock, natural caves and a glorious gold sandy beach. The rock looks as though it is floating at high tide, however low tide provides more beach space and you can check out the rock up close as well as the caves at the northern end of the beach.
Boulder Bar / Te Pokohiwi is natural. Perhaps a giant arranged the large boulders in a precise line reaching 13km into the sea forming an inlet. It is extraordinary that there are very few places in the world where the sea, tides, wind and nature create natural harbour barriers. The area is very exposed and strong footwear is required to walk on uneven ground.
Forbidding Denniston Plateau is a monolith dominating the landscape with its moody fog, coal mining relics and the story of coal mining written into the rock faces of Denston incline. For a detailed account of the Denniston Denniston Plateau & Millerton trip guide, what to see & do: NZ. The extraordinary uplifted plateau is a drive into another world where coal was king. The Denniston Plateau is home to one of the richest, high quality coal seams in New Zealand. For decades it was the country’s largest producing coal mine, with an estimated 12 million ton carried down the incline during its operation from October 1879 to August 1967. Denniston was created by coal and existed only to produce coal. With the mine’s closure, Denniston closed.
Alpine mountain ranges are the spine of the South Island. Massive schist landscapes overlook alpine tussock. New Zealand’s stone buildings material originates from the Otago region with the Dunedin Railway Station an tremendous example of schist stone architecture. Miners cottages have withstood time and elements due to the use of stone buildings materials. St Bathans Lake is a superb example of human endeavour, gold mining operations removing an entire mountain and creating one of the regions beautiful deep blue lakes. A former quarry is now an instagram favourite.
SOUTHLAND – CURIO BAY
Curio Bay with its fossilied forest. This bay is famous for its fossilised forest. At low tide you can peer intently at the wet rocks to identify fossilised wood. Initially you might think you are looking at rocks, but on a detailed inspection you can see the grains of the fossilised wood. This is another low tide excursion to find and identify a spectacular fossilized forest. The petrified Forest is 60 million years old dating back when New Zealand was still part of the massive continent Gondwana.
SOUTHLAND – GEMSTONE BEACH
Riverton Gemstone beach. Nothing feels better than discovering a special object. Gemstone beach is just that place for kids and anyone who enjoys fossicking this is the place to be. It could be brisk (translate as cool) however the sheer pleasure of wandering on the stoney beach for the glistening stones that will become part of the story of a great holiday.
SOUTHLAND – CLIDFDEN CAVES
Explore the Clifden limestone caves and visit a fine example of a suspension bridge.
View the stalactites and glow worms within the rare Clifden cave system. The Clifden Suspension Bridge was an important transport link in what was a relatively remote part of Southland. This is an underground exploration for experienced cavers and ensure safety information is thoroughly understood before departing.
SOUTHLAND – JACKS BLOWHOLE
Caving at Jack’s Blowhole a sea eroded cave. he blowhole is in the Tunnel Rocks Scenic Reserve and is a large hole 55 metres deep, 200 metres from the sea. It is an exhilarating walk to the top with panoramic views across Jack’s Bay and beyond Jack’s Blowhole.