The Waitaki region combines wild, windswept coastline with emerald plains and towering mountains. The region is a place of scenic contrast and haunting natural beauty. Experience mysterious boulders, windswept beaches and Maori rock art.
The middle of the region’s coastline is home to the small town of Moeraki and its huge spherical boulders. Scattered along the beach, the Moeraki boulders are more than 65 million years old and are easily accessed from the beach. Look out for the Hector’s dolphins that are often seen playing in the waves beyond.
Continuing north, stop in at Oamaru and look at the historic whitestone architecture, an amazing townscape that towers over a charming community. From here, you can hop on your bike and follow the Alps to Ocean Cycleway all the way to Aoraki Mount Cook.
Heading inland, snow-capped peaks and beautiful lakes contrast with the bare brown hills that rise up from the valley floor. Stop and see the Earthquakes, an impressive formation of limestone cliffs that are full of ancient fossils. Nearby you’ll find Maori rock drawings made from red ochre, charcoal and animal fat.
The Waitaki River surges through the landscape, punctuated by three hydro-electric dams – Waitaki, Aviemore and Benmore. The Waitaki Dam was built with picks and shovels in the 1930s and Benmore is one of the largest earth dams in the southern hemisphere, and the only dam open for viewing. In summer, its bright blue colour contrasts with the burnt-orange landscape that surrounds it.
There are many pleasant walks in the Otematata area – most will take around an hour. Longer hikes include the Benmore Peninsula and Deep Stream Tracks.
Omarama marks the western end of the Waitaki Valley. If you’re into gliding, this is the place for it. The nor’wester blows steady and warm off the Southern Alps to form the famous Northwest Arch, a thermal that can take an intrepid glider pilot to 10,000 metres.