The Wairere Boulders – A Must See Destination In New Zealand

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

A simple hike that’s so much more.

Having chosen to stay in one place for a while, I’ve been fortunate to make many new friends as they pass through, staying next door to me. I’ve mentioned Jess and Aaron, my American neighbors who helped me survive lockdown before they made a run back home for a job. Then there were my lovely British neighbors, Angela and Peter, who ran home to clean their house in England to be ready for their pending sale, only to learn the sale fell through. ☹ My latest neighbor/friend is Sara, from Mexico. I’m also lucky because she, like Angela and Peter, has a car!

koutu boulders new zealand

Flashback to the Koutu Boulders which I reviewed in a previous blog post.

Copyright, 2020. Heather Markel.

So Many Great Features In One Place

Angela and Peter took me to the Waireire Boulders a few weeks ago, after we visited the Koutu Boulders. But, we didn’t have time to walk around. I vowed to return since there’s a Magic Rock walk, fairy houses, and, most importantly, Highland cows! Having forewarned Sara she would have to pull off the road if there were a good set of cows to photograph, we drove off to see the Wareire Boulders, and let me say, it is one of the most wonderful days I’ve spent in New Zealand, so far.

A Unique Convergence Of Time And Nature

I thought I was going on a magic fairy walk. Instead, I learned I hiked among one of the most unique geological sites, in the entire world. Specifically, the way the erosion in this area caused fluting in the rocks, is not seen anywhwere else in the world. Apparently, fluting is fairly common to see on limestone, but the boulders at Wareire are basalt, so this type of erosion is very rare to see.

fluted rocks at Wareire Boulders

I learned that 2.8 million years ago, the whole area we walked would have been covered in thick native bush, with Kauri a major species. The Kauri trees cause silicate rock to turn into soil rich in silica – a process that takes 5,000 years! This type of soil is highly acidic and causes the erosion of basalt, and as rainwater carried it over the rocks, this caused the beautiful fluting that can be seen today. But wait, there’s more! The kind of fluting seen in these rocks can only happen if said rock is in the same position for at least 1,000 years. For that to happen, they have to be large enough that they would be slower to roll down the hills, over time.

rolling hills at Wareire Boulders

The Joy Of Being Exactly Where You Are

Walking through the forest is a plethora of experiences. First, time ceases to exist. There’s no hurry to go anywhere but where you are. It’s equally wonderful to cop a squat on a rock and stare at nature around you, as it is to walk along the path. In many areas, the fluted rock is your path, and the blend of nature and man-made walkways is fascinating. Sometimes, I didn’t think I’d fit in the hole between two rocks, and was amazed I did!

A Quest For Fairies!

Next, there’s an eternal hunt for fairy doors, and it’s magical to find them. The first one I saw was taking the path to the “Dragon’s Cave.” I found the Dragon’s Cave gift shop, no doubt because I’m short and easily notice things on the ground, as opposed to higher up. (One of two reasons I’m so glad to be petite! The other being when I’m sitting in economy on flights…) There are also funny faces to happen by, always good for a laugh. They and the fairy doors always took me by surprise. Here are a few of them:

dragon cave souvenir shop Wareire Boulders
fairy door at Wareire Waterfall
funny face in the rocks Wareire Boulders

Size That Baffles The Mind

It’s amazing how big and small the property is, at the same time. You can kayak through water running along the woods, and you can hike for hours, only to be able to return to the car park in less than 10 minutes. Truly, magical. Sara and I braved the hike to the Magic Rocks. One of the interesting things you’ll see hiking in New Zealand is these man-made steps to climb over a fence, such as this:

Latin Fit dance class in Kerikeri

See Trees And Learn About Kauri Dieback

Tree species are marked as you walk along. I have no idea what many of them are, but the kauri is spoken about much of the way through. They are amazing trees that can survive more than 1,000 years, though older than 1,700 years are now rare to find. The Tane Mahuta (god of the forest) is the oldest, thought to be around during the time of Jesus Christ. I was lucky enough to visit it another day.

Latin Fit Kerikeri

Kauri trees are known for the gum, which produces gum Arabic. Sadly, their future is at risk. It started when they began being cut down for timber in the 1800s. Animals introduced to New Zealand are one threat, with the possum at the top of the list. The biggest threat appears to be “kauri dieback” which kills kauri of all ages. It’s caused by a fungus that lives in the soil and infects the roots of the tree, thus starving it to death. This is why we’re asked to always walk on trails, never veering off and risking that bacteria from our shoes could kill these precious trees. Strangely, it is a relatively recent appearance, and is to Kauri trees something like coronavirus is to humans.

Magic Rocks at Wareire Boulders

The Magic Rocks. Copyright 2020, Heather Markel.

Magic Rocks…And Cows!

We passed out of the woods and onto rolling green hills, almost mimicking the fluting of the rocks. Another fairy door awaited us in the stump of a tree. We continued onwards and found a gigantic set of boulders at the very, very top of the property. Rather stunning. I felt the size of an ant standing next to it. Upon hiking down and speaking with Graham, who’s from Scotland and I believe owns the property, I learned that all the boulders on the property started up by this one hulking giant. In fact, it’s the last remaining boulder that hasn’t rolled down the hillside, ergo, magic rocks.

Magic Rocks from Above at Wareire Boulders

Of course, the best part about the walk is the cows! I couldn’t believe that I missed seeing them my first visit. They’re just down from the car park. Though most of the herd was out for a walk, I was able to get a few to pose for me.

An Unexpected And Understated Visit Well Worth The Time

I can’t help but feel that if this site were in America, it would be hyped up, on every tourist pamphlet, there would be tons of tourists crowding the trails, and it would cost some ridiculous amount of money to get in. Here, in New Zealand, it’s just beautifully understated. Signs will lead you there, or you can ignore them. There’s a donation request of 15 NZD (about $10), and you won’t see many tourists.

While I expected a 3-hour hike, what I got, instead, was a walk through timelessness. I got to feel like a kid in search of fairies, and to learn about geology and nature in ways I never expected. Not only am I happy I returned here, but if you ever come to New Zealand, I would rank this as a number one spot to visit, and plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon to truly enjoy it. If you have longer, there’s a café, and you can even stay either on the camping ground, or the bed and breakfast. Check out the Waireire Boulders website for more information.

view at Wareire Boulders

The Waireire Boulders – a view from the start of the hike. Copyright 2020, Heather Markel.

Getting There

The Waireire Boulders are located on New Zealand’s North Island, about 45 minutes drive west of Kerikeri. There are no buses, so you’ll need a car to drive there. See the map below for a better idea of it’s location.

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