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Wairere Boulders facts for kids

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Wairere Boulders is a private nature reserve with geologically rare rock formations, at Wairere, in the Hokianga region of northern New Zealand. The Wairere Boulders is a popular tourist attraction in the area. Visitors can walk around the various trails, kayak down the boulder river and stay at the campsite. The property is owned by Graham and Paula Grant, who are originally from Scotland. They took over the property in 2017 and have sustainably developed the nature reserve, by extending and upgrading the trails, creating a campground, and opening a cafe. The farm is now a beef breeding enterprise, with Highland Cattle.


There are several walks ranging from 40 minutes to 3 hours, the walks take you under, over and around the boulders. The gigantic rocks are surrounded by subtropical rainforest, where much of the flora is beautifully labelled. The walks are through the Wairere valley which features an unusually large assemblage of basalt rocks. Added interest for families, include rock animals, fairy houses and a swimming hole.


Kayaking is available on the boulder river, the route taking you down through the mangroves and out to the Hokianga Harbour. Due to the tidal nature of the Boulder river Kayaking is tide dependent.


The walkway was originally constructed by Felix and Rita Schaad, who owned the property until 2017. The present owners Graham and Paul Grant have extended and upgraded the walkways.


The Wairere Boulders have slid down the hillsides from an eroding Pliocene basalt lava flow of the Kerikeri Volcanic Group formerly known as Horeke basalts. Many of the boulders have deep solution basins and fluting formed on their surfaces as they very slowly slid down the valley sides - a particularly good example of the relatively rare phenomenon of karst formation on basalt (sometimes known as proto-karst). This phenomenon was documented by geologists as early as the 1920s-1940s in Hawaii and New Zealand. Usually karst landforms are formed by solution of calcareous rocks (e.g. limestone and marble) by mildly acidic percolating water. At Wairere, and elsewhere, basalt has been dissolved, probably over a much longer interval of time, by the production of weakly acidic humic acid in the leaf litter that collects around the roots of plants that grow on the top of the boulders, usually beneath a forest canopy. On the top of the boulders this humic acid has etched out solution basins 20–50 cm across and of similar depth. Humic acid seeping down the sides of the boulders has, over thousands of years, dissolved deep, near-vertical flutes out of the hard basalt. In some places the fluting is no longer vertical as the boulders have rolled over or tilted since it was formed. Basalt karst occurs in a number of places in northern New Zealand with some of the best examples at Wairere Boulders, but also at Stoney Batter, Waiheke Island; Ti Pt, Leigh; Lake Manuwai, Kerikeri; and Stoney Knowe, Helena Bay. Excellent examples of karst features developed on basalt boulders can be seen on Norfolk Island, Tasman Sea.

History of tourism at Wairere Boulders

Promotion of the reserve started even before construction was completed and only a part of the tracks could be visited. One of the first articles was published already in December 2002 in the tourism paper Look North. Just before the official opening some major newspapers and magazines started to write about the Wairere Boulders. On 12 March 2003, the Dominion of Wellington, on 18 Sept 2003 The Northland Age.

From then on many other papers followed and alerted scientists to the odd nature of the basalt blocks in the Wairere valley as well as the great opportunity to see them on the walking tracks through the Wairere Boulders. e.g. on 1 March 2008 The Northern Advocate. In 2008 Wairere Boulders reached one of their goals to get qualmarked. The step was announced in the Northern News. A further article on 24 June 2008 followed.

According to the article of the Bay of Islands Chronicle on 8 August 2008, many scientists got alerted to the previously unknown rock formations in the Wairere valley. One of the best articles was written by Jim Eagles of The New Zealand Heraldon 6 Oct 2009. One of the most recent articles was published on 22 Dec 2011 in the ″Bay of Islands Chronicle″.

The tour company ″Great Sights″ was so impressed by the quality and uniqueness of the Wairere Boulders as an attraction that they decided in 2009 to include the basic walk of the Wairere Boulders into their Hokianga Tour.

Also magazines started to write about the Wairere Boulders. An extensive article written by Elizabeth Light was published in the magazine North and South, March 2005. Other magazines like Autocar, NZ House and Garden, Walking New Zealand followed.

In 2008 Lonely Planet included the Wairere Boulders in the New Zealand edition. In 2009 the German guidebook Michael Müller was one of the first German guidebooks to write about the Wairere Boulders. From 2010 on the attraction can be found in almost every tourism guide in many languages and also on most maps of Northland, New Zealand.

Wairere Boulders also appeared on TV. On 9 January 2007 their park was announced on TV ONE NEWS. On 26 June 2010, they were featured on TV NZs - Country Calendar and seen by around 750,000 viewers. They now are on the TV NZ DVD and the clips on the Country Calendar website have been dropped.

On 15 November 2012 Wairere Boulders was rated rank 16 in the AA 101 Must-Dos for Kiwis. Several papers commented on it.


Wairere Boulders was chosen as one of the 6 businesses to take part in the Sustainable Tourism Charter Pilot Programme 2003/2004 organised by the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment and Enterprise Northland Tourism Charter Pilot Project 2003/2004. The park was chosen due to its unusual nature as a tourism attraction, to make sure the future charter will cover a wide range of tourism operations.

The current owners come from a conservation background and are developing the nature reserve with a strong emphasis on conservation. They are involved with a very successful predator and weed control program on the property.

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