Our time in New Zealand is winding down, and we decided to break up the drive from Dunedin to Christchurch with a stop in the coastal town of Oamaru. We enjoyed some terrific sights along the way.
First we stopped to see the Moeraki Boulders. These incredibly round and unusual looking rocks are found right on the beach, half buried in the sand at the water line. Only they are not rocks in the traditional sense, rather, they are known as concretions, formed from the precipitation of minerals around some sort of nucleating material, possible some organic matter deposited on the ocean floor many millions of years ago. Most are spherical, although some of them have cracked open and eroded, revealing their mineralized interiors. Very cool to see.
More photos of the Moeraki Boulders:
We also visited a Penguin Reserve in the afternoon, not really expecting to see any penguins since it was the middle of the day. Rare Yellow-eyed Penguins nest at this reserve, but they spend the day at sea, searching for food, and only return to land in the evening, usually at sunset or later. We hiked down a steep hill to visit the viewing blind (or hide, as they call them here), but didn’t see anything but a bunch of lazy seals on the beach. Hiking back up the hill, we were really surprised to spot two chicks and an adult hanging out in the brush. What a sight!
After arriving at the Oamaru Top10 Holiday Park and having dinner, we drove over to the Oamaru Harbor, where we heard it was possible to see Little Blue Penguins returning at night. Little Blue Penguins are the smallest species of penguin and are limited to New Zealand and Australia. Like the Yellow-eyed Penguins, they spend their days in the ocean fishing, returning at the end of the day. This evening was gray and cloudy as darkness fell, and it started raining a bit, but I was really glad we stuck around well after dark. The sight of tiny, one foot tall, Little Blue Penguins hopping out of the water and waddling up to cross the street to get to their nests might be the most unbearably cute thing I have ever, ever, ever seen. Only if they had little bow ties and tiny brief cases would their return home from a day “at work” be any cuter. When the penguins come out of the water, they seem a little shy and unsure. But they have to get home to their nests for the night, so they eventually run the gauntlet of watchers. After they disappear into the bush, we heard their loud cackling/laughing sound as they greeted their mates. Awesome!