Maori Rock Art

An incredible collection of Maori rock art can be seen in the limestone outcrops at Maungati. Hundreds of years ago Maori artists painted the huge Te Manunui - the great bird - along with fish and moa. See what else you can find in our oldest art galleries, and please respect this sacred site. 

Maori Rock Art, Waimate District, New Zealand


Outcrops of limestone are a feature of the landscape throughout Waimate District, however the only place that Maori rock art has remained clearly visible is the birdmen and fish drawings at Te Manunui. These images are over 200 years old.

Maori visited this area for the seasonal harvest of kauru, a sweet food made from the roots and leaves of the ti kouka (cabbage) trees. They marked their visits with paintings made of charcoal, soot, and iron oxide. These were applied dry, or mixed with animal or bird fat and vegetable gum to form paint. South Canterbury and North Otago contain the bulk of Aotearoa's rock art sites, but most have been lost over time due to erosion, and damage from animals. 

Getting there:

About 35 minutes drive from Waimate. Off State Highway 1 just south of Pareora.  Turn onto the Pareora River Road, then left onto Craigmore Valley Road, then left again onto Frenchman’s Gully Road. There is a small roadside sign by a stile. Open daylight hours only, for self-guided visitors, or you can join a tour. The road is named after a limestone outcrop that looks like a French man wearing a cap.

Takiroa site

Forty minutes south-west of Waimate, in Waitaki District, you’ll find the Takiroa Maori rock art shelter, where you can see images on the rock of sailing ships, animals, and people.  Half a millennium ago the valley of the Waitaki River was a well-trodden seasonal hunting and fishing route. Takiroa occupied a strategic position, offering advance warning of the approach of strangers or bad weather.”   This site is item number 5 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.

Learn more. 

Rock art tours

A unique Maori cultural experience operated out of Timaru from Te Ana. Guides help you discover the stories of Maori rock art and immerse yourself in Ngai Tahu culture.

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