The Omarama Clay Cliffs are a unique collection of rock formations with a slot canyon to explore, about 25 minutes drive north of Omarama. I have driven past the sign about half a dozen times and after failing our last mission to check them out (kids all asleep in the car) we finally made it. And we were not disappointed. It would be a great stop on the way from Oamaru or Christchurch to Queenstown.
The clay coloured cliffs reminded me of church organs, all different sizes poking out so tall and majestic. As we drove up to the carpark, the sight of the cliffs really did make you say wow! It’s hard to describe the grandeur and size of the cliffs without seeing them for yourself, in real life.
If you are wondering how the Clay Cliffs were formed, then you wouldn’t be the first one to ask that question.
In a simplistic version (ie. the kids version) this is what happened:
The walk to the Omarama Clay Cliffs is an easy 500m walk. As you walk along the dirt track, you can also look over the views of the Ahuriri River. The braided river and the vast deserted land reminded me of scenes we had seen in Africa. After driving past much farmland all across New Zealand, this “desert-like” setting was an unusual yet interesting site.
Once you reach the end of the Clay Cliffs tracks, you are free to explore the slot canyon. The kids had a ball trying to climb over the rocks, down a “rock slide” and seeing if they could make their way to the top of the caverns. It is the kind of Indiana Jones adventure your kids have always dreamed of.
If you are driving between Christchurch and Queenstown, or Queenstown and Tekapo, any of these routes, you will see the turnoff along the way. It is a 20 minute drive off the the main road (State Highway 8) (although it doesn’t feel that long as there’s a decent gravel road).
The Omarama Clay Cliffs are clearly signposted, but if you are following Google Maps, make sure you put “clay cliffs” into google, not “omarama clay cliffs” which will take you to a road in the main town. (It is not in the main township)
Omarama Clay Cliffs are located off Henburn Road
It will also be on your road trip itinerary if you are heading from Oamaru to Queenstown, or Oamaru to Mt Cook/Tekapo.
If you are staying in the Waitaki area for a little while, there are many things to do in Omarama nearby.
This article was originally published on backyardtravelfamily.com and was written by Jen. Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space. Jen has three young children, 5 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.
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