Elephant Rocks

Some of the best tourist destinations in New Zealand are hidden in the middle of sheep paddocks.

Looking across a sheep paddock towards the Southern Alps

There is one flock of sheep near the town of Duntroon, who have access to some amazing limestone bouldering. They were kind enough to share their rocks with us one sunny afternoon last December.

Groups of sheep watched on as we tiptoed our way up slippery slabs. For someone who is used to climbing slightly crumbly sandstone, it was really awesome to climb crazy features that form in limestone. There were so many perfect pockets just where you needed them.

Every now and then, birds would fly out of the pockets , startled by the chalky fingers that had just appeared.  A few of the higher ones were full of baby birds sitting in nests made of twigs and fleece from the sheep.  Whenever birds flew out, we would drop back to the ground and go in search of less populated lines to climb.

We were in a place called Elephant Rocks. We had ended up there because it was a convenient spot to stop on our drive from Dunedin to Mount Cook.  We hadn’t expected it to be such a fun place to climb.

Even if you’re not a climber, its worth checking out the crazy limestone formations.  It’s also a pretty great place to watch the sun set over the mountains.


Some of the local residents had some impressive rock climbing skills of their own.

One of Duntroon’s famous climbing sheep
A cow topping out on her boulder project over in the next paddock

Others just took it easy any enjoyed the views.

One of the locals enjoying the sunset

We ventured back the next morning to find our big limestone elephants hidden in fog.  We scrambled up a few more rocks, wolfed down some breakfast and made some nice warm instant coffee.


When the sun started to burn through the mist it was time for us to hit the road.  The forecast was looking good in Mount Cook, and we were hoping to reach Sefton Bivouac on New Years Eve.

Along the drive I saw a bunch of signposts telling us that we were on the Alps2Ocean cycle trail.  I quietly filed this trail away on the bucket list.

Each time I got a good view of the alps, I became more convinced that I should organise a cycle tour one day. Each time I saw a cyclist loaded up with giant pannier bags, battling up a steep hill against the wind, my enthusiasm waned.  But only a little bit! If you’ve cycled the Alps2Ocean trail, or been on your own cycle touring adventure in NZ, I’d love to hear about it.

That’s all from me on Elephant Rocks. If you still need some kind of Elephant Rocks fix, and you don’t have access to awesome limestone boulders, try listening to this classic and just yell the word ‘elephant’ instead of ‘crocodile’ in the chorus.  That ought to do the trick.


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