Amazing Coastal Rocks

A low tide reveals hidden gems of the ocean at Mataikona on the wild Wairarapa coast of the lower North Island.

Tongue-and-groove erosion patterns, jagged spikes and tilted rocks are a geologist’s dream at this place 45 minutes east of the town of Masterton and 2-1/2 hours’ drive from Wellington city.

The gravel road on the way to Castlepoint settlement has the mighty Pacific Ocean on one side and rows of beach houses and permanent homes tucked under the steep hillside on the other. The road winds past picturesque Sandy Bay and further north lies Mataikona. Groups of surf casters and walkers dot the coastline.

Low tide reveals remarkable rock formations along the shore. Parallel lines of rock jut out of the sand, some edged with rough spikes while on another part of beach the rocks are more tilted and have a softer appearance. On this latter section just south of Sandy Bay there are wonderful rock pools, colourful seaweed and an abundance of shells and smooth stones.

Government ranger Garry Foster explains that these rock formations are caused by a geological process over millions of years. The tongue-and-groove erosion patterns are a result of layers of sand stone and mudstone deposited on each other.

The weight of the ocean has compressed these layers into rock, which has been bent, buckled and twisted upwards thanks to the forces of the Pacific and Indo-Australian Tectonic Plates colliding underneath us.

Timing your visit to Mataikona with low tide will take on new meaning. A great day out could include visiting Tinui village and its historic Church of the Good Shepherd, the location of the first Anzac Day service in the world in 1916, commemorating the deaths of New Zealand soldiers in World War 1. There is a walkway up to Mt Maunsell, to see the cross positioned following the first memorial service. Services are still held in Tinui each 25 April.

For more information visit:

For more things to do while you're visiting the Wairarapa head to When you're here be sure to call into one of our i-SITEs for advice and trip suggestions.

Masterton i-SITE
Cnr Bruce and Dixon Streets
+64 6 370 0900

Martinborough i-SITE
18 Kitchener Street
+64 6 306 5010

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