Omarama Clay Cliffs

Omarama Clay Cliffs



26 Rankers Reviews

15 Face-to-Face

332 Walking

32 Scenic Attractions

6 Omarama




1.5 km return | 1 hour return

Badlands hoodoos in the heart of the MacKenzie. Its like been in a big sandcastle

The Clay Cliffs of Omarama are an amazing semi-arid `badland` of deep ravines and pinnacles eroded into ancient river gravels and lake silts situated on the active Ostler Fault Line.


From Omarama at the junction of SH83 and SH8, continue north towards Twizel.

After 4.5 km, Clay Cliffs is signposted to the left along Qualiburn Road.

After 3.8 km Clay Cliffs is again signposted to the left along Henburn Road (unsealed).

After 3.4 km there is a gate on the left, which enters private land. A $5 per car donation is asked for to help maintain the road.

It is a further 3 km to a wide parking bay. Don’t be tempted to drive further as even for a 4WD its dodgy on the slippery clay.


There are no formal tracks here.

Beware of falling rocks especially during rain. Your best bet is to walk along the 4WD track until it peters out and head right through the ramparts into the hidden world within.

Don’t try and fight the matagouri and hawthorn as you get scratched to buggery and no other place competes with these masterpieces.


The earth pillars, or ‘hoodoos’, form by rain washing off the soil surface, exposing a resistant layer of rock or large boulder, which forms a cap, protecting the rock beneath. When this cap is punctured the surrounding material is washed away until another resistant layer is encountered. This gives rise to pillars of differing heights. Where a cap still exists a fluted pinnacle forms. Heavy rain removes the softer silty matrix binding the conglomerate of gravels to expose the individual rocks.


They have counterparts in the North Island at Putangirua (see Pinnacles Walk, Wairarapa).


Feature Value Info


South IslandMount Cook - MacKenzieOmarama


  • Walking
  • Scenic Attractions
  • Free




Showing 13 reviews of 25.

Raphaele's avatar


Ranking: 9/10

Really different from most NZ scenery, quite impressive in its own way and less crowded than other places. You have to pay an entrance fee which I is pretty fair, considering the site is on private land.

Reviewed 9 months ago

Fergus Power's avatar

Fergus Power

New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

Stunning site the sheer grandeur of which makes you feel 'very small' as you wind your way through the impressive formations. A photographer's and geologist's dream-come-true ....

Reviewed over 1 year ago

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Martin Strauss's avatar

Martin Strauss

Ranking: 3/10

I don't know why there is a fee of $5, because this 7.5 km gravel road is ridiculous and gets worse after paying the fee. The view is nice enough, but you can have a quite good overview from the highway as well.

Reviewed over 1 year ago

Nicole and Timm's avatar

Nicole and Timm


Ranking: 10/10

Very interesting rock formations - but see for yourself! Long and bumpy gravel road - absolutely worth it.

Reviewed almost 2 years ago

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Bobbie Jones's avatar

Bobbie Jones

New Zealand

Ranking: 10/10

Awesome hidden gem of New Zealand. A true NZ must do, it really proves New Zealand has it all.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Derick Trotter's avatar

Derick Trotter


Ranking: 8/10

$5 to get on the land, is worth it! Very different scenery. It was nice to walk around/in the cliffs.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Michiel de Weerd's avatar

Michiel de Weerd

Ranking: 10/10

Totally worth the trip! The cliffs are on private land and the scenery is amazing. So the $5 for the road usage is a good deal for a view and an astounding walk. Be sure to walk all the way to the end of the road.

Reviewed over 2 years ago

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Bob's avatar



Ranking: 8/10

Great hidden treasure on a long gravel road. Nice activity for $5.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Stephen Timbu's avatar

Stephen Timbu

United States

Ranking: 8/10

A little off the beaten path, but the clay cliffs were worth a visit. Very interesting formations accessible by a walking track. $5 entry per vehicle.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Jared and Evi's avatar

Jared and Evi


Ranking: 10/10

I have never heard of the Clay Cliffs before, but on my way from Mt Cook to Dunedin I stopped there. I did not expect a lot but was mindblown when I saw them. They are totally worth a visit.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

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Rahel Baufeld's avatar

Rahel Baufeld


Ranking: 5/10

Spectacular cliffs in the middle of nowhere, very nice landscape and views. But $5 road fee per van for a gravel road and no toilets?? That is not nice.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Katrina's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

Feb 2016: $5 per vehicle - access road is gravel with nasty potholes (pay to bring exact change). Walk is relatively easy on the main path. Plenty of animal tracks can be followed to find your own private cathedral of wonder. Fascinating place, worth stopping off it you are passing through. Bring water and sunscreen! No toilet.

Jan 2018: Same price, same potholed road, much worse camper to drive in (much larger and only 2wd). Last time we parked at a small turnaround near the river and had to walk past a locked gate, down a very rough, "4wd only", single-lane dirt road (we thought it would be fun to have a quad bike along here). The road end carpark is now through those gates, the 4wd track now being wider and ok for 2wd - expect to be challenged with a large motorhome, but it's do-able. Carpark is much larger, plenty of turning space and closer to the 'Cathedral'. Still no toilet or shelter...doesn't need it, just go prepared. 2 years ago we had the place almost to ourselves...this time, a dozen other people around.

Reviewed over 1 year ago

Jeroen's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Very annoying unsealed road towards it, but so worth it! Large yellow sand/clay formations that really stand out from the surroundings - special!

Reviewed over 3 years ago