North's attraction rocks

By Peter de Graaf

1 comment

A Far North boulder park has made the top 20 of the AA's list of the nation's must-do attractions, beating national icons such as Milford Sound, Waitomo Caves and Te Papa.

Wairere Boulders, near Horeke in South Hokianga, ranks number 16 on this year's "101 must-do's for Kiwis"; which is decided by public votes.

That makes the boulders Northland's highest-ranking attraction on the list, eclipsing even Cape Reinga and tourist-friendly Bay of Islands.

Wairere Boulders, on an isolated farm owned by Swiss migrants Felix and Rita Schaad, is a valley of bizarrely eroded rock formations sprinkled with nature walks and dozens of bridges, staircases and lookouts.

It is also something of a geological freak show. Its fluted basalt boulders are said to exist nowhere else on the planet.

The Schaads have placed a bed at the entrance so geologists can have a lie down to recover from the shock of seeing the supposedly impossible.

Mr Schaad said the vote reflected the quality of the experience at Wairere Boulders.

He and his wife personalised it for visitors, talking to them about the valley's history, geology or discovery, depending on their interests.

Many visitors were as impressed by the work the couple had put in to building the many trails and bridges as they were by the boulders.

"It's hard to get here, but once people are here they just rave about it," Mr Schaad said.

Another factor which helped the boulders reach 16th place was the couple's use of social media. They did not have money for big advertising campaigns but they could put time into Facebook and emails, urging visitors and supporters to vote.

Sixty per cent of their visitors had heard about the boulders though word of mouth, Mr Schaad said.

One of the greatest attractions at Wairere is the Schaads themselves and their tales of how they bought the land without knowing what wonders were hidden there, until a goat helped them unlock its secrets.

If you want to know the rest of the story, you'll have to ask them.

About 283,000 votes were cast for more than 1600 attractions with Hamner Springs taking the number one spot, followed by Rotorua's Polynesian Spa, Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruises, Heliview Taranaki and the Otago Central Rail Trail. Womad in New Plymouth was the top event; pineapple lumps and pavlova also made it onto the 2012 must-do list.

The vote was last held in 2006.


  • 16 Wairere Boulders, Horeke

  • 18 Cape Reinga

  • 19 Bay of Islands

  • 23 Ninety Mile Beach

  • 26 Waipoua Forest

  • 38 Matapouri Bay

  • 48 Tutukaka/Poor Knights

  • 78 Glenbervie Adventure Forest

  • 81 Karikari Peninsula

- Northern Advocate

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