While on our way to Wanaka from Franz Josef, we decided to visit the Omarama Clay Cliffs. This is under an hour from Lake Pukaki and well on the way if you’re already on the main road (SH8). Although you need to specially make a turn in from the main road, I can assure you that this will be a turn very worthy of your time!
The Omarama Clay Cliffs are about a 15 minutes away from the town of Omarama. Make sure you slow down when approaching the turn at Quailburn Road from the main road (SH8) as it is really easy to miss the entrance. Once you hit the gravel road on Henburn Rd, you’ll know that you’re on the right track!
You’ll be able to spot the Clay Cliffs when you’re reaching the end of the road. There’s no marked car park in the area so just make sure you line your car up neatly beside the others! Since the cliffs are also located on private land, there’s a donation box at the gate where you can pay a $5 vehicle admission fee.
These unique landforms are made from layers of gravel and silt deposited by rivers from a few million years ago. They are really tall and form a stark silhouette against the sky. If you get close to the surface of the cliffs, you can even see the layers that form the cliff. Run your fingers lightly on them and literally feel the layers. It is such an interesting sight to see, considering that all these were formed naturally over time.
I explored the place by first following the short gravel pathway into the heart of the cliffs. Once you’re in it, feel free to wander about and have a closer look at the layered cliffs. I took the time to absorb the views and capture these photos. It is really serene and peaceful so you can really take all the time you need.
The whole visit to the Clay Cliffs took us about 30 minutes and no regrets taking that extra turn up. It is really easy to slot this into your itinerary so make sure you visit it if you get to the South Island in New Zealand! Otherwise, also feel free to check out your other hiking options around New Zealand.