A Visit to New Zealand’s Clay Cliffs

During our most recent visit to New Zealand my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Clay Cliffs. This geological treat is located about 10 kilometres (~ 6 miles) from Omarama on New Zealand’s South Island.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 32 mm, efov 86 mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-400

The Clay Cliffs are accessed by way of gravel and dirt roads that get progressively smaller the closer you get to the cliffs. Under good, dry conditions they can be driven with a typical rental car with some care. After heavy rains this would not be recommended.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 17 mm, efov 46 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

The Clay Cliffs are situated on private, protected lands with a small fee of $5 per vehicle ($20 for buses) payable at an honour box.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 12 mm, efov 32 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

Be sure to close the gate behind you to help ensure that any livestock in the area doesn’t wander off.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-400

I found the drive to the Clay Cliffs quite enjoyable and an adventure unto itself. There are plenty of opportunities to capture photographs along the route.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 23 mm, efov 62 mm, f/8, 1/80, ISO-160

If you visit be sure to allow some time for landscape photography going in and out of the area.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 14.4 mm, efov 39 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-400

Folks who have visited Utah will find that the Clay Cliffs provide many of the same attributes in terms of sharp, rocky pinnacles and slot canyons. One bonus is not having to worry about venomous snakes.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 8 mm, efov 22 mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-400

At the end of the dirt road you’ll find a parking lot, after which you’ll need to hike in for about 10 minutes or so to reach the Clay Cliffs.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-400

Be sure to wear good, supportive hiking shoes, especially if you plan to explore some of the slot canyons.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-400

There are a lot of loose stones which present slip and fall hazards especially when coming back down from exploring the slot canyons. The Clay Cliffs are a unique spot to visit when travelling on the South Island of New Zealand.

If you enjoyed this article you may want to have a look at New Zealand Tip-to-Tip. This 250 page eBook features 89 locations in New Zealand and over 400 original photographs. You can use the link to see more detailed information about the eBook. The cost of New Zealand Tip-to-Tip is $12.99 Canadian.


Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6, and the Nik Collection.

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6 thoughts on “A Visit to New Zealand’s Clay Cliffs”

  1. Thank you for sharing pix of the Clay Cliffs. NZ South Island has many wonders we didn’t visit some years ago. So at least we can vicariously enjoy them through your photography

  2. Do you know what the composition of the clay cliffs are? They look more like they are siltstones to conglomerates or breccias with some interspersed clays. I realize you may not know the geology. Thanks.

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