Explore this 1.0-km out-and-back trail near Timaru, Canterbury. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 19 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking and walking, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring.



Craggy limestone outcrops overlook the Valley of the Moa O Wahi Moa where inside a valley rock shelter, fading charcoal images of three giant moa can be seen. The images were created by the Waitaha people who hunted and lived in the shelters 700 to 1000 years ago.

For many years, after the drawings were rediscovered, little effort was put into copying or protecting them. In June 1946 Theo Schoon, (a Dutch international expert on rock drawings) was engaged by the Canterbury Museum to copy the drawings at Craigmore.  Subsequently, the Department of Internal Affairs employed him to make painted copies of rock art in Canterbury and North Otago. Theo Schoon stressed that the rock drawings had spiritual qualities - "like the priest, the artist was a link between man and the supernatural".

Subsequently the South Island Maori Rock Art Project has meticulously recorded the previously known, as well as more recently discovered, drawings at Craigmore.

The subjects of the drawings include the aforementioned charcoal image of the three giant moa edged in red, the drawing of the now extinct New Zealand eagle, dogs, as well as numerous other images. What motivated the artists may never be known; were they done with a sacred ritualistic intent or perhaps simply markers of game caught in the area?

Because of the significance of these drawings, the Elworthy family in the late 1980s arranged for QEII covenants to be put in place to protect the landscape and archaeological features of these sites. Since then, two further covenants have been put in place to protect two other sites at Craigmore - one protecting Canterbury’s only known population of the tree daisy (Olearia hectorii)  and the other protecting an historic cabbage tree (Ti kouka) area.

Click here to read an interesting article about Maori Rock Art in the Otago Daily Times

For more information on Maori Rock Art go to the Maori Rock Art Trust

For information on NZ archaeology go to the NZ Archaeology Association

Visitors to the rock art are welcomed.
The Moa Valley caves may be accessed from Moa Road. Please close gates after you pass through them.
If you would like to visit the Cave of the Wedge Tailed Eagle please email Miriam Bielski on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It may be possible to organize a visit to the caves with Lady Elworthy or with another local person.





215-275 Frenchmans Gully Road, Maungati

Cultural, Historical, and Archaeological Significant Site


Category 1 historic Heritage NZ Place

Te Manunui rock art site is located on the farm property between 215 and 275 Frenchmans Gully Rd, Maungati. The site is publicly accessible from Frenchman’s Gully Road.

The distinctive and rare bird figure painted at Te Manunui Rock Art Site is celebrated in the name gifted to the site by tangata whenua in 2007. Tangata whenua believe the bird figure ‘Te Manunui’ (the Great Bird) represents New Zealand’s now extinct Pouakai or the Haast eagle (Aquila moorei, previously Harpagornis moorei) that was associated with the Canterbury area.

Other identifiable figures which appear in the Te Manunui rock art include fish and possibly moa. The art is visually bold, well executed, in good condition and contains complete figures. Te Manunui, formerly known as the Frenchmans Gully Rock Art site, is located within the Pareora region of inland South Canterbury. The site was renamed Te Manunui when the South Canterbury Historic Places Branch elected to significantly upgrade the rock art site as their 50 year anniversary project.

Te Manunui Rock Art Site has special significance to tangata whenua as a physical example of the activities and places associated with their ancestors that still exists in the landscape today. Rock art sites relate to traditional stories associated with settlement and travelling pathways and provides tangible evidence of traditions and practices of their ancestors. Although no direct dating of rock art has been carried out in New Zealand, the similarity in style to Eastern Polynesian rock art, the depiction of long extinct birds such as moa and Pouakai and the presence of early period archaeological deposits in shelter floors, suggest that rock art was a practice that came with early settlers to Te Wai Pounamu.. Although no examples are found at Te Manunui, Te whakairo (rock art drawing) was practised into the early European contact period when objects such as sailing ships and horses were incorporated into the art, along with written script in te reo Maori.

Te Manunui Rock Art Site is part of the wider South Island group of drawings which share uniformity in style and technique. The site is located within a rock shelter formed by an overhang in a limestone outcrop. The vast majority of rock art sites are located on private land and fortunately, Te Manunui Rock Art Site is one of the few sites that are accessible to the public. The ease of access to the site and the clarity of drawings make Te Manunui a very important site for raising public awareness and appreciation of Maori rock art and educating the public about the earliest stages of human habitation in New Zealand.

The archaeological and historical values of the site are important as a site associated with pre-1900 human activity in New Zealand that has been, and still has, the potential for further investigation by archaeological methods.

Indicative of the regard that this rock art site has had amongst the wider community, the site was voluntarily registered as a Private Historic Reserve in 1962 and significantly upgraded with cages, interpretation panels, and a proper track by Historic Places Trust South Canterbury branch volunteer effort in 2007 in collaboration with the Waimate and Timaru District Councils and Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust and New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is managed by Heritage New Zealand.