Cave Rock

Discover the mysterious mythical back-story of this rugged volcanic rock that sits in the pretty seaside suburb of Sumner.

Head out onto Sumner beach for the best views of the jagged black outline and overhanging ledges of Cave Rock. Learn what the rock means to the native Maori people and clamber to the top for a superb view of Sumner Bay.

Sitting at the eastern end of the town beach, Cave Rock is a volcanic formation that appears to grow and sprawl out of the golden sand all around it. Known as “Tuawera” by the Maoris, the rock is believed to represent the carcass of a whale that washed up on the beach under the influence of dark magic. The Maori name figuratively means “cut down by fire” and it refers to the local people who died after eating the whale’s flesh.

Lie on the beach beside the imposing rock or bask in the shade that is created by outcrops and overhanging roofs that jut out from the main volcanic shape. Notice the lines and patterns that have been created by slow weathering by the elements and gaze at the rock from a distance to see if you can make out the shape of the poor washed up whale.

As the tide approaches climb the rugged surface to where a small lookout tower stands in the middle of the rock. Look out across Sumner Bay and northwest to the sprawling sandy expanse of Southshore just across the Heathcote Rivermouth. With the water gently lapping against the rock’s lower edges you can swim from the side or dip your feet in the cool, clear water.

After a day on the beach, make your way to the café on the esplanade directly behind the rock. Enjoy the local favorite, fish and chips, in front of the sparkling blue pacific.

Cave Rock is in Sumner, a 20-minute drive east of central Christchurch.