The small seaside settlement of Karitane is set in rolling country near the mouth of the Waikouaiti River. It is a popular holiday retreat for Dunedin people and has a great beach and lots of interesting places in the nearby areas.
It was the location of a pre-European Maori kaik (undefended village); close by is the site of Huriawa Pa, a fortified Maori village strategically set on a rock promontory above the coast. European sealers and whalers began to arrive as early as the 1820s and a whaling station was established at Karitane in 1837.
Karitane is 5 minutes drive off State Highway 1, just 35 kilometres north of Dunedin's city centre
It was no surprise how nice the beaches south of Dunedin are. The surprise was that many of them, between Brighton and the Taieri Mouth, were kind of golden like the sands of the beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park.
The round-trip from Dunedin leads over SH1 to Lake Waihola which is well-loved for yachting, power-boating, rowing and water-skiing. In an old travel guide I read that at the turn of the century - from the 19th to the 20th - there were even paddle-steamers "for the convenience of ailing or convalescent tourists"! Now there are a carpark, campground, toilets and showers at the lake which is linked to Lake Waipori further north by a tidal river.
If you turn left in Waihola township the rather wide gravel road takes you over rolling hills to the Taieri Mouth. There are camping facilities, so you can spend some days there or just a day or some hours for swimming - the beach is sheltered by a parallel running reef -, fishing, walking or mountainbiking in the coastal forests. Taieri Island, formerly Moturata (= rata island), in the river mouth can be reached on foot at low tide. A four-hour (return) walk leads along the river. There are also shorter walks indicated, and wildlife (pengins, albatrosses and native birds) can be watched if you are there at the right time.
Along the coast to the north is another rock, called Governor's Rock. It is said that Sir George Grey once lit a fire there. The beaches are rather narrow towards the north, and sometimes it is difficult to stop but there are always some little carparks along the road. This is the stretch where the beaches have this golden colour.
The next seaside centre is Brighton. This little town became a weekend destination in the early days of the motorcars, because it was as far as the people of Dunedin could get on a day trip.
From Brighton the way to Dunedin is indicated.
We came from Lawrence and went up Highway 1 to Waihola to have a look, as I am interested in Bird Life, but you will also come to it heading south from Dunedin.
Waihola, is a small settlement nestled against the edge of Lake Waihola. You can go swimming fishing, yachting, waterskiing and other do other water activities, and have picnics here. On a nice day, if you are lucky, you can get some good reflection photos!
The Lake is surrounded by wetlands, including the protected Sinclair Wetlands.
The Sinclair Wetlands are the home to many species of rare native birds, native trout and the black swan.
As we had come up Highway 1, we drove down Taieri Mouth road, where there are good scenic views. This small village is located at the mouth of the Taieri River, is a historic place where legends of the Maori people are known. Completing the round journey, we came across the smallish town of Milton. The town had a few pleasant surprises.
We saw some quaint historic Cottages one of the being a "sod cottage" which was built in the 1860’s as a stopping place for miners heading to the Tuapeka Goldfields. It has been restored, and we were able to go inside and have a look.
The historic Presbyterian Church was pretty impressive too, as well as other old buildings in the Town.
Milton, is situated on State Highway1, 55 kms south of Dunedin,
Located 110 kms from Dunedin is the town of Ranfurly.
Ranfurly is named after the fifth Earl of Ranfurly, the 15th Governor General of New Zealand.
Ranfurly is not a big town, it was just a surprise, it had a lot of Art- Deco buildings!
These date back to the 1930s when the town was developing, and the style of that era was Art Deco. Art Deco style shops and homes sprung up rapidly in the 1930s after the town went through a series of suspicious fires. The two-storey, Art Deco style Ranfurly Hotel, complete with balcony overlooking the main street, was rebuilt in 1934. The Art Deco Fenton Library and Milk Bar and even accommodation in Art Deco homes, with furniture of the era, no wonder they hold and Art Deco festival in February every year! The people take is seriously, and dress in the fashion of the era!
There is a good information centre in the main street which was very helpful.
Karitane was a small town we came across on our scenic drive from Oamaru to Dunedin. A very small town, it is located in a beautiful position, lovely hills on oneside, beach and nice bay the other side. The Waikouati River empties into the Ocean here.
It has quite a history, going back to Sealers & Whalers that arrived in the 1820's, and built a whaling station here in 1837.
It is a popular holiday spot now, I can see why, it was very appealing for a quiet holiday! There is kayaking, fishing charters and walks where there is a good chance of seeing fur seals or sea lions, as well as the wide range of sea birds.
Karitane is described as Dunedin's 'big wave' spot - not for the inexperienced surfer.
Do stop at the lookout on the hill heading to Dunedin, the views of Karitane and the bay & rolling hills are fantastic!
Karitane is 5 minutes drive off State Highway 1, just 35 kilometres north of Dunedin's city centre.
The Moeraki Boulders are a number of huge spherical stones, found strewn along a stretch of Koekohe Beach near Moeraki, a small settlement just south of Hampden on New Zealand's Otago coast.
These boulders are grey-coloured septarian concretions which have been exposed through shoreline erosion from black mudstone coastal cliffs that back the beach. They originally formed in ancient sea floor sediments during the early Paleocene some 60 million years ago. The most striking aspect of the boulders is their unusually large size and highly spherical shape, with a distinct bimodal size distribution. The boulders weigh several tonnes and are up to three metres in diametre.
Maori legend tells that the boulders are remains of calabashes, kumaras and eel baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe, the Araiteuru was wrecked at nearby Shag Point (Matakaea).
Similar boulders can also be found in the north-facing shore of Shag Point some 12 miles south of where the Moeraki Boulders are found. Hokianga harbour in the North Island also has some similar examples.
Moeraki boulders are in a protected scientific reserve just north of the little settlement of Moeraki, which has a particularly good restaurant and cafe.
These boulders are about a 60km drive north of Dunedin City along the main state highway.
Pilot Beach, used to known as ‘Hobart Town Beach’ is a place where we can see Penguins for FREE along Otago Peninsula, Thanks to the lady in 1908 for telling us about this place The Blue Penguins, smallest penguins on earth, will come home from the sea everyday at 7pm.. It was Day light saving Day, and they were back at 8pm. We arrived slightly before 7pm and waited for an hour. It was very windy but it still couldn’t stop us from waiting. there were other observants there too.. a kid showed us a sick penguin.. we could see and hear the penguin. We could see holes around the grass area, homes of the Penguins. There was a walkway for the penguins to walk up from the beach to their homes. We danced, yoga and kungfu.. while waiting. at 8pm, it was getting dark and we finally saw a group of penguins walking across the beach. We ran quickly there to observe.. too bad we couldn’t flash our cameras. They walked pretty slow.. we waited quite a while til they reached the top. Other observants told us to leave as its unfair that we disturb their (Penguins’) Privacy..
Long beach is one of the many amazing beaches in Dunedin, but with the added goodness of a giant cave! You can bring some wood, food, and beer (in riggers (plastic 2 liter bottles) acquired from the McDuffs microbrewery for cheap!) and have a party with your mates in the cave. It's huge, with smaller caves in the back for exploring. To give you a good estimate of the size, raves used to be held there (Crave) but the ecological impact was a little much. No need for tents and a great way to escape the inevitable rain. If your lucky there might be some phosphoressence in the sand and water, always a treat. It's a bit of a mission from the parking lot (about a km on the beach) till the cave. I advise you get organised with wood ect BEFORE it gets dark, but it is quite fun bumbling around losing your friends. You can also rock climb there if your so inclined. Don't forget pack out what you packed in. To get there go to Port Chalmers, take a left directly after getting in to PC and then the second right. Keep going until you get to the long beach sign (a right turn).
In the absence of an Oamaru page, I am placing this tip here...
About 90 minutes drive North of Dunedin, just outside the township of Oamaru, you cross the 45th Parallel. Here you are halfway between the Equator and the South Pole. The spot is easily missed unless you are looking out for it, but by the side of the road in a small lay-by is a large rock with a commemorative plaque. Excellent photo opportunity, and good to be able to say "been there, seen that!".
Dunedin has some superb beaches. Head South of the city to places like Brighton Beach and the Taieri Mouth, and find sweeping, pristine, empty beaches within easy reach. Closer to the city are popular beaches such as St Clair and St Kilda. Travel further South, along the Southern Scenic Route and you will find the wilder beaches of the Caitlins Coast, one of my favourite parts of New Zealand. If you head North of the city you can find off the beaten path places places like Blueskin Bay. A little over an hour North of Dunedin is the pretty fishing village of Moeraki with it's famous Boulders.
With a little bit of imagination you will find out where the walks on Otago Peninsula start, and then you just have to follow the signs. For tramping in the hills north of Dunedin you will need a map, otherwise you will not make your way to the tracks. I purchased the "Walking Guide to Dunedin" for NZ$3.50 (2006) at the Visitor Centre on the Octagon.
The map holds exact descriptions of the 13 walks, and gives information about animals and plants. And last but not least, with this map you will be able to navigate your way by car to the top of Mt. Cargill which offers a fantastic view over the whole area. (It is the access to the A.H. Reed walk.)
My favourite walks, however, are on Otago Peninsula.
The Sandfly Bay walk (via Highcliff Rd, turn right at Seal Point Rd) really is something. First thing from the carpark you have to walk down a steeeeeeep sand dune. Some people take a plastic bag and slide down on it. Cross over to the beach at the bottom and walk along the sea. Then follow the sign uphill through the dunes to the penguin hide at the end of the beach. If you are lucky you can spot Yellow-Eyed Penguins from there and sea lions on the rocks. Take binoculars with you if you have some! The way back is strenious. You remember, the steeeeep dune...
If you are very energetic you can connect to the Sandymount walks (summit, Lovers Leap and The Chasm which lead to volcanic rock formations). Otherwise you get there from Highcliff and Sandymount Rd.
A short stroll uphill from Highcliff Rd. shortly after the city limits, leads to the Soldier's Monument, visible from afar. The track leads through gorse, the views are fantastic.
One of my favourites is not mentioned in the map. It starts at the end of Dick Rd which you either reach from the Papanui Inlet Rd or Weir Rd east of Portobello. It leads to The Pyramides which are two such shaped hills and a beach which is home to sea lions. Along the path are great info signs about the animals and vegetation. The beach itself is also wonderful.
Aramoana has come to the attention of the whole nation twice. The first time on 13 November 1990 when an unemployed gun collector named David Gray went on a rampage and shot dead 13 people before the police succeeded to shoot David Gray. The second time in 2006 when a very sensitive film about this rampage was released in NZ cinemas, with the title "Out of the Blue".
There was a lot of discussion whether it was appropiate or too early to make a film of this story, at the end even the survivors of this tragedy were happy with the result.
What a strange place to go on a rampage. And understandable on the other hand, as in such remote places as Aramoana is you can find strange people who are there like in hiding because they cannot cope with city life.
Anyway, the village which consists of simple permanent homes and baches, is somehow at the end of the world, at the end of the land northeast of Dunedin, straight opposite Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula. And at the end a mole stretches out into the sea. There you find a lot of seabirds, you can spot albatrosses from the colony across the water, and seals are resting on the rocks.
A winding road directly along the bays of the the northern shore of Otago Harbour leads to Dunedin, with only one major settlement, the port town Port Chalmers which is Dunedin's port.
Port Chalmers is nice and can be very sleepy. Once I was there on a Monday, and many shops were closed, some were also closed on Tuesdays.
You can drive around the place and along its harbour, some lonesome dirt roads, sit in the sun and watch the lazy waves, and the islands in the harbour.
From Port Chalmers you can start to explore the even more lonesome inland and some fantastic beaches. But be aware that you do NOT reach Mt. Cargill from there. You get close but the only access road is from Dunedin.
See info about the so-called Blueskin Road from Port Chalmers to Waitate in another Off the Beaten Path tip.
State Highway 1 - in this region called the Northern Motorway - is like the short edge of a triangle of fantastic but unknown landscape north-east of Dunedin. This triangle which is not mentioned in most tourist guides is like a peninsula opposite Otago Peninsula, and bordered by Blueskin Bay and the ocean in the north and Otago Harbour in the south.
Blueskin Bay is an inlet with rich birdlife which you see on the left side when travelling from the north, before the tiny township of Waitati. The trip is great from both directions but I prefer it from Dunedin. The area is hilly, with the 680m high Mt. Cargill - which offers spectacular views over Dunedin and the harbour - as the main elevation. Be aware that you can reach this summit only from Dunedin! You will find out that in winter the roads are icy and slippery, as it takes a long time on the southward side until the sun melts away ice and snow.
Take the road to Port Chalmers, and there turn left towards Long Beach and Waitati. This is the so called Blueskin Road. It leads you up the hills, and depending on the time you have you can explore all the no-exit roads and beaches from the summit road. Be it Heyward Point Rd to a little beach named Whareakeake, or from there down to Purakanui and Long Beach and the Mopoutahi Pa site, an old Maori settlement.
When the road goes downhill again it offers spectacular views over Blueskin Bay, especially in the morning when the sand reflects the sun at low tide. In Waitati a road leads to a remote picknick area at the outlet of the bay. If once in Waitati you can take SH1 back to Dunedin, or you drive back over the hills on Mt. Cargill Road (which, as I said, does not lead up to the summit!). But it passes at Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street (see: Sports tip).
This area also offers some nice tramping/hiking opportunities, like Bethunes Gully, The Organ Pipes, Buttars Pk and Mt. Cargill.
Descriptions will follow.
Although Otago Peninsula has a world reputation for the only mainland albatross colony at Taiaroa Head it is a remote place waiting to be discovered because most tourists just do not have the time to visit all the nice places in this country, and those who come to Dunedin and visit more than just the Cadbury Factory cannot do a lot more than visit the Royal Albatross Colony at the very end of the Peninsula, or Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle, or go on a guided tour (Elm Wildlife Tours, Penguin Place) or a boat trip (Monarch Cruises and Tours) where they can also see penguins, shags and seals.
All the other magic spots are there to be discovered by people with more time. I have been there many times, and every time for several days, but I never tire of this magic peninsula where you can watch sea and shorebirds in abundance, enjoy lonesome white beaches and go tramping on various tracks (maps at the Visitor Centre in Dunedin). The loneliness - apart from the main road from Dunedin to Taiaroa Head via Portobello - is impressive. The drive on the summit road (Highcliff Road) offers spectacular views. No exit dirt roads lead down to the beaches or at least to parking areas from where you can walk to the beaches. If you are lucky you will spot penguins and seals, especially at Alan's Beach and Sandfly Bay (penguin hide) which you reach on a walk over fabulous white sand dunes - the way back is steep uphill in the sand...
Birdwatching is fantastic from around the two inlets (Hoopers and Papanui), you see them all, from kingfisher to masked lapwing, from oystercatcher to black swan.
And then there is still more to discover in even more remote spots like Cape Saunders.
More about penguin places, the albatross colony and other birds on my "What to do" tips.
Portobello is the heart of the Otago Peninsula. The Otago Peninsula is Dunedin’s most valuable asset.
From the village, roads also lead out to the Portobello Peninsula as well as Allans Beach and the back bays.
It is also halfway between Dunedin and Taiaroa Head.
Portobello is one of very few villages in Otago where the village commercial centre is adjacent to the sea and where most amenities and attractions can be found within a few hundred metres.
Activities and attractions here include: The Fish hatchries and aquarium, The happy hen house and craft store, 1908 cafe amd many more.
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