Hawksbury Lagoon Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Hawksbury Lagoon

From the main highway running through the small Otago town of Waikouaiti, you would never imagine that a few streets away there is a beautiful rural walk that takes you through some of Otago’s most striking coastal landscape.

There is something eerie and and other wordly about Hawskbury Lagoon, a wildlife refuge on the drive North out of Dunedin.  Lots of native plants and birds will greet you, but few if any people.  It is so quiet, and just made for a movie – it would make such a good film location.

Directions:
From the main highway, walk or drive down Beach Street to Scotia Street, which will lead you to a causeway over the lagoon. Cross the Causeway and then turn left up the path towards Inverary Street.  From here you can either head back to do, or walk down Inverary to Edinburgh Street which will take you to the beach and Matanaka.

Puketapu Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Puketapu

If you have a few hours to spare when driving to Dunedin, and don’t mind a steep hill and lots of sheep, stop in Palmeston for a quick walk up Puketapu and fantastic 360 degree views of this part of Otago.

Directions: From the main road in Palmeston, drive up Goodwood Road until a parking lot on the right hand side, looking back down over town.  About 10 metres back down the road from the parking lot, there is a stile over the fence on the other side of the road, leading into paddocks and up the hill to the monument you can see at the top.

The walk will take you up a few steep paddocks, past some very gentle rams feasting on thistles, and a flock of sheep sheltering under some macrocarpa pines, and across another two stiles until you start to see yellow markers which point the way to the top of the hill.  You will see one steep trail leading straight up the hill, which you can scramble up if you are very fit, but if you would like a more leisurely walk that spirals around the hill and gives you views in all directions, follow the markers in a clockwise direction.

You approach the summit from the back of the hill, and it is a bit of a scramble, but you will get up there faster than you think, and there is a table and bench at the top to have a rest while you enjoy the views.  You then take the exact same route back down again.  It will take about an hour and a half to walk up and down.

Girl in Central Otago

amisfield

I grew up 2 hours drive from this part of New Zealand, and spent a lot of time there as a teenager and again at University when I was studying Geography at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

The area has changed a lot since the wild thyme and rabbits that I remember from school camps when I was a kid, with the landscape often now defined by the vines that Central Otago Pinot and Riesling have made the region famous for.

Many people know Central Otago particularly for the thrill seeking activities you can find around Queenstown, but  I prefer to think of it as the same kind of place as Napa or Sonoma in California, Orange or Mudgee in New South Wales, Australia, and the Kelowna or Okanagan wine region in Canada.  The mountains and lakes around Queenstown and the schist geology of Cromwell offer such a stunningly dynamic landscape, and personally I think one of the best ways to explore the lower part of the region and really take everything in is via the Central Otago Rail Trail.

We didn’t have enough time to cycle on this trip, flying into Queenstown for one night before heading further south to Coastal Otago,  so instead chose to focus on wine.  After a walk around Lake Wakitipu our first evening, we had a lovely dinner at Amisfield Winery and the next day joined Jim Ashe for a day trip to visit wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Cromwell and Bannockburn.  Jim has worked in the Central Otago wine industry as a grower and wine maker for many years and really knows his stuff.  We visited Peregrine, Aurum, The Wooing Tree, Domain Road, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Mt Difficulty.

Stayed at: Queenstown Hilton, Kawarau, Queenstown and Plum Tree Cottage, Clyde
Ate at: Amisfield Bistro, Lake Hayes; Mt Difficulty, Cromwell; and Olivers, Clyde
Explored: Central Otago Vineyards with Pinot Thyme Wine Tours
Region Highlights: Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Bannockburn, Clyde, St Bathans

Katiki Point Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Moeraki Lighthouse

Many people visiting New Zealand skip driving down State Highway 1 for the grand mountainous splendour of Mackenzie Country and Central Otago, but Coastal Otago from the Waitaki down to the Catlins is one of my favourite parts of the South Island.  It’s only a five hour drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, and there are plenty of places to stop on the way.

One of the best places to visit is Moeraki, but don’t just go see the Moeraki Boulders and eat a delicious lunch at Fleurs Place.  One of Moeraki’s best kept secrets is Katiki Point – a short cliff top walk with beautiful ocean views and lots of wildlife.

Directions: From Moeraki town center, drive down Lighthouse Road.  There is a public carpark at the lighthouse.  Walk from here through the long grass and fields towards the point.  Yellow Eyed Penguins and Blue Penguins do nest here, so try and keep your voices low and watch out for holes in the path (Little Blues often build their nest in abandoned rabbit holes).  You can often see Yellow Eyed Penguins on the beach, or standing on the hills around the beach moulting.  There is also a reasonable sized seal colony here and huge numbers of NZ Shags (Cormorants).

Katiki point is also the site of an old Maori Pa.  If you go at low tide you can walk over the rocks to the old pa site.