South Island meanderings…February 2016 (Part 1) Dunedin-Otago Peninsular-Brighton-Mosgiel-Taieri Mouth-Milton-Balclutha

Arrived in Dunedin on Feb 01 and spent five days there. Stopped for 1 night at the NZMCA Park at Woodhaugh and the rest of the time we overnighted right on the foreshore overlooking the sea. St Kilda Beach for 3 nights and 1 night on a hillside carpark further along the coast overlooking Smails Beach and Bird Island.

Maori Head & Smails Beach
Maori Head & Smails Beach
Bird Island at Smails Beach
Bird Island at Smails Beach

The Dunedin City Bylaw states that Certified Self-Contained vehicles can generally freedom camp throughout the Dunedin area on gravelled or sealed council land set aside for parking, for 2 consecutive nights at any one spot. There are a few other rules and some exclusion zones (mainly on the Otago Peninsular) but these are clearly shown in a brochure from the Info Centre or on the Council website. The Dunedin Council area is also quite large, taking in Waikouiti in the north, beyond Middlemarch in the west, and down to the Taieri River Mouth in the south.

St Kilda Beach, Dunedin
St Kilda Beach, Dunedin
View towards Ocean Grove from Lawyers Head
View towards Ocean Grove from Lawyers Head

The Club Park at Woodhaugh is quite convenient for water and a dump point and you can catch a bus into the City or even walk downhill through a nice park to visit the Botanical Gardens (or further afield depending on how energetic you’re feeling). We had the inevitable lists of things we needed to ‘buy’ in the city and I had my list of things we needed to ‘see’.

So we walked around the Botanical Gardens and through the City shopping areas, checked out The Octagon (the stately buildings and Robbie Burns Statue) and the Dunedin Railway Station (which is pretty impressive).

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

06 Dunedin Railway Station - Copy

Robbie Burns Statue - The Octagon
Robbie Burns Statue – The Octagon
The Octagon - historic buildings
The Octagon – historic buildings

We did a day trip out along the Otago Peninsular to Tairoa Head. Another very scenic drive, this time on the opposite side of the Harbour looking across to Port Chalmers, Aramoana and The Mole, where we camped approx a week before.

Dunedin Harbour entrance - looking across to Aramoana
Dunedin Harbour entrance – looking across to Aramoana
Steaming towards Port Chalmers
Steaming towards Port Chalmers

We stopped at the little village of Portabello along the way, bought an ice-cream and sat on a seat in the sun watching hundreds of little fish swirling around in the shallow, clear water feeding – as they broke the surface they made multiple flashes of sparkling silver. The seagulls were ignoring them so they must have been full or they weren’t to their taste.

Driving to Tairoa Head
Driving to Tairoa Head

Not far from there is a good freedom camping area at Harwood – only found a lone motorhome parked up. Stopped to say hello – a couple from Whanganui on their way home. They came south travelling in a Transit Campervan, called into an RV centre to buy a kettle and drove out in a Winnebago Motorhome. It must have been ‘karma’ as the word “Kettle” features in the name painted on it by the previous owner – can’t remember the exact wording but it was something like “Put the Kettle On”. We had to laugh.

We browsed through the Albatross Centre but decided against doing any of their tours. I have been cheating and keeping an eye of the 24 hr ‘real time’ web-cam on the DOC website, which is focused on a pair of Albatross rearing their chick, which is pretty cool. Here is the link if you want to check it out: http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/albatrosses/royal-albatross-toroa/royal-cam/

Eastern side of Tairoa Head
Eastern side of Tairoa Head
Tairoa Lighthouse
Tairoa Lighthouse

Needless to say there were heaps of other tourists around and some were enjoying watching seals swimming around and laying on the rocks at the shore. There were also lots of other seabirds nesting on the ground around the Centre and on the cliffs – but there was seagull ‘poo’ everywhere!! The paths were almost completely ‘painted’ white. I was wishing I had a hat on but surprisingly we were both unscathed when we returned to the motorhome.

Tairoa Head - tourists watching swimming seals
Tairoa Head – tourists watching swimming seals

We had intended to take a different road back along the Peninsular via Larnach Castle but we got part way along the road and then came across a “Road Closed” sign. Grrrrr, why can’t they put these notices at the beginning of the road where you can easily make a U-turn instead of making vehicles negotiate multiple to-and-fro manoeuvres in a farmer’s gateway to go back. This is not the first time we have struck this of late. We could have back-tracked via another road but didn’t bother in the end as we did a double-tour of the castle and the gardens some years ago, so figured it wouldn’t be too much different. Besides, big ominous clouds had appeared by this time and rain wasn’t far off.

Undertook a couple of repairs whilst in Dunedin – replaced the daytime driving lights on the front with a better quality set (the old ones kept getting water in them and failing). And Neville took the bathroom vanity unit off the wall to get the handbasin out so he could re-attach the drain hose to the plug hole. It had come adrift and when we lifted the basin up to stow it, residual water in the inside bowl area was leaking out onto the floor of the shower unit. Needless to say it was not an easy job, so lets hope the hose doesn’t come off again.

We had a ‘mail drop’ organised in Dunedin – a courier package to be delivered to the Courier’s Depot for us to collect from there. It worked well and the Depot said they often hold packages for people this way.

Once the laundry was done we could move on, so on Feb 06 we headed off on another dull day to Brighton Beach and spent a couple of nights at the Sports Domain there. A set of steps took us down onto the beach and rocky shore which was great for walking and exploring.

Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach
Seaweed on Brighton shore
Seaweed on Brighton shore
 Brighton - Lone Dotterel
Brighton – Lone Dotterel
Dotterel posing
Dotterel posing

Next day the sun was out and it was so pleasant we lingered for the second night. Was also good to be able to sit outside in the sun and catch up on some reading.

Decided to take some more photos to show what the beach looks like without the gloomy clouds around.

A sunny Brighton Beach
A sunny Brighton Beach

20 Brighton Beach 3 - Copy

Brighton shore looking towards Green Island
Brighton shore looking towards Green Island
Overlooking rocks from Brighton Domain
Overlooking rocks from Brighton Domain

From Brighton we headed towards Mosgiel via Scroggs Hill Road. From the top we descended down a very steep winding drop to SH1 – very glad we had good engine braking on the truck. It was the steepest road we have travelled on so far anyway – felt like I was going to fall through the windscreen!!.

At Mosgiel we drove around a few places where we could stay and for the first night, settled on a small park area called Puddle Alley beside a nice little stream. Then for the next couple of nights, we changed location to the local Taieri Rugby Club Carpark (gold coin donation). Mainly because rain was forecast and we didn’t want to get stuck on the grass at Puddle Alley (evidence of muddy ruts from other people’s misfortunes was a good enough warning).

While in Mosgiel we hunted down an engineering place that has made towbars for other motorhomes and made arrangements to have one fitted in a few days time. We want to get the bicycles off the back wall of the motorhome so a towbar or similar seems the best answer. That settled and after a quick lunch, we hit the road back to Dunedin to buy a new bike rack to suit. VINZ in Dunedin advised that if the bar fitting had no ‘ball’ and we couldn’t tow a trailer with it, they would only class it as a bike rack carrier for COF Inspections and it wouldn’t need to be ‘certified’ (which is a costly and time consuming exercise). All very technical – just hope it works. We found a good bike rack at the “Sun & Snow” store, with a square shaft that slots into the end of a towbar rather than on a towball…just what we wanted.

Helicoptor arriving

Went back to ‘our spot’ at St Kilda Beach again for that night.  A bit of excitement early evening, when a search & rescue operation started on our ‘doorstep’ – apparently some divers were missing and last seen around Bird Island. After some time word came back they had been picked up by some ‘boaties’ so all was well in the end.

Rescue at St Kilda Beach
Rescue at St Kilda Beach
 Early sunrise over St Kilda Beach
Early sunrise over St Kilda Beach

In the morning (after a beautiful sunrise) we headed for the Otago Museum – mainly because we wanted to see their Tropical Butterfly exhibit (was on my list). We spent a good few hours looking around the free exhibits and the Tropical Butterflies, which cost us $9 each entry fee. We weren’t disappointed – twice daily they release thousands of freshly hatched exotic butterflies into a hot tropical forest enclosure and you can walk around on 3 levels with colourful butterflies flying all around you. Racks of different chrysalises show how they are kept/hatched, the stream had turtles in it, small finches were flying around and some large hairy spiders in glass enclosures added to the interest. It was very hot though, 27°C and 75% humidity – but you could go and walk the path under the waterfall to cool down. Overall the Museum was very interesting and like a mini “Te Papa”.

Butterfly feeding station - yumm
Butterfly feeding station – yumm

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34 Butterfly 7 - Copy

32 Butterfly 5 - Copy

30 Butterfly 3 - Copy

36 Butterfly 9 - Copy

35 Butterfly 8 - Copy

Tarantula

Drove back to Mosgiel for the night so we could be there to drop the truck off early morning for the “claytons” towbar to be fitted. While that was being done we caught a local bus back into Dunedin to kill time till it was ready. Flashed our Gold Cards and enjoyed our free tiki tour around the suburbs into the city again. Explored the shops, a small craft market had opened up at the Octagon (another cruise ship was in port), spent more time in the City Mall and had a nice lunch out for a change. Returned to Mosgiel on our free bus, walked back to collect the motorhome, loaded the bicycles onto the bike rack…all secure…all good…a job well done!

Spent our last night at the ‘footy’ club – tomorrow we will be ready to head south again.

Drove back to the coast (13 Feb) to follow the scenic road towards Milton and Balclutha. Didn’t get far – we arrived at the Brighton Beach Domain for lunch and ended up stopping there for another couple of nights.

From there we moved down the coast to Taieri Mouth, crossed the long bridge over the river and we were into Clutha country!

Taieri River mouth
Taieri River mouth
Taieri River bridge
Taieri River bridge
 Taieri boat jetties
Taieri boat jetties
 Taieri Beach shoreline
Taieri Beach shoreline

Our route then took us inland to the Waihola Lakes area. The lake didn’t look very inviting to us for swimming and you wouldn’t want to picnic on the ground along the shore due to all the duck and swan ‘deposits’ in the grass.

 Lake Waihola
Lake Waihola

Decided to press on to Milton, bought a few supplies and also checked out their little local museum. Inspected the local Council Camp Grounds but felt the facilities provided didn’t warrant the $28/night fee – so we consulted our books and drove along SH8 towards Lawrence, stopping at a free camp area in the Manuka Gorge where a track starts to view an historic rail tunnel. We were going to do the walk next morning but that didn’t eventuate as there was a notice advising that the tunnel was ‘closed until further notice’…darn!

So it was onward to Balclutha but detoured down a side road past Lake Tuakitoto to end up in Kaitangata. Did a loop there to Wangaloa looking for a walk to an old coal mining site…but no sign of it. Did find a free camp area in a Domain beside the Golf Club (for future reference) but completed the loop and drove around Kaitangata looking at the old buildings. It was quite a large town at one stage due to the coal mining. One Mine is still operating and we had to watch out for large trucks whilst on the back loop road.

Headed for Balclutha once more along the Clutha riverbank – a wide deep looking river and this is only half of the flow, as the river splits just south of the town and has two outlets to the sea.

River Bridge - Balclutha
River Bridge – Balclutha

Overnighted at the A&P Showgrounds but parking is restricted to a very small sealed area which meant only a few spaces available. $10 fee but advertised facilities not available either so don’t think we will go back again. But it was handy to town to walk for fishn’chips for tea.

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