Saturday 21 June 2014

A Weekend in Waikouaiti

It was a fine day for exploring and our first stop was the beach just  a couple hundred metres down the road from the camp ground. They don’t only take their dogs for a walk along the beach around here.

Low tide, firm sand & a long sweeping crescent of a bay makes it ideal to exercise the race & harness horses from the local stables. The vehicle “towing” seven horses drove steadily up to the far left of the bay then turned and made it’s way back along in front of me as two trotters arrived and they all headed way out of sight down the other end of the bay.

About 20 minutes later they came back past me for another stretch up to the other end, the horses looking like they were having a good work-out. We can’t say we’re not seeing some unusual sights on our travels.

Our next stop was Karitane, the seaside settlement that we drove through yesterday morning when we took the scenic route along the coast. Karitane is located between the wide Waikouaiti River estuary and a smaller ocean beach, separated by the Huriawa Peninsula. This is the site of the historic Maori Pa a Te Wera (fortified village) and there are a number of tracks over the headland and points of interest with information boards telling the story of the Pa.

It was a surprise to come over the rise on one of the tracks along the ridge & see this natural arch along with a blowhole nearby. And in the centre of the peninsula just below the site of the whare (home), a fresh water spring. Obviously why this was the perfect site for a fortified village; able to see approaching enemies from four sides, fresh water & an endless supply of seafood.

The track continued on along the shore line back to Karitane, here a manmade breakwater guides boats into the estuary. At the far end opposite a small commercial wharf & located on an overgrown bank was this plaque commemorating a century of community service by Plunket. Of course! Karitane. It suddenly clicks and I realise that this is where Sir Truby King started the Karitane nurses & hospitals. It’s a bit of a strange place to put the plaque though.

On our way to Karitane we passed this caravan in a layby beside the main highway, selling coffee & fish & bacon butties, it obviously sowed a big seed in David’s head because on our return he pulled in without warning & ordered a fish buttie for lunch (even though it was mid-afternoon & I had lunch with us!)

David was soon joined by two guys who were as impressed with the size of David’s fish buttie as he was. They turned out to be the two surfers we’d seen paddling across the river mouth when we were on the track. David enjoyed his buttie and another “on the road” kiwi experience!

We drove back into Waikouaiti village in search of the large estuary that we’d heard about which was just off the main road and in fact ran along the back of the campground. We found one of the entry walkways near the racetrack and as we pulled over a white heron (kotuku) lifted out of the channel beside the path. Too late for a photo but a great welcome. We could see plenty of ducks; mallards, grey, shovellers & paradise, a large flock of Canada geese, a few domestic geese, white faced herons, shags & pied stilts.

And feeding on the edge of the next pond three Royal Spoonbills (kotuku nutupapa).

Breeding spoonbills have yellow eyebrows and grow distinctive long white crest feathers (plumes) on the back of the head. This male already has his eyebrows.

I watched them for quite some time while they fed in the shallows near where I was standing. Like mine sweepers they all moved in unison sweeping their bill back and forward through the water. When they touched something, I’m assuming a fish or a crab, they rapidly chased it through the water before throwing their bill up in the air releasing the fish before catching it at the bcak of the bill and swallowing it fast.You can see a tiny fish in these two shots.

I was reluctant to move on but we had one more place to visit and the afternoon was drawing to a close. Further on from the estuary and towards the beach was another historic site. We drove to the end of the bay and continued on up a farm drive that ended near the historic Matanaka homestead.

The homestead itself is a private family home but we follow the well marked track for a few hundred metres through a stand of gum trees beside the public car park and a surprise awaits us. At the end of the track across a paddock with the ocean as a backdrop are a collection of stunning farm buildings.

These buildings belong to Otago's first farm which was established here at Matanaka in 1840 by Australian whaler Johnny Jones who had bought the land and an adjoining whaling station in 1838. There is a stable, a granary, a school house, a privy and a farm shed still standing today, all in their original positions. These are probably the oldest surviving farm buildings in NZ and are cared for by the historic places trust, they are rated Category I heritage structures.

The Shed
The buildings make great photography subjects but the nearby gum trees cast long shadows in the setting sun.

The Stables & Shed
Inside the granary is an old whaling boat and in the stables are old tack & saddles including a side saddle. The privy (top left, in the photo below, beside the granary) still had the boxed toilet with lift up lids (nailed down for obvious reasons), in fact it was one large box with three lids. Hmm.....imagine that " 'morning" " 'morning".....

Waikouaiti is turning out to be a great place to stop for the weekend. We realise that had we not had the issue with the van we would have passed through here not giving it a second thought.


  1. You certainly find some good spots and happenings, giving us thoughts on future trips & where to go.
    I know from experience it takes quite some time to write a blog and upload the photos, I think your getting better all the time.

    1. Thank you Jimu, your comments are much appreciated. And you are so right, writing the blog & sorting the photos take an eternity sometimes. It's why I'm usually running a week behind! But I can't let the blog get in the way of exploring otherwise I'd have nothing to write about! :)

  2. What was this estuary near Waikouaiti called? I don't think I've ever been there and I'd like to go next time I'm there. Lovely bird pictures, thanks.

    1. Hi Olwen, just back into range & funnily enough I lost the estuary brochure when I wrote the blog but it's now turned up so I have all the info! It's called Hawksbury Lagoon; it's classified as a Wildlife Refuge. Much of the lagoon is .25 metres deep with a maximum of only .5metres. It doesn't provide sufficient habitat for breeding by many of the birds but is an important pairing location. It was interesting to note that the causeways were built between 1881 & 1883 for reclamation purposes but were stopped in 1884 following public petition.

  3. How opportune is that! Thanks, Shelley. I recall catching paua many years ago near Waikouaiti but I can't remember how we got to the sea then. But it can't be that hard. It's obviously time I went back for another look. I also remember gorgeous fish and chips there. Thanks very much for your information and for bringing these memories to mind.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them as soon as possible, Shellie