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Daytrip to Waikouaiti and Karitāne

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Waikouaiti and Karitāne are the picturesque seaside villages north of Dunedin. They have wetlands, wildlife, wild beaches and welcoming people to tell you their history.

Hawksbury Lagoon

Thirty minutes north of Dunedin lies this wholesome rural community. To the east the Hawksbury Lagoon Wildlife Refuge provides an ideal habitat for birds, particularly wetland species. There is as easy walk around the lagoon complete with a causeway in the middle allowing for easy lagoon viewing a bird spotting on both sides.

Three red-brown heritage structures, the original settler farm buildings stand on a green lawn.

Matanaka Farm

As one of Aotearoa’s oldest cities, Dunedin is known for many firsts, oldest and onlys, but few realise that it is home to the oldest surviving European farm buildings in the country.

Atmospheric and mere metres from the cliffside, notions of the city melt away until there’s only roaring ocean and moody skies, creating a whipping windswept Outlander-like setting.

Perched on an open, private paddock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, huddled together, are five vestiges of Dunedin’s rural past. Designated Category I heritage buildings in 2009, the structures were built in the 1840s and include a schoolhouse, granary and privy, all in their original positions.

Matanaka is one of Dunedin’s most overlooked historic sites. The atmosphere of the moody coast and the historic significance of the structures combine to create quite the ambiance.

Just keep in mind, since it’s an active farm, it is closed for lambing season between August and October.

Scenic view from Karitāne looking over the ocean towards the outcrop of Matanaka on the other side.

Matainaka Cave (Longest Sea Cave in the World)

The longest cave in the world formed by wave action from the sea is Matainaka.

Surveys completed in October 2012 established its total length as 1.54 km and the cave is still forming and growing gradually longer. It has up to 12 different entrances into its mesmerising limestone interior which is adorned in places by stalactites, and other intricate limestone formations making you feel like you’ve travelled to another planet.

People walk the trail along the coastal Huriawa Peninsula past the blow hole.

Huriawa Peninsula

Spectacular Huriawa Peninsula at the north end of Karitāne beach was the site of a historic fortified Māori pā.

With the Waikouaiti River mouth on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, this was a perfect defensive position. In the 18th century chief Te Wera and his people withstood a six-month siege here.

The peninsula is owned by Māori and the reserve is managed jointly by local Māori and the Department of Conservation. Enter the reserve through the ornately carved archway and follow the paths around the peninsula for stunning views along the coast, down the cliffs and past the blowholes.

Waikouaiti Coast Heritage Centre

In the main street you’ll find an eclectic array of curiosities. There's the boutique sized Waikouaiti Coast Heritage Centre housed in the former Bank of New Zealand built in 1869 during the Gold Rush. Its collections encompass Maori artefacts, family history, WW1, maritime history, whaling, farming, Seacliff Hospital, Johnny Jones, photographs of people and places, maps, documents, and domestic utensils and furnishings, it gives a fascinating insight into the history of the Waikouaiti Coast and its people.

Waikouaiti Golf Course

If you’re looking for a friendly country golf course where the visitors include the occasional duck or black swan, then the Waikouaiti Golf Course in Edinburgh Street is the place for you. It’s a 9-hole course with different tee offs for the second 9. The scenic course is flanked by the beach on one side and the lagoon on the other. Green fee players are welcome.

People in Iife jackets ride a double-hulled waka in shallow water towards the beach.


On a sunny day, the sheltered lagoon, white sand beaches and pale offshore rock stacks make Karitāne like a tropical getaway.

The General Store feels like the village's social heart, with outdoor seats to settle into and wave at passing walkers off to the beach. At the turn off from the highway you may spy a sign for Evansdale Cheese Factory at Hawksbury Village.

Karitāne Maori Tours

Explore the scenic Karitāne area by waka or walking tour while being immersed in the customs, stories and traditions of the local iwi.

Journey on the Waikouaiti river in a waka unua (double-hulled waka) to plant native trees on Ohinepouwera Spit or walk the Huriawa pā site past the ancient blow holes and along the roaring coast.