Blueskin Bay is the large estuary which sits beside State Highway 1 just 19 kilometres north of Dunedin. The village of Waitati is nestled against the hills on its southern shore, while Warrington to the north is a popular spot in summer with its safe swimming beach, holiday houses, freedom camping site in the domain, and leisurely walk to the mouth of the estuary. Head north on Coast Road from Warrington to Karitane for stunning views of the sea and countryside. Doctors Point is a great place for a picnic and a walk and possibly some trainspotting on the railway line which clings to the cliffs above the beach.
“Life is for pleasure with balance” is the guiding principle of this honey company which positions its beehives on farms in Blueskin Bay and the surrounding area. Their wildflower, manuka and kanuka honey is sold in its raw form, not overheated or creamed, which preserves the taste according to owner Dave Milne. The honey goes into the glass jars runny and crystallises naturally, good healthy honey from a beautiful place. With 10 local stockists, including the Otago Farmers Market which is held on Saturday mornings at the Dunedin Railway Station, it’s easy to find Blueskin Bay honey. During the cruise ship season they also open their shop in the main street of Port Chalmers.
There are many reasons to visit Blueskin Bay Library at 28 Harvey St in Waitati. One of several branch libraries run by the Dunedin City Council, it’s the hub of the community, providing information, books, magazines, DVDs and CDs, plus free internet, and 24/7 wifi which can be accessed even when the library is closed. There’s a large local history section, a welcoming children’s area full of books, local newspapers, information on Waitati community events, and friendly helpful librarians to answer all your questions. Membership of Dunedin Public Libraries is open to permanent residents of Otago and Southland, members of other New Zealand public libraries, and subject to certain conditions, visitors to Dunedin. But anyone can visit the libraries to read, use the internet or wifi, or ask for assistance to find information. Opening hours are from 2pm in the afternoons during the week, plus Friday and Saturday mornings.
This large garden centre is a gardener’s delight with a wide range of plants of every description including many native New Zealand species. The café is a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch or to pick up a takeaway coffee. Sit back and relax, browse a gardening magazine and watch garden centre staff watering the plants and assisting customers. The Gardener’s Big Breakfast sounds good or perhaps the Gingerbread French Toast or Goat’s Cheese Twice Baked Souffle. With local produce used wherever possible, a kids’ menu and activities, and all food preferences and allergies catered for, this café has something for everyone, not just those with green fingers.
Just 20 minutes north of Dunedin, Orokonui Ecosanctuary is a conservation success story. Sitting at the top of the hill above Waitati on Blueskin Rd, this 307 hectare piece of regenerating forest enclosed by over 8 kilometres of pest-proof fencing was established in 2007. Since then most of the pests such as possums, rats, stoats, cats and mice have been eradicated, allowing the forest to regenerate and native birds to flourish. Kiwi, takahe, saddlebacks and kaka have been re-introduced, and many other native birds such as kereru and tui are in abundance. Tuatara and large Otago skinks can be viewed in enclosures, and the award winning visitor centre, a model of sustainable design, contains a café, a shop, and comfortable places to relax and take in the view. Both guided and self-guided tours are available, there is bird feeding to watch, and holiday activities for children.
Mandy Mayhem – Pirate Queen
Captain of the Waitati Militia, which always takes a tea trolley into battle, Mandy Mayhem has lived most of her life in Waitati. Her years as a circus ringmaster have refined her skills in performance and she’s the celebrated local queen of mayhem and hilarity. You’ll find her at the centre of the Militia’s battles, jousting at the local A & P show, promoting books at the library, and guerrilla gardening on the local grass verges. At home in her dream house complete with wagon wheel fence, Axminster carpet and 88 rose bushes, Mandy is getting stuck in growing vegetables in the fine silt soil. She calls it pirate produce – vegetables for everyone. “We like to live a little bit out of society here” Mandy says. That’s why words like trade, barter, off the grid and sustainability are synonymous with Waitati. Be sure to stop at the Free Pile in the old bus shelter, it’s like an op shop without the money, another of Mandy’s creations.