On the coast a few minutes south of Dunedin, Brighton and the nearby settlements of Waldronville, Westwood, Ocean View are well kept local secrets. This idyllic stretch of coastline takes you all the way down to Taieri Mouth and makes a great driving route with plenty of stops for beach walks, picnics, swims and fish and chips.
Brighton Beach and domain will give you a dose of classic kiwi beach nostalgia. Potter around in the water, paddle in the adjoining stream and explore the small rocky island just off-shore which is easily reached at low tide. Brighton Store is a traditional ice cream stop handily located just opposite the beach and the nearby domain is the perfect grassy patch for games. Each January, the domain transforms into a fun-fair of sorts during the highly popular Brighton Gala.
Renowned poet James K Baxter spent his early life in Brighton, and Captain James Cook named nearby Saddle Hill in 1769.
Karen Baddock’s fantails, kiwis, moreporks and kingfishers virtually fly off the canvas. Karen specialises in painting birds but she also does still life and landscapes in her secluded rural studio at Westwood. NZ Post has recognised the beauty of her birds, featuring a painting of shovellers on the 2009 Game Bird Habitat Collection stamp, and black swans on the 2015 edition. A range of paintings and prints are on sale at the studio as well as greeting cards and bookmarks. Karen welcomes visitors to the studio and also to the B & B she runs with husband Evan.
Speed demons can get a dose of saloon car and stock car racing at Beachlands Speedway, in Waldronville. The dirt track makes for some exciting racing action, drawing crowds of enthusiasts to their regular events.
On the banks of the Kaikorai Estuary and over the road from the Island Park Reserve at Waldronville, Island Park Golf Course is a small and peaceful country golf course only minutes from the Dunedin CBD. Rolling farmland and the dark green dome of Saddle Hill provide a lovely rural backdrop to this 9 hole course. The pleasant micro climate and gradual slopes are a bonus. The very popular Anzac Day Tournament in April is the biggest event of the golfing year here. Visitors are welcome at any time and the casual green fee is $15.
Island Park Reserve
On Brighton Rd heading away from Dunedin, a short distance past the Island Park Golf Course, a bridge crosses the Kaikorai Estuary. On the left of the bridge a small carpark sheltered by gum trees gives access to a path leading along the sand dunes to the beach. At low tide the vast expanse of sand makes a perfect surface for trotting horses in harness, recreational horse riders, and dog walking. There’s a fabulous view to the basalt columns of Blackhead headland nearly 3 kilometres away, out to sea and down the coast to the south. The river mouth, estuary and adjacent wetland are home to many different birds including stilts, oystercatchers, shags, terns, ducks and pukekos.
Otokia Creek Track
The short walking track from the Brighton bridge to the start of Brighton beach follows the meandering Otokia Creek through sand and high grasses. You’ll see young native plants growing where local environmental groups are regenerating the area and strengthening the river banks and dunes.
A sleepy little seaside fishing village at the mouth of the Taieri River, this is a slice of peaceful kiwi paradise that is the ultimate Sunday drive destination. The river is popular for recreational boating and the nearby white sand beach, the perfect picnic spot. For walkers, the Taieri River Track wends it way up the valley beside the river through native bush to the isolated reaches beyond.