On the coast a few minutes south of Dunedin, Brighton and the nearby settlements of Waldronville, Westwood and Ocean View are well kept local secrets. People come here to exercise their horses, walk their dogs, picnic, swim, eat fish and chips, and watch saloon car and stock car racing at Beachlands Speedway. There’s also a community of artists whose studios you can visit, a surf lifesaving club, and several kilometres of empty beaches. Brighton Store serves takeaway food, coffees, ice creams, fresh bread, and stocks a range of groceries. Renowned poet James K Baxter spent his early life in Brighton, and Captain James Cook named nearby Saddle Hill in 1769. The big annual event is the Brighton Fishing Competition in February where they catch crayfish, groper, greenbone, trumpeter, moki and paua offshore.
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.
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.
Behind a blue fence at the southern end of Brighton a mauve building stands out. It’s the South Seas Gallery, a warm and inviting place featuring the work of local artists Lindsay Crooks, Janet Weir and others. The vibrant paintings, quirky craft, sculpture, postcards, dog treats, garden and espresso coffee are wonderful reasons to stop here. But there’s a fascinating historic connection as well. The mauve octagonal room which forms the entrance to the gallery is the ticket booth from the 1925 South Seas International Exhibition held in Dunedin. Kiwi ingenuity and recycling at its best.
Turning Tides takeaways at 836 Brighton Rd Ocean View is a great place to stop for a meal when passing through or on the homeward journey after a day at the beach. Blue cod is a specialty and they also serve old favourites such as sole fillets, onion sausages, hot dogs, hot dog bites for children, and spring and curry and rice rolls. All their deep fried food is cooked in canola oil. Burgers are also a specialty here plus toasted sandwiches, all day brunch to take away as well as full meals to go for those who prefer a traditional dinner.
Scott Weatherall is a lifetime member of the Surf Lifesaving Club, a search and rescue team member, honorary ranger, chair of the Saddle Hill Community Board, and he still finds time for his day job as a paramedic at St John Ambulance. Scott has lived in Brighton all his life and describes how the community prides itself on being safe and family oriented. He’s justifiably proud of the large new Brighton Surf Lifesaving clubhouse which includes community facilities, and the regeneration of pikau or golden sand sedge on the beachfront. It’s a good life here at Brighton beach, tucked into a sheltered bay at the mouth of the Otokia Creek, and Scott’s the first to acknowledge it.