The delightful seaside village of Karitane looks across a curve in the Waikouaiti estuary to the Huriawa Peninsula. At low water boats lie in disarray across the river bed but at high tide the sheltered waters deepen and spread to reflect the surrounding landscape.
In the trees near the flagstaff that for years signalled the local fishing fleet is the two-storeyed twin-gabled homestead of King’s Cliff where Sir Truby King founded the Plunket society, whose Karitane nurses are a national institution. The peninsula, jagged, ragged and at odds with an otherwise lazy landscape, was the scene of a famous siege and was an island before the river changed its course, a situation Sir Truby King at times feared would recur. Fishing, boating, sandy beaches and a choice between river and ocean swimming have for generations made Karitane the haunt of Dunedin families.
Opinions vary as to the meaning of Karitane (literally: kari=to dig; tane=men) but one legend tells of a local girl, Wairaka, who desired as a husband one of a visiting group. That night she crept into the visitors‘ communal hut and scratched his face as he lay sleeping to identify him in the morning as her betrothed. But another among the visitors, who had seen the looks Wairaka had given her intended and who desired the girl for himself, changed places with him and so Wairaka had scratched the face of the wrong man. The incident gave rise to a proverb: „What a terrible mistake Wairaka made in the dark“.
Waikouaiti Maori Foreshore Reserve
A picnic reserve runs along the river bank near the wharf, whence a short track leads up to a terrace where stands the Watkin Memorial. Shaped like a lectern so that it may be used as such at future memorial services, the cairn marks the place where Watkin conducted the first Christian service in Otago, on 17 May 1840. The cairn stands on the fringe of an old Maori cemetery and affords a delightful prospect across the river and foreshore to Waikouaiti and to Matakana, where Johnny Jones had his homestead. In the river beyond the new wharf is a swimming hole still locally known as King’s Hole. Signposted.