Port Chalmers-Purakanui Round Trip
The half-day trip can be expanded to take in Aramoana and includes several beaches suitable for picnicking. Numerous splendid views of the harbour and the northern sea coast are a feature of the drive. Leave Dunedin by Highway 88 to reach:
(12 km): The South Island’s major container port. From here one may detour by continuing on to Aramoana (see Port Chalmers). Turn back towards Dunedin and then right (signposted „Waitati“) to climb past the:
Scott Memorial (14 km): From the base of the anchor-capped column is a superb view of Port Chalmers and the Lower Harbour. Offshore, Quarantine Island (St Martin Island) points across to the Portobello Peninsula, all but dividing the harbour in two. Port Chalmers was Scott’s last port of call on his ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1910. A second, more recent, memorial commemorates the sailing of the Dunedin in 1882, with the country’s first cargo of frozen meat, bound for the British market. Continue up the hill and bear right towards Long Beach at 19.5 km. Continue past the Long Beach turnoff along Heyward Point Rd. Turn off (signposted) to descend to:
(26.5 km) A lonely isolated beach with a very steep approach. The beach is so named as it was the scene of James Kelly’s attack on the Maori „City of Otago“. The beach supported a Maori settlement of considerable importance. Over the years many artefacts have been taken from the sandhills, which were apparently a major greenstone „factory“. Also found here was one of the medals handed out by Captain Cook in the course of his visit of 1772, one of only six to have been found in the country (displayed in the Otago Museum). A Classic Maori population of 2,000 has been claimed for the bay but this is generally considered to be an exaggeration. Return to Heyward Point Rd and turn left to look down on the beach to the east of Murdering Beach, called:
Named by early European visitors as Kaikai’s Beach after the chief who lived here, the beach is near the northern heads of Otago Harbour. At the road’s end turn round and return 5 km to the Long Beach intersection where bear right to reach:
(38 km): The road drops sharply to reach the fishing retreat on the western bank of the river estuary. Across the estuary, on the coast, may be seen the jutting prominence that housed the Mapoutahi pa.
During the inter-hapu squabbles of Ngai Tahu that gave rise to the siege of Huriawa peninsula (see Karitane), Moki II sent a surprise war party to the kainga at Purakanui, where the buildings were surrounded and most of the inhabitants slain. Te Wera and his brother-in-law Te Rehu made a miraculous escape. After the unsuccessful siege at Huriawa, Moki II’s cousin Taoka turned his attention to Mapoutahi, a superb pa tied to the mainland only by the narrowest of necks. A frontal attack was impossible as the entrance to the isthmus was both easily and well guarded; to attempt to scale the precipitous coastal cliffs would have been folly. However, Taoka arrived in midwinter and camped near the pa until on one exceptionally wild night the defenders withdrew their shivering sentries and put dummies in their place. The ruse deceived Taoka’s scouts and would have worked had Taoka not decided to check the position for himself. Mapoutahi pa was stormed and the few defenders that survived did so by diving into the sea and then ascending the cliffs towards Doctors Point on vine ladders that had been used for birdnesting. (The pa, an historic reserve, is accessible at low tide by way of wooden steps at the end of the beach at Purakanui, via Osborne Rd). Return 6.5 km to turn right towards Waitati and to look down to the township and the tidal inlet of the Waitati River.
Blueskin Bay, over which the town looks, was named after Te Hikututu, a Maori so well tattooed as to warrant the nickname of Blueskin. Turn left up Green Rd to fall in with the old main road to Dunedin, skirting Mt Cargill and enjoying magnificent views of Dunedin and Otago Harbour. Alternatively drive on to Waitati, visit the Evansdale Cheese Factory (5 km N on Highway 1), and return to Dunedin by the motorway.