Waitati Wandering – Part Two

Author DaQua

I relished my off the beaten track wanderings in Waitati, it is such a welcoming ‘village,’ oozing creativity, colour and sense of community. Locals tell of the lore and history of the place with a deep sense of connection. Waitati, or formerly Waitate (meaning ‘bubbling water’), is the name of the river that literally bubbles and bounces its way into the bay. Blueskin Bay – the original name is given to the area by the early settlers, who named it after a local highly tattooed Maori man, whose nickname was Blueskin.

Waitati Wandering (part 2) - Bubbling water

The stormy skies were clearing, high winds had driven the rain clouds further south.
Leaving the village I followed the sign for Doctors Point as suggested by the young shop assistant at Waitati DesigNZ. No idea of what I would find other than a beach on the edge of the bay. Within two kilometres I discovered walking tracks, glorious sandy beaches, and sea caves, locally known as the Arches, that were the portal to hidden coves, and the flight of imagination.

High winds at my back propelled me down the beach towards the Arches in the distance. The sands seemed to run with the waves. It swirled and danced its way at astonishing speed, pirouetting around the rocks that were strewn across the beach, rushing through the gaps between them, creating sand tunnels, pushing ever forward. It was leading the way excitedly. And I followed, just as excitedly.

If you have ever leafed through a holiday brochure of New Zealand, you may have seen the images of the great sea arches on the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island. Well, the South Island, as I discovered, thanks to the push of the wind and the pull of the sand, has their own version and just as impressive.

Entering the Arches, New Zealand

Entering the Arches the winds quietened and I was consumed by the dark cold belly of a great sea creature. Adjusting to the diminished light I could see ribbed rocks arcing above and around me that were a riot of colour, and I could hear the rhythmic pulse of the ocean as it beat gently at its open mouth.

The strip of sand continued through the series of arches and had the tide not been on the turn, I would have continued on and found Canoe Beach and beyond to Purakaunui Beach; the headland connecting the two can be climbed for panoramic views. Mapoutahi Pā  (Goat Island), is the site of an 18th Century fortified – pā.  Little remains today of the Maori site, where tales of tragedy and a tribal feud, leading to a terrible massacre, are passed from generation to generation. This area is now an Historic Reserve under the management of Otago University Museum where a model of the island and pā are displayed.

Turning back through the arches I headed straight back into wind and the full pelt of the flying sands. The walk back down the beach was arduous. I swathed my head and face in a scarf, pulled my hat well down and kept my sunglasses on to protect myself from the  exfoliation courtesy of nature itself.

The Bedouin Look, New Zealand
The Bedouin Look, New Zealand

Each step was a fight against the elements. As challenging as it was, it made me laugh – there was an irony somehow – I was visiting from my adopted home of Alice Springs, nestled in the vast deserts of Central Australia – and here I was, at the edge of the ocean, feeling like (and no doubt, resembling) a Bedouin, battling against the sand with every step. This was a time surely when I would have appreciated the sure footed steps of a camel….. and not looked or felt out of place.

It took me twice as long to get back to the car – parked in relative shelter behind of the rise of the sand dunes and curtain of the grasses – I fell into the driver seat exhausted, exhilarated and well and truly exfoliated. Shaking, as much in laughter, as to remove some of the sand that had found places where I didn’t know I had places. And yes, the car and some of my gear is still full of sand.

Waitati Beach Reserve
Waitati Beach Reserve, New Zealand

Doctors Point or Waitati Beach Reserve demonstrates that early sense of connectedness to this naturally beautiful landscape, that I had encountered when meeting the locals. The reserve is a result of the foresight of a group of Doctors and a minister from Dunedin who wanted to preserve the area from private development, for the benefit of the community and visitors to the area. From humble origins of one section in 1914, when the story began, to 1989 when it had increased in size to 8.9 hectares; ultimately being declared a conservation area under the Queen Elizabeth 11 Trust in 1990.

Waitati Wandering: The Doctors Have a Point – Da Qua – July 2021

Waitati Wandering | The Doctors Have a Point

Footnote & References

  1. Blueskin Bay & Waitati, Dunedin, https://www.dunedinnz.com/visit/around-and-about/day-tripping/blueskin-bay-and-waitati