Author DaQua

One of my favourite pursuits whilst spending time with family in Alice Springs, and in New Zealand, is to get off the beaten track and discover the real backyard; choosing to ‘live’ in an area and not just pass through as if leafing through a glossy holiday brochure. I seek to experience and appreciate where people live and how they make a real difference to the local community and environment.

Stormy skies over the tidal mud flats, Blueskin Bay Estuary, New Zealand
Stormy skies over the tidal mud flats, Blueskin Bay and Estuary to Waitati River, New Zealand

With this in mind, I decided to head north on State Highway 1, out of the city, to see where the road took me. Within twenty minutes I had turned off the main highway and found myself on the lesser known roads (to tourists), of the Waitati region — only 19 kilometres north from Dunedin and I was in a different world. Trees and native flax framed the winding roads high above the bay. It was a dream to drive and so reminiscent of the country roads of Wales.

Off the main highway, Waitati region, New Zealand

I was in my element — I must be the only person in New Zealand to get excited to see a river — flowing ……. those readers who like me live in Alice Springs, Central Australia, will understand why 🙂

So imagine my excitement then at dropping down into the bay and across the small Waitati river — looking out to the estuary and mud flats — watching black swans in their hundreds navigating the channels of the ebbing tide as storm clouds gathered overhead. I stopped to check out the information board opposite and discovered a lagoon walk of an hours length. I checked it out walking to the end of the boardwalk, and deciding that it would be a walk to do with my grandson, with wellies and wet weather gear at the ready. It was lunchtime after all.

Estuary at Blueskin Bay, Otago, New Zealand
Estuary at Blueskin Bay, New Zealand

As I drove along Harvey Street through the centre of the ‘village’, I made my first stop at the quaintest roadside shop, Waitati DesigNZ. The shop was bathed in sunlight; the interior space was fun and vibrant filled with all manner of NZ designed gifts, art and clothing. I spent time chatting with a young art student who was only too eager to share her local tips with me. She gave me the run down on the great coffee to be had at Blueskin Kitchen in the Gallery on Blueskin — a gallery that sells and exhibits collections of works by artists from the area.

Waitati DesigNZ

I took her advice and found a number of locals seated around one of the two tables, enjoying wholesome plates of food and hot drinks, deep in conversation about gender and theatrical performances in schools, addressing the challenges of the times for young people. It transpired that there had been a power outage in their homes (Ha! Now that did remind me of Alice), and so they had gathered at the Kitchen for the warmth of the welcome.

Gallery on Blueskin — a gallery that sells and exhibits collections of works by artists from the area.

I had the best seafood chowder — ever — at the Blueskin Kitchen — thank you Chef Jean for welcoming me back with my family visiting from Auckland two weeks later. I am now a follower of the Blueskin Kitchen on Facebook, and look forward to returning over a weekend sometime when the place is transformed into a live music venue — there are even Poetry nights.

Blueskin Kitchen & Gallery on Blueskin

“We take pleasure in serving honest and good food.” I think the pleasure was all mine!

Across the road from the Blueskin Kitchen & Gallery on Blueskin, I met Mel, the co-owner of Merchant a fabulous store catering to locals and visitors from the city with an array of locally made and grown produce, as well as fine foods from farther afield. The New Zealand honey and lemon curd was divine. They also do a great range on ice creams for those wonderful winter sunshine days at the bay.


Beyond the Merchant I found the Blueskin Nurseries and Garden Centre, ringing with the sound of wind charms (the wind was really getting up) and a chorus of birdsong.

Wind charms in Waitati

Silvereyes — songbirds native to New Zealand and Australia — having colonised the islands in the 1850s. Just ten years after the Maori signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

Silvereyes – songbirds native to New Zealand and Australia
Silvereyes – songbirds native to New Zealand and Australia

Thanks to the young art student’s local intel — I took a further detour before heading back to Dunedin, and as the wind speed continued to gather pace found myself on a surprising adventure in a landscape that could give the Coromandel Arches, on the North Island (featured in all the glossy holiday brochures), a run for its money.

More Waitati Wanderings and other ‘off the beaten track days” will feature in forthcoming blogs.

Waitati Wandering by Da Qua, July 2021
Waitati Wandering by Da Qua, July 2021

More than happy with my day’s discoveries and purchases!

Waitati Wandering – Da Qua – July 2021

Waitati Wandering | The Doctors Have a Point

Footnote & References

  1. Blueskin Nurseries,
  2. Blueskin Kitchen,
  3. Gallery on Blueskin,
  4. Waitati DesigNZ,
  5. Harvey Street Merchant,
  6. Harvey Street Merchant,
  7. Blueskin Bay & Waitati, Dunedin,