Dunedin’s Town Belt and Olveston House, and a backtrack to Mt Cargill

January 17, 2020
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THE south coast of New Zealand is famous for its fishing industry. Travelling down to Dunedin from the north, I stopped in at the Fish Inn in Waikouaiti for some very nice and reasonably affordable fish and chips.

And then you can go up and over the hills north of Dunedin, past the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and over Mount Cargill via the local road, which is an alternative to the faster but more boring State Highway 1.

Background map data ©2019 Google. Red circle and ellipse indicating the sites of Mt Cargill and the Orakonui Ecosanctuary added for this post.

From Mount Cargill, you can see downtown Dunedin and also Port Chalmers. There’s also a short but steep track to the Organ Pipes, a natural formation of six-sided basalt columns similar to the ones that can be seen in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh (a city to which Dunedin really does have a lot of resemblance!) The track continues to the top of Mount Cargill, which is also accessible by way of a gravel road called Cowan Road (there's a TV tower on top) and several walking tracks in fact.

I took SH1 so I missed out on these attractions on the way in, but I visited Mount Cargill after I’d been in Dunedin for a little while.

Meanwhile, I’d parked behind the historic railway station and crossed the overbridge into the middle of town, as I recommended in my last post.

I don’t need to put up too many photos of the downtown generally, as you can see some in the last post. Plus, a lot more in two earlier posts called ‘Dunedin and the Taeri Gorge Railway’ and ‘Sounding out Dunedin’.

Instead, I’m going to be talking about the Dunedin Town Belt and the historic Olveston House, which is in the middle of the Town Belt.

The Dunedin Town Belt is a historic, enlightened bit of Victorian town planning, similar to the Adelaide Parklands in South Australia. It surrounds the inner city almost completely on the landward side.

Dunedin City Council brochure describing the town belt and its walking routes

Proceeding through the town belt from a suburban street, the inner city on the other side

You can just see the edge of a sign here saying ‘Town Belt’

The inner city is in a sort a bowl surrounded by a suburban plateau, with some notoriously steep streets leading down to the inner city (steeper than anything in San Francisco).

The inner city from above

Steep streets

Suburbs on the plateau above the inner city

Parts of the town belt are also on Dunedin’s steep terrain.

But the town belt doesn’t just include steep bits. It also includes more level gardens such as Woodhaugh Gardens. I went for a walk with my Airbnb host in these gentler parts.

And sportsfields.

My Airbnb host out for a walk with me in the town belt

In the middle of the town belt, there’s the historic homestead of Olveston House, built by the Theomin family. The Theomins were friends and supporters of the painter Frances Hodgkins, who I mentioned in my last post, and of Truby King, one of Dunedin’s many social reformers.

And then I backtracked to Mt Cargill, north of the city.

Dunedin from Mt Cargill, with the inner harbour visible as a blue pond, the middle harbour hidden by a hill

Port Chalmers outer harbour from Mt Cargill

A selfie showing the outer and inner harbours

The Orokonui Ecosanctuary is a place I would like to visit next time. Mount Cargill is up high, but nearby Orokonui is actually a low wetland, now being ecologically restored. The same is being done at St Clair Beach south of Dunedin.


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