Saturday, July 27, 2013

A trip along the old coast road

Hi Everyone, I have been waiting for a quiet morning when I can upload some photos that I took earlier in the week.  Sometimes I just "drop" pics into PicMonkey and just run with it, but with these I wanted to take my time.  Plus, I want to tell you a couple of stories that need links and access to more information (for those of you who are curious).  

I told my 11yo daughter I was taking her to somewhere spooky, possibly haunted and so packed some snacks and our cameras and headed up the coast along what is called "The Old Coast Road".  Our destination: Seacliff and Karitane.  

Seacliff is a tiny little settlement just north of Blueskin Bay.  A kilometre inland from the coast road is the site where one of the largest mental asylum's in NZ once stood.  It is a place of tragedy too because of the landslide in the late 1880s which caused part of the buildings to collapse (and brought about the ruination of the architect's reputation), and in the extensive fire which claimed the lives of a number of patients in the 1940s.  You can read more about the history of the asylum here and about Truby King, the superintendent here.  

Top left to tight: Abandoned cars, the old stables once the Dunedin Museum of Transport (now private property)
Bottom left to right: Wooden building once a ward block, recently a Backpackers  (also private property) and the gates to the reserve

In the main reserve little remains of the main building as it was demolished in the 1960s.  However, it was easy to imagine the remaining walls keeping in the patients, straight jackets, cold dark dormitories and other horrors.  But, in reality the walls are the remnants of the garden and exercise areas where different activities were arranged for the patients - without the spectacular view being compromised.  The reserve also has hundreds of native NZ and non-native tree specimens - further evidence of King's belief in fresh air and outdoor activity.  The hospital originally had a farm, orchards and tracks through the a woodland known as the Enchanted Forest. 

Ruined walls and steps at Truby King Reserve.
Thrifted skirt, top, boots, cardigan, belt and necklace

Left A windswept tree overlooking the sea,  top right, the Karitane peninsula in the middle of the picture, bottom right, looking south towards Taiaroa Heads
Further along the coast is the tiny fishing village of Karitane, where King started a small fishing fleet to allow for fresh fish to be taken to the hospital and the surplus sold in Dunedin.  At the end of the peninsula is a historic Maori pa (village) and the land is now all owned by the Department of Conservation.  

Compared to the serenity of the Truby King Reserve, this was windswept and dramatic.  We enjoyed walking along the tussock lined tracks around the coast after entering the reserve through an impressive carved archway into the reserve.  Signs along the tracks tell various stories about life at the pa.  

Historic Maori pa at Karitane.
One story in particular really touched me.  This is what overlooks  a fierce deep chasm:  

Nga Pehu

A long time ago two lovers eloped
Their parents opposed, the lovers cast out
Time Passed.  Once two, now three.
Home they came seeking forgiveness, forgiveness not granted
taken to the hill
thrown from the hill
Nga Pehu stand where the lovers fell
Listen for the story of a People, a Place.
Journey well Friends.  

The modern village of Karitane has a sandy beach on the south side of the peninsula and a fishing port on the north side.  We took a walk around the little harbour and watched some children learning to kayak, and then around to the jetty where the fishing boats moored.  

This gorgeous coastline inspired so many stories in my 11yo's imagination she came home and wrote them down straight away! We took the highway home, calling in to the famous Evansdale Cheese Factory on the way to get a couple of varieties of cheese to enjoy.  

Hope you have enjoyed this little tour of the Otago coast!  



  1. Oh Wow - thanks for sharing! I've always been fascinated by Dr Truby King. I'd love to do a wee day trip like this.

  2. That sounds fantastic - I haven't been to Karitane for years and I've always wanted to go to Seacliff "asylum". My great-uncle was a patient there in the early 20th century because he was ill. It was hushed up and the family, including his grandson, only learnt about it a few years ago. I bet there are a lot of skeletons in a lot of closets in the area.

  3. Oh that is a very magical place around the coast..........thanks or the pics. What a great day out.
    Love V

  4. Beautiful photos, you sure do live in a special place! I love your outfit too & the pic beside the wall with the sunlight behind you. So pretty. Xx

  5. I love going along on adventures, even thought it's only from photos. Beautiful places.

  6. What an interesting day out, and what great photos. Many old asylums here were on the outskirts of towns and cities, which was partly to keep the patients away from everyone else, of course, but also because they were set in large areas of land so they could have farms. They were like self-contained little villages really. I used to work at the old asylum in my city, at the tail end of its existence before it finally closed. Fascinating history. Oh dear, landslides and fires, just to add to the miseries of incarceration, how very sad. xxxx

  7. Gosh, so Truby and Bella were the founders of Plunkett? I still have my Plunkett book, Mum gave it to me a few years ago and I read of how I was "prescribed" lots of sugar in my formula ... so the penny drops, now I know why I have such awful teeth! I've never used Plunkett myself and I'm curious to know if it's still running? Mothers I knew always seemed to love their Plunkett nurses:). A valuable part of history to nearly every person born in NZ in the past 70 years or so. What a special day to spend with your 11yo, glorious NZ!!! xoxoxo


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