New Zealand: dodging the showers on the north Otago coast

Waking in Timaru we saw snow had appeared on the distant mountains. A few hardy dog walkers were already on the beach and a badminton team who had been staying in the same motel were packing up to leave. Today’s journey was to head south on Highway 1. The southern part of the country had had heavy rain overnight and it was just reaching us so we were treated with intermittent showers and rainbows. The road initially parallels the beach and the railway line through farming country. Just before crossing the Waitaki River we pulled over as two guys were emerging from their camper van having spent the night there. Most of the rivers in Canterbury and this one are fairly low at this point in the year and there have been a few years of drought: irrigation equipment is standing in many of the fields.

Oamaru has a lot of late 19th century buildings, interesting shops and would be a great place to wander around had the rain not become very heavy. After a coffee we drove down towards the harbour where a rather wet Farmers Market was in progress. These birds were sheltering on the quayside, waiting for it to improve.

We decided it was too wet to walk to the lighthouse and knew the penguins would most likely be out fishing until late afternoon, so we continued driving. The Moeraki Boulders are about 30 minutes south of Oamaru and fortunately we had a brief respite from the rain to explore them. They are large spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach, probably best seen when the tide is out. It was just turning and going out when we visited. The coastal trail continues along here and you could walk along here to Shag Point.

The road continues along the coast with a number of picnic sites to pull over in.
We took the turning to Shag Point which was an early settlement site and also a coal mining area until the 1970s. There are notices urging you to stay on the marked paths to avoid falling into a mine shaft. There are mining relics around but it is now a reserve where fur seals and yellow-eyed penguins can be seen. We saw several seals with more in the distance, gulls and an oystercatcher but a heavy hail shower ended the wandering and we did not get round all the paths.

The road then swings inland to Palmerston and down towards Dunedin, our next destination.