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Orokonui Estuary - a peaceful place just 20 minutes drive from the city.
Photo by Suzanne Middleton

Orokonui Estuary Walk

Suzanne Middleton, Wild Dunedin —

An easy 3km loop walk through a variety of landscape from estuary to the tallest tree in Aotearoa and areas of regenerating forest. The walk takes about an hour, with a hilly section through the forest on the eastern side of the estuary. No dogs are allowed on this walk.

Park near Black Bridge where the estuary empties into Blueskin Bay, and here you’ll find the first of several excellent information panels including a map of this Dept of Conservation Scenic Reserve.

If you start the walk on the flat section, you’ll finish it by exiting on Chelivode St and walking back across Black Bridge.

Orokonui Estuary at low tide, Waitati. — Image by: Suzanne Middleton

Before Pākehā arrived this area was a flax swamp, and Māori called it Orokonui which means healthy place, reflecting the abundant seafood, eels, birds, herbs, berries, fern root and other foods. All the flax here was harvested from 1868 to 1875, with flax mills producing fibre that was mainly exported to satisfy a worldwide shortage of rope.

Newly planted tī kōuka (cabbage trees) all part of the regeneration programme. — Image by: Suzanne Middleton

Now there’s a revegetation project, and you’ll see young recently planted harakeke/flax, toetoe, tī kōuka/cabbage tree and tōtara.

Kids will love this old bridge.  — Image by: Suzanne Middleton

Up the hill is Orokonui Ecosanctuary which on its lower slopes now contains the tallest tree in Aotearoa, a eucalyptus. After walking beside the Waitati River, then along Killarney St, you cross a bridge and into an area of exotic trees then views of the former Orokonui Hospital. A bridge crosses Orokonui Creek then the track takes you through the hilly forest section and onto Chelivode St.

On the walk at Orokonui Estuary there are a mix of introduced and native plants along the pathway. — Image by: Suzanne Middleton

Halo Project traps to catch possums, stoats, ferrets and rats are spread throughout the area. Birds are abundant, and a black morph fantail/pīwakawaka was flitting around near the hay barn on the day I was there.


Walk around the Orokonui lagoon through native bush and view the natural wetland providing habitat for native fish and foraging birds.  

Takes 1 hour - 3km  loop and on a wide accessible track.

How to get there:   From Waitati, north of Dunedin, drive along Harvey Street, turn left onto Orokonui Road to the parking area.

No dogs allowed in this reserve.

To see a map and information from Department of Conservation: https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/purakaunui-waitati-area/things-to-do/orokonui-lagoon-walk/