A change of scenery makes for a good holiday, writes
Fishermen walk back to their cribs at Long Beach following
a morning of spear fishing near the rocks at the north end
of the beach. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
The O'Brien family from Alexandra have for years been
squeezing into a small home they consider paradise in the
Dunedin settlement of Long Beach.
It is a tradition that has been repeated a couple of times a
year for the past six years, whenever the eight-member family
decide it's time to get away.
Then they swap Alexandra's rugged landscape of rock and
orchards for a small holiday home nestled amid the Dunedin
seaside settlement's dramatic cliffs, fresh sea air and
This summer was no different, with husband Alister, wife
Carolyn and their six children - John (23), Eve (22), Ollie
(20), Elza (19), Jude (12) and Timmy (7) - cramming into the
three-bedroom, two-storey home for six days.
The home is owned by Mr O'Brien's brother and his wife, but
also used by their wider family and friends throughout the
Mrs O'Brien - who insisted it was a "bach", not a crib, in
line with her North Island upbringing - said she had fallen
in love with Long Beach, its strip of sand, cliffs, wildlife
and sea views.
Not even a premium on space inside their rented home was a
deterrent - instead, it was just part of the charm.
"We've got to squish in. It's quite little, so there's always
a few people on the floor.
"We just enjoy it. Part of the bach thing is squashing into
the place. We've got couches and extra mattresses and things
that we use."
Modern conveniences were limited - there was no landline
phone, and limited cellphone reception, while a television
inside was not often used.
Instead, the family spent time together walking on the beach
or in the hills, swimming, watching ships and wildlife pass
by - including the occasional seal encounter - or engrossed
in games of cards, she said.
"It's just such a lovely spot because it's quite isolated,
even though you're so close to Dunedin it's quite a private
spot, and just the cliffs are so beautiful and rugged.
"It's just such a change from Central Otago. I'm a sea-loving
person, so just the smell of the sea and ... I just love the
The O'Brien family were among up to 200 holidaymakers who
stayed in the settlement at peak times during the summer
holidays, Long Beach Amenities Society president Edna Wheeler
She had been holidaying in her Long Beach crib for 30 years,
and living permanently in it for the past 20 years.
The settlement boasted a mix of about 100 residents, together
with regular holidaymakers, day-trippers and first-time
visitors renting or borrowing cribs, including some escaping
the Christchurch earthquakes.
"They've all been amazed by what a lovely community we've
got," she said.
Mrs Wheeler had noticed visitor behaviour changing, with more
people taking shorter breaks rather than longer uninterrupted
However, the annual influx of summer holidaymakers continued
to have a "wonderful impact" on the settlement and its
"People come together and mix and catch up. It's a wonderful
time to catch up with the community.
"Everyone's in festive spirits, of course, and it's wonderful
to see the children having fun.
"Once they're having fun the adults are having a whale of a
The society's "wonderful" holiday programme committee
volunteers organised a list of activities each summer, which
this year included a sand castle competition, quiz and housie
nights, New Year's Eve celebrations and a bonfire, and live
music this weekend, she said.
That helped boost the society's coffers and pay for the
upkeep of the hall, but also helped bring the community
together, she said.
However, Mrs O'Brien said her family's visits were not
restricted to summer months. They also stayed during winter.
"When you get that wind blowing in and it's a bit cold, I
always just love it there as well, just to go for a walk on
the beach. We all do."
The time spent together was nothing new for the family, with
the couple's children having been home-schooled.
However, their latest trip was a chance to catch up, with
their four oldest children now living - or about to move -
away from home.
"We just like the togetherness of being down there together.
"It's a good wee spot - a lovely wee spot."
- 15km northeast of Dunedin
city centre, between Blueskin Bay and the Otago Harbour
- Features include a 2.4km-long sandy beach, dramatic cliffs,
a large cave at the beach's western end, and a large public
- Home to about 100 permanent residents and up to 200
holidaymakers at peak summer times.
- Also a home for blue penguins, seals and other wildlife.