A good reason to stop in ... Moeraki

The Kaika, near Moeraki, a traditional Ngai Tahu settlement. Photo by Jude Gillies.
The Kaika, near Moeraki, a traditional Ngai Tahu settlement. Photo by Jude Gillies.
Now that Moeraki is on the culinary map, it is easy to miss some of the more subtle attractions of this once sleepy side-road destination off State Highway 1.

A Ngai Tahu stronghold, Moeraki was also a station for whalers who arrived in the early 1800s, long before the settlers made it their home.

Whaling pots and bones, still found in gardens and on monuments in the settlement, are testament to this infamous economy.

Go to Fleur's Place, by all means, then take yourself on a tour of some of Moeraki's other gems.

These include the cliff-side walk to a beach around the headland where you will discover golden sand and, at low tide, a richly diverse sea life in the exposed rock pools.

Walk around the village waterfront to watch the fishing boats bobbing around in the harbour or being repaired on the local slipway and, if the urge takes you, enjoy a paddle in the waves.

Walk or drive to the hilltop lookout above the village for superb views stretching up and down the Otago coast and read about Moeraki's history at the settlers monument.

On the drive in to the village, stop at the Coronation Hall reserve to walk down and visit what was once the old sea baths, now a ruin of rocks and pools full of sea creatures - the ideal place for children to explore.

And if you are there on a Sunday, check for services at the old church across the road from the hall.

Dating back to the 1800s, it was moved there in the 1960s from its original site at the nearby Kaika.

To see the real Moeraki at the Kaika, once home to the Booker prize-winning author of The Bone People, Keri Hulme, drive over the hill above the village camping ground.

There, you will find a safe swimming beach lined with Kiwi cribs and, in the historic cemetery, Moeraki's Ngai Tahu and whaling forebears dating back to the early 1800s.

For those interested in wildlife or fishing for salmon, a trip to the lighthouse, on the road past the Kaika, is a must.

But go with a sturdy jacket and be prepared for hair-raising winds.

For a peaceful end to your day, take a stroll along Hampden beach to see the famous Moeraki boulders and look for dolphins that frequent the rolling easterly swell and feel glad you pulled in off SH1 to see the settlement for yourself.

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