A hilly peninsula some 14 miles long trends northeastwards from the vicinity of Dunedin and partly encloses the narrow inlet of Otago Harbour. The most north-western extremity is Taiaroa Head (named after a Maori chief), on the east side of which is a protected albatross rookery and on the western side a small cove, Pilot Beach. A lighthouse on Taiaroa Head flashes at 18-second intervals. The eastern extremity is Cape Saunders, named by Captain Cook in 1770, to the north of which lies the shallow Papanui Inlet and, to the south, Hooper's Inlet. The latter is a popular summer camping place and lies under Harbour Cone, 1,033 ft. On Cape Saunders a lighthouse flashes at 60-second intervals. The Maori name Papanui Inlet refers to “large flat plain” or “stage in a tree used as a seat by a bird snarer”. Although Harbour Cone resembles a volcanic cone in shape and mainly consists of volcanic rock, its form is due to erosion. Most of the peninsula consists of volcanic rocks erupted from centres on the peninsula as well as those adjacent to Port Chalmers, on the opposite side of the harbour.
Small but growing communities occupy the many sheltered bays along the harbour shore. At Portobello is a marine aquarium and biological station controlled by the University of Otago. Broad Bay and Macandrew Bay are small farming and residential centres, the latter named after James Macandrew, a former Superintendent of the Province of Otago. Harington Point, named after Thomas Cudbert Harington, first secretary of the New Zealand Company, and frequently mis-spelt Harrington, is a settlement which lies just inside the Otago Harbour Heads. It is occupied mainly by Maori farmers. It was near here that the Weller brothers established their shore whaling station in 1831. Since the settlement of Dunedin in 1848 there have been a number of wrecks in the vicinity of the Otago Heads, the most important being the barque Revival (1859) and the steamers Victory (1861) and Tyrone (1913). Scenic drives along the peninsula present magnificent views of the harbour and coastline, and of Dunedin City and its environs.
by Bryce Leslie Wood, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.