Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Jo from Over the Edge of the Wild:
When people think of New Zealand, it’s often for the magnificent snow-capped mountains, the Lord of the Rings movies, the clean, green, nuclear-free image, or even the rugby. Given its proximity to Antarctica, however, it’s not necessarily the top of the list for a beach vacation.
Recently, however, TIME magazine named the Burt Munro Challenge one of its Five Festive Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013. The Challenge, a five day motorcycle rally, includes seven forms of motorsport racing, including beach racing along Oreti Beach, so it’s bound to see some more action this year.
Oreti Beach is a (roughly) 26km long stretch of sand, located around 10km from the city of Invercargill. Fringed with an endless expanse of sand dunes, the flat stretch of sand is solid enough to drive vehicles along (in most places, most of the time). This made it the perfect place for Burt Munro (eccentric local hero and holder of the 1000cc motorcycle land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats) to experiment with his hand-modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle and practice for racing in Bonneville. Even outside of Challenge week, visitors can walk, ride or drive along the beach.
As well as its real life role in Burt Munro’s story, Oreti Beach was also used as a set in the biographical New Zealand film The World’s Fastest Indian, which was based on his life.
Motorcycle enthusiasts are not the only ones to enjoy a visit to Oreti Beach, however. In the summer months of December to February (peaking in late January/early February), families head out for picnics and BBQs, to go for a swim, catch flounder, or soak up some vitamin D. The sun can be harsh in New Zealand, so remember your sunscreen, and the water is quite safe for swimming, but don’t expect it to be warm. Water temperatures in Southland peak at around 15°C in the summer months, and can dip below 10°C in the winter.
Kiwis (and Southlanders in particular) don’t like to let a little thing like the cold get in the way of enjoying themselves though, and Oreti Beach has been home to the Southland Mid-Winter Swim event for more than 20 years. This polar plunge takes place in June each year, when air temperatures rarely reach double figures. It’s cold, but it’s invigorating!
Aside from the cold, being at the bottom of the world does have its advantages. Only a few minutes drive from the city centre, after-work trips to the beach can last four or five hours before the sun goes down. The extended twilight hours stretch out into beautiful sunsets, and with only 50,000 residents in the city, you can be fairly certain of finding a quiet spot to yourself to enjoy those extra daylight hours on the sand.
About the author: Jo is one half of a Kiwi couple living in Darwin, Australia, saving money so they can see more of the world. Jo and Aaron chronicle their travels on their blog, Over the Edge of the Wild, and have enjoyed taking the time to think about home and share this little piece of New Zealand with you all.
Special note: Jo, thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful place with us! I loved the movie and think it’s great to learn a bit more about the story and the area! Any reason is a good reason to visit the beach and the knowing something about history of the shoreline really adds to the experience for me. ~Jody