The walk to Victory Beach in Wickliffe Bay starts at the end of Dick Road, with the wide service trail crossing farmland as it heads toward to the Pyramids. These two pyramids are large outcrops of columnar basalt formed by volcanic activity: the Large Pyramid (Pū-wheke-o-Kia) to the north and Little Pyramid (Te Matai o Kia) to the south.
Just before the base of the Pyramids, the track crosses a fence and enters Okia Reserve (or Okia Flat), a swampy area behind the beach. There is a box here where you can pick up a laminated sheet (Okia Reserve Guided Walk brochure) explaining what you’ll see along the 3.5km loop.
1. Small Pyramid
First stop is the optional Small Pyramid: the short climb provides a great view of the whole reserve. To the north, Okia Reserve ends at the cliffs of Kaika Hill, which are part of the Te Wharekaiwi headland.
Looking south, over Okia Flat, is Papanui Inlet with Mount Charles behind it.
Fortunately the track is dry… but during wet weather small lakes form between the dune hollows. The area is dominated by the growth of the giant rush (Juncus gregifl orus).
3. Slope Stabilisation
Looking across at the base of the large Pyramid, a slip site is in the process of being revegetated to prevent increased slippage.
4. Margaret Hazel Slope
A 4-wheel drive track leads up to an area being re-forested by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. It’s hoped that birds from the adjoining bush will be attracted to this newly planted area, in the process pooping seeds that will accelerate revegetation.
5. Natural Regeneration
The Bracken fern has flourished since farming ceased; it provides provides shelter for other plants such as naturally occurring flax, Coprosmas and broadleaf.
6. Rock “rosette”
On the nearby hill is a “rosette”, a large, 30-metre wide circular geological feature formed from radial jointing of an intrusive pod of lava. It’s obvious when identified on the walk brochure – but not something I would otherwise have noticed.
Having reached the northern-most part of the loop, the track now veers sharply south along a firetrail, before turning east to meet the beach. The cut grass is maintained regularly and designed to protect the penguin breeding areas if a fire was to break out.
Named after the steamship SS Victory which was bound for Melbourne before it ran aground at the southern end of the beach on 3 July 1861, Victory Beach is a remote and wild beach.
Just before the beach is a sign reminding visitors that Victory Beach is a penguin nesting site – the best time to see them is dawn or dusk (I didn’t see any). What I did see was a huge flock of seagulls that were feeding in the shallows. A few hundred metres down the (almost) deserted beach, a pole marks the spot where the return path through Okia Reserve starts.
The last attraction of the Victory Beach walk is some Māori history, that’s not shown on the official brochure. Near the base of the Little Pyramid is a cave that has been carved out by wave erosion. There is evidence of occupation from over 500 years ago and based on Māori oral history, the cave was used for shelter by a warrior recovering from his wounds.
From the cave, it’s a few minutes back to the end of the loop track, and an easy stroll back to the car.
0.0km Start at end of Dick Road (5m asl) 1.2km Gate to Okia Reserve and base of Small Pyramid 1.4km Start of Loop Walk (after climbing Small Pyramid) 2.0km Junction with track to Margaret Hazel Slope 3.3km Victory Beach 3.7km Beach Access track (leave Victory Beach) 4.5km Small Pyramid Cave 4.7km Okia Reserve gate 5.9km Carpark (Dick Road)
More information on Victory Beach
- DOC Dunedin walks brochure [PDF]
- Okia Reserve Guided Walk brochure [PDF]
- Peter Janssen, Excellent Short Walks in the South Island, p.156
- NZ TopoMap – Victory Beach loop
Best hikes of Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
There are 46 hikes on the very useful DOC Dunedin walks brochure alone – the top Dunedin and Otago Peninsula hikes which I’d recommend if you can’t do them all are: