Stretching from mountain tops, across wide open plains and vineyards down to a natural harbour confronting the wild Southern Ocean is the South Island region of Otago. Less densely populated than most North Island regions, its stunning landscape is rich reward for residents resolute enough to settle where glaciers crouch beneath snow-capped mountains, dramatic valleys steer ice-cold rivers to the sea and Antarctic winds force coastal trees to their knees. All four seasons are distinct, with a wide range of temperatures; Otago is a region that glistens like burnished gold in the summer and shivers like an uncomplaining wet dog in the winter. The hardy souls who hail from this province are generally considered self-reliant sorts, with a strong connection to the land and a reputation for being stoic and taciturn. These characteristics can perhaps be traced back to Otago’s settlement by god-fearing immigrants from Scotland.
Otago’s largest city, Dunedin, is home to half the region’s population and, with its distinctive Victorian and gothic inspired architecture, is often referred to as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ Dunedin became established after several European settlements expanded, following the arrival of the first ships from the Firth of Clyde. Parishioners from the Free Church of Scotland, along with other intrepid colonists, reached the natural harbour of Port Chalmers in 1848. At the time of their arrival, the predominant Maori tribe were the Ngāi Tahu, who recognised the advantages of commerce and trade with settlers. ‘Otago’ is thought to have been derived from the name of an established pā at the harbour’s entrance called ‘Ōtākou’.
The discovery that Otago rivers were shimmering with gold meant that the Scots-Presbyterian settlers were soon joined by thousands of exotic fortune hunters from around the world. In the 1860’s, at the height of the Otago Gold Rush, Dunedin became New Zealand’s largest city. The region’s economy boomed with the wealth derived from the gold rush funding the building of many of Dunedin’s civic buildings. Otago University was also founded at the end of this decade, in 1869, making it New Zealand’s oldest university and establishing NZ’s first medical school.
GPs, healthcare and medical specialists fortunate enough to be working locum medical jobs in the Otago region will soon discover that it offers a vast array of things to see and do. Dunedin is a great city to explore with a vibrant and social farmer’s market, cafes with warming fires in the winter, live music, museums, libraries and art galleries. The Otago landscape has inspired painters, poets and writers to capture Otago’s rugged beauty for years, notable artists include Janet Frame, Frances Hodgkins, Rita Angus, Ralph Hotere, Hone Tuwhare, Simon Kaan, Nigel Brown and Grahame Sydney. The Dunedin Botanic Garden is one of New Zealand’s oldest and the Dunedin railway station dubbed ‘Gingerbread George’ is an architectural delight which also provides a gateway to exploring Otago.
A day excursion on the Tairei Gorge Railway winds through stunning rural vistas and has the added advantage of taking cyclists to the start of the free Otago Rail Trail. The cycle track is a very popular outdoor pursuit, with plenty of options for all fitness levels to bike along 152km of off-road track. If you fancy a drive, then head to the Otago Peninsula with your camera at the ready. The peninsula is a place of wild, natural beauty with plenty of southern wildlife to see. Yellow-eyed penguins, seals and sea lion sightings are common, and the peninsula is home to the only mainland breeding colony of albatross in the world. While on the peninsula you might wish to visit New Zealand’s one and only Larnach Castle and Gardens, and delve into its history, ghost stories and perhaps tea and scones at the café which was once a ballroom.
Moving further out from Dunedin and surrounds, other wonderful places to visit in Otago include Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown; these towns are breath-taking in autumn and winter. Along with jet-boating and bungy-jumping, skiing, rock-climbing, curling, snowboarding and other mountain pursuits are popular here. Otago boasts world-class vineyards, and spectacular lakes just perfect for water-skiing, boat-cruising, fishing, or photographing majestic mountains reflected in their mirrored surfaces.
Otago is a wonderful place to get to know better. If you are interested in locum doctor jobs on the ‘Mainland’, contact Ochre Recruitment today for a choice of medical jobs in New Zealand. They’d love to hear from you!