Yellow Head

Yellow Head

‘Best house site in Broad Bay’ was how the previous owner Gordon Ogilvie described it when we purchased his Cowal Street land and tumbledown cottage. ‘You can call this spot Dunoon if you like.’ He was talking about the small but iconic arm of volcanic rock – a mini peninsula that creates shelter from the pesky nor’easterlies for Broad Bay’s recreational craft. It’s better known as Yellow Head. Dunoon is a small Argyllshire town on Scotland’s Cowal Peninsula, once a seaside resort for Glaswegians. The name somehow found itself on an 1876 survey map under the title ‘Plan of the Town of Dunoon’. Nonsensically, it imagined ‘Beach Road’ occupying the intertidal zone.  

In 1990, Mary and I moved to Broad Bay, renting a character cottage in Gwyn Street, and the following year our daughter, Sophora (Sophie), was born. When Gordon’s prime section in nearby Cowal Street came up for sale in 1994, we bid strongly for it and in about a year we had a house built there. We haven’t moved since.

From my study upstairs I look over the harbour and three islands that mark the centre of the ancient Dunedin Volcano, which the city is built on or around. Yellow Head is a picturesque gem of the harbour environment. It’s also a showcase for radiata pine and macrocarpa, ubiquitous on Otago Peninsula. Near the point, specimens of both tree species stand out, reminding me of Monterey Peninsula, California, their natural home. Thanks to Broad Bay botanist Peter Johnson, we have a list of Yellow Head’s plants, native and introduced.

Dunedin’s most scenic cemetery, dating from the 19th century, is located here. You can walk around the headland on the intertidal zone at mid-to-low tides without having to cross Portobello Road. Awaiting you is a rich array of marine life, and of course the spectacular Otago Harbour. A 22 km-long inlet of the sea, it’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours and patterns depending on the play of tide, wind and lighting. No wonder, like Scotland’s Dunoon, Broad Bay/Whakaohorahi was once a resort for city folk and yachties.

By Neville Peat

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