Skip to Content

Climbing up Dunedin’s Organ Pipes

Climbing up Dunedin’s Organ Pipes

If you’ve never heard of this place before you’re probably a bit confused by the title. I’ll sort that out straight away. Dunedin’s Organ Pipes are hexagonal basalt columns which rise out of the ground in abundance on a hill near Mount Cargill. The view from the top is worth the slightly treacherous climb — it’s a must-do for adventurous hikers visiting Dunedin.

The Path to the Organ Pipes

You can hike to the top in about 40 minutes (return) but expect to be climbing up fallen columns on the way. The track starts off easily enough, meandering through a forest full of birds. It’s an easy (but still uphill) walk and at times you can peek through the trees to see the views below. You’ll eventually come to a fork in the path — turning left will take you to the Organ Pipes and turning right will take you to the summit of Mount Cargill (click the link below to read a post about that).

READ MORE: 30 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

The “path” to the top of the Organ Pipes is littered with the smashed up remains of hundreds of fallen columns. You have to climb up them, which is actually easier than it looks. I saw some photos which make this place look frightening, but it really isn’t (unless you want it to be). It seemed safe but make sure you wear good shoes, be careful which rocks you put your weight on (the smaller ones often aren’t stable) and take it slow.

Once at the top there are several overgrown paths leading to small groups of columns. You can climb on some of them (be careful though!) and look out over some awesome views. We arrived at the top just before sunset and there was a sea of cloud below us. It was a surreal vista which we had all to ourselves — it’s amazing that there is such a cool slice of nature so close to a city, and so few people go there. Dunedin has to be New Zealand’s most scenic city — it’s full of viewpoints, hikes and beaches.

READ MORE: 30 Stunning Viewpoints in Dunedin

Getting There

The drive from the city to the small car park on Mt Cargill road takes you past Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street (at least it used to be). A few minutes later you’ll trade the city for rolling green hills. Keep heading along North Road until it eventually becomes Mt Cargill Road, where you’ll see a sign saying “car park in 400 metres”. There is no other sign visible from the road and the car park is small, so keep an eye out. You can also reach the Organ Pipes / Mt Cargill from other places, one of which is the longer hike from Bethune’s Gully. Or, you could drive to the summit of Mount Cargill and walk down to the Organ Pipes.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary for some road trip ideas!

The following two tabs change content below.

Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.