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Hiking to the Top of Mount Cargill, Dunedin

Hiking to the Top of Mount Cargill, Dunedin

Mount Cargill, at 676 metres above sea level, marks one of the highest points in Dunedin (in the city at least) and offers up some amazing views of the city’s surrounds. Dunedin is New Zealand’s most scenic city and seeing it spread out below you is a great experience. Hiking to the top of Mount Cargill is easy, but if you’re feeling lazy or unfit you can drive to the top. The walk is nice though – along the way you’ll see sections of lush forest teeming with birds and the surreal Organ Pipes.

Starting the Hike at Mount Cargill Road

There are a couple of different ways you can hike to Mount Cargill. The best place to start the hike is at Mount Cargill Road, as this route takes you past the Organ Pipes. The track starts off quite steep (and muddy if it’s been raining) but flattens out after a while. You’ll hear (and possibly see) lots of native birds, including fantails and wood pigeons. If you want a better view of native birds you could check out the nearby Orokonui Ecosanctuary. There aren’t many views to speak of on this section of the track but it makes for a nice, mostly shaded stroll.

READ MORE: Mount Cargill is one of over 30 stunning viewpoints in Dunedin — read my post to see the others!

Hiking through the bush to Mount Cargill, Dunedin, New ZealandA wood pigeon on the hike to Mount Cargill, Dunedin, New Zealand

The Organ Pipes

The cluster of hexagonal basalt columns known as the Organ Pipes is one of Dunedin’s most unique natural landmarks. You can scramble to the top of the pipes for some awesome views. It looks scarier than it actually is, but make sure to take it slow and watch your step.

The Organ Pipes, on the way to the top of Mount Cargill, Dunedin, New Zealand

Butters Peak

After climbing the Organ Pipes the track continues up through the bush. It can get muddy on this section so decent shoes are recommended. The track eventually climbs above the trees and opens out to some awesome views of Otago Harbour, as well as Dunedin’s northern coastline. You’ll soon come to a sign pointing to Butters Peak and it’s worth the short detour. The views from this rugged little hill are great, and the rock formations make for some interesting foregrounds. Butters Peak is a good place to view Mount Cargill and its massive transmission tower.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

Mount Cargill from Butters Peak, Dunedin, New Zealand

Mount Cargill

Its another 20 – 30 minutes from Butters Peak to the top of Mount Cargill. Once at the top you’ll find a few different viewpoints. The views really are incredible, but try and go on a clear day for the full effect.  From there you can see over Otago Harbour / Peninsula, and if you have already done a bit of sightseeing in Dunedin it’s fun to see the places you’ve been from a different angle.

If you walk under the transmission tower and past the building you can also get a cool view of the city, the end of the harbour and St Clair / St Kilda Beach. In total it takes around three hours to hike to the top of Mount Cargill and back to the car park; although this can vary a lot depending on how fast you walk.

Beautiful view from the top of Mount Cargill, Dunedin, New ZealandDunedin, New Zealand seen from Mount Cargill

Mount Cargill at Sunrise

Mount Cargill is the ultimate place to watch the sunrise in Dunedin. Drive up to the top and enjoy the light show over beautiful surrounds.

Getting to Mount Cargill

If coming from the centre of town, drive north past the Botanical Gardens and Baldwin Street. Keep driving along North Road, which eventually becomes Mount Cargill Road. There is a sign for the car park but it’s easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled.You can also hike from Bethune’s Gully or drive right to the top. If driving to the top, head north along George Street and turn left at Duke Street. Keep going until you see the sign for the sign (Patmos Ave). Nicols Falls is also in this area – check it out if you have time.

It’s actually not a bad idea to start at the top and hike down to the Organ Pipes – it’s a bit easier than hiking all the way up from Mount Cargill Road and back. You could do this hike without your own transport but it’ll be harder. You’d probably have to catch a bus to Port Chalmers and walk up from there.

Road-tripping around New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

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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.