Orepuki is a tiny settlement with a population of only 60 people(!) on the coast of Te Waewae Bay, surrounded by the dense forests of Longwood Range and with views on the Princess Mountains and Rakiura Stewart Island. It's situated about 20 minutes from Aparima Riverton and 50 minutes from Waihōpai Invercargill.
The name Orepuki is said to be a variation of Aropaki, meaning ‘bright expanse’. It is believed that the area was named by a group of Ngāi Tahu people when they emerged from the thick forest of Pahia Bush Hill and saw the bay for the first time. The discovery of gold in the 1860s really put Orepuki on the map, and the population grew rapidly, with people arriving on sailing boats from Dunedin to try their luck. When coal and shale were discovered in 1879, the town grew even bigger to about 3000 people. Gold can still be found in the sand on the beach and in the hills around Orepuki.
On nearby Gemstone Beach, you may find semi-precious gems such as garnet, jasper, quartz and nephrite. You’re welcome to take a pebble or two as a remembrance of your visit. When the tide is low enough, you can walk to Monkey Island, a small island off the coast. If all this exploring has gotten you hungry, then Orepuki Beach Café is the place to go for a delicious paddock-to-plate meal. This wee gem won the New Zealand Café of the Year award, which is a great achievement, especially in such a small town!