Kia ora: Mosgiel

This is artist Colin McCahon's "landscape of splendour", writes Elisabeth Easther.

Mosgiel's quiet country roads make driving pleasant. Photo / NZPA
Mosgiel's quiet country roads make driving pleasant. Photo / NZPA

Where is it? At the northeastern tip of the Taieri Plains, 15km from the centre of Dunedin. Mosgiel is described as an "urban satellite" of Dunedin but is also very much its own town.

Origin of name: Arthur Burns named the settlement Mosgiel after his father's farm in Ayrshire. FYI: Arthur Burns was a nephew of the poet Robbie Burns.

Population: 12,000 (approx).

Town slogan: The Pearl of the Plains, or in Maori - Te Peara o te Maania.

Town mascot: The Mosgiel sign, a nod to the Hollywood sign, has some locals calling the place Mollywood. Saddle Hill is also a distinctive landform, visible from miles around. Captain Cook referred to it on his first navigation of New Zealand.

Get this: As a schoolboy in 1936, artist Colin McCahon was driving with his family when he looked across the Taieri Plains towards Central Otago and had what he described as a "vision" of a pre-Biblical "landscape of splendour, order and peace" later saying how it became his life's work to communicate that feeling.

Famous locals: All Black coach Steve Hansen and his World Cup-winning, croaky-voiced hero Brad Thorn; Geoffrey Orbell, who rediscovered the takahe, which was thought to be extinct, and Ernest "Midge" Didham, the 1970 Melbourne Cup winning jockey.

Best website: ilovemosgiel.wix.com.

Biggest business: Fonterra is big, as is Silver Fern Farms, one of the country's leading meat co-operatives.

Source of pride: It's just so pleasant.

Town fiestas: Yearly favourites include Christmas at the Races, Festival of the Plain, Samstock and Melbourne Cup Day at Wingatui Races. Wings and Wheels is also well attended.

Best reason to stop: Mosgiel has a ripper of a caravan park (221 Gordon Road) adjacent to parks and fields, the swimming pool is right beside it and it backs on to Silver Stream.

Best place to take the kids: Topiary Cafe at Wal's Plantland has been expanding over the past few years; no longer just a wholesale nursery there's also a driving range, a miniature golf course and beautiful landscaped gardens. On Sundays and in summer there's even a miniature train you can ride.

Best playground: Mosgiel Community Playground is a super place for little ones - plus there are clean toilets close by.

Best Park: Mosgiel Memorial Park, with nearby soccer fields and the stadium.

Well read: The Mosgiel Library is a little gem, and is a focal point for the community.

Best walk: The Silver Stream and surrounding areas are very popular for a stroll. The Silver Stream Water Race, completed in 1881, is 29km long with timber sluices, tunnels and weirs making it perfect for enjoying the native bush and luscious views. Some circuits are suitable for mountain bikes and dogs are allowed too. There are a number of short tracks to choose between, from one to four hours return and, along some of these tracks, you may come across the ruins of huts once used by water race workers.

Best view: Drive up to Saddle Hill to enjoy beautiful seascapes and rural views overlooking Maungatua.

Best swim: The heated indoor pools at Mosgiel Pools are open from September to March or, if you're made of sterner stuff, brave the chill at Outram Glen where there's also a grand walk to Lee Stream (12.5km return).

Best museum: Taieri Historical Society Museum, open Sundays from 1pm-4pm, is a delightful complex where visitors can see how life used to be on the Taieri Plains. Restored buildings include the courthouse and jail, a school, a church and a steam engine shed.

Best shop: All the shops round here are fab and, mostly being small businesses, the owners will happily go that extra mile for their customers.

Tops for coffee: Topiary Cafe overlooks the gardens and does delicious food, and the setting is tranquil with Saddle Hill in the background. Other super cafes include Aurora, Blackstone, Blend, The Mosgiel Cafe at the RSA and Obsess at New World. You'll have no excuse for suffering from caffeine withdrawal in Mosgiel.

Best food: You won't starve in Mosgiel either - choose between Blackstone, Nellies, The Station, Kade's at Mosgiel Tavern, Duufa's on Factory (26 Factory Road), Renton's at Crofter's Pub (160 Gordon Road) and The Mosgiel Cafe.

Best bakery: Go to Cottage Bakehouse for yummy breads, cakes, pastries and pies.

Wet your whistle: Nellies is the place to go if you're thirsty.

Best mountain biking: If you're feeling really daring, the Mt Allan-Pulpit Rock track is described as 3-5 hours of "bloody hard". For something a little easier Wakari Creek is recommended but still not for absolute beginners.

Best adventures: Horse riding schools and equestrian events are popular and there's an amazing equestrian centre at North Taieri. Hunting and fishing along the Taieri River can also be rewarding if you know where to go.

Get high: Flight-seeing is very popular round here. Ralph Hotere, one of New Zealand's finest painters, learned to fly Tiger Moths at the Taieri Aerodrome in 1953.

Best kept secret: The climate is amazing.

When a local has visitors staying: They'll take them for a little toot on the Taieri Gorge Railway or for a drive to Middlemarch. Known as the Gateway to Central Otago, this area has seen a big spike in visitor numbers, with Lord of the Rings fans wanting to see where the Rohan village of Rohirrim was created.

Safety warnings: As long as you use your common sense, it's all pretty safe and sound round here.

Visitors say: Mosgiel?

Locals say: Mos def!

Thanks to three lovely locals who between them know Mosgiel inside and out.

- NZ Herald

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