Scenic Sadness: A Critic Te Ārohi Quest

Scenic Sadness: A Critic Te Ārohi Quest

As temperatures plummet, the primal North D urge to “get the fuck away from it all” stirs. Nothing awakens the adventurous spirit quite like a mouldy flat or a situationship ending. Two dudes armed with a Mazda (that they weren’t insured to drive) embarked on an expedition to find where best to wallow. The tale that unfolded could rival the greatest explorers of history – none of which ever sought the most scenic places to be depressed. 

Secret Campus Garden (between Quad and Marama Hall)

For those less inclined to seek out the far-flung destinations (or ceebs the petrol money), campus has some hidden gems to escape the day-to-day slog. It could’ve been easy to say the ever-scenic Clocktower lawn, but having tourists photograph your menty-b didn't quite tick the box of seclusion our depressed selves sought. 

This secret garden is perfect. Just a few minutes away from the Business School or Richardson, take your pick of benches or a soggy lawn to bask in the cloudy sky. The lack of remoteness is made up for in views, surrounded by the old brick buildings that may invoke impressions of Euro Summer if you squint hard enough. While this may not be enough to cure depression, it certainly is the spot to keep your sadness in check before your next class. 

Scenery: 6/10
Occasion: Mid-assignment menty-b
Ability to cure depression: 2/10 (let’s be real, nowhere on campus can)
Sad banger to blast: ‘Say Yes’ by Elliott Smith 

Maccas Bathroom

Like death and taxes, an inevitable fact of life is getting sad on the piss. Shlappens. For the troopers who tough it out and march on into the night, we’ve got just the place to wallow in gin-soaked self-pity: Maccas. All intoxicated roads lead here – the intersection of Dunedin society – from gutter-grubbied freshers kicked out at town-time, to breathas with a bad case of the munchies. 

Critic had a yarn to Tara on our travels, a second-year who has a “spiritual” connection to the toilets. She claims it’s wallowability is because “it’s a pretty low place whether you want to admit it or not, so you feel a lot better about almost passing out from vomiting in the bathroom because who’s gonna judge you? You can also hold hands with another person throwing up in the neighbouring stall, building friendships through tough times.” None of this may be scenic (she did add the floors were “pretty nice” though), but you’re drunk and the world’s spinning anyways.

Scenery: -1/10
Occasion: Drunk calling your ex and trauma-dumping on a stranger
Ability to cure depression: -100/10, it’ll probably make you sadder
Sad banger to blast: ‘when the party’s over’ by Billie Eilish 

John Wilson Ocean Drive 

Arguably the most basic entry on this list, but it’s popular for a reason. Essentially a glorified car park overlooking St Kilda Beach, no matter what time of day you pull up you’ll be greeted by a row of cars full of people staring and contemplating the ocean. The drive out to St Kilda conveniently takes you past nearly every fast food location in South D; there’s no better place to eat your feelings. 

If you dragged a fellow sad friend along, this serves as the perfect backdrop to indulge in a cheeky trauma-dump or some DMCs. Being sealed in your car may not exactly give Indiana Jones explorer, but being sealed in your car means that flatmate or a nosy fella in the Link can’t eavesdrop. 

Scenery: 7/10
Occasion: Eating your feelings with a deep-fried Mars bar
Ability to cure depression: 8/10, a burden shared is a burden halved 
Sad banger to blast: ‘Silver Springs’ by Fleetwood Mac

Otago Trooper’s Memorial 

Some choose to touch grass to get out of a funk rather than rotting in bed rewatching Friends for the tenth time. You’re the real adventurers in this world – this spot is for you. Located at the gooch of the Otago Peninsula, a quick ten minute uphill battle takes you to a swooping viewpoint over the harbour and city. If the wind doesn’t take you out, it’s the perfect spot to feel grateful your flat has walls and isn’t a giant wind tunnel. 

On our visit, there was a couple either about to hook up or sesh (we couldn’t tell) but were clearly in pretty good spirits either way. Jury’s still out on whether it’s a spot that attracts depressed Dunedinites, but props to them for having a greater sense of adventure than us. 

Scenery: 9.5/10
Occasion: Touching some fucking grass for a change
Ability to cure depression: 4/10 (Bonus points for fresh air and actually leaving your car)
Sad banger to blast: ‘Nobody Gets Me’ by SZA

Unity Park 

The skyline of Dunedin at night may invoke visions of the New York or London skylines if you’re delusional enough. Plenty of adventure is to be found at this spot, from either the steep drive up the hill or the car park full of drug dealers if you visit on the wrong (or right) night. 

With the brightest landmark in sight being Mitre 10 Mega, there’s not much scenery to give you hope that someday you’ll escape this cold, dead shithole in search of some place better. But if there’s one thing sad students are good at, it’s making the best of the shit situations we’ve put ourselves in. Unity Park is just the place to appreciate that. 

Scenery: 7/10
Occasion: Deluding yourself that you’re not there for a drug deal 
Ability to cure depression: 5/10 
Sad banger to blast: ‘Waiting Room’ by Phoebe Bridgers

‘The End of the World’ 

This spot probably has a name, but there’s no signs or anything – it was only described to us as ‘The End of the World’ on our first visit as freshers. Located on probably Dunedin’s fanciest street, Highgrove (it’s so fancy it doesn’t have street at the end of it) is a cliffside viewpoint with sweeping sights of the ocean and cliffs. For those a little braver, there is a sketchy gorse-ridden path along the clifftop to admire the view. While the surroundings of the Dunedin elite will probably make you feel awful about your over-reliance on Studylink, they sure are gatekeeping this epic view to themselves. 

With just miles and miles of ocean to stare at, this is the perfect place to go to pretend you’re no longer in Dunners. Thoughts of the Titanic or Pirates of the Caribbean-esque adventures can be a solid distraction from how fucked up your life is right now. Bonus points if it's golden hour, great for sending that post-cry selfie to the bros. 

Scenery: 10/10
Occasion: Aesthetically crying to a sunset
Ability to cure depression: 8/10 
Sad banger to blast: ‘Self Control’ by Frank Ocean 

Mt. Cargill 

A pretty solid mantra for if you’re down in the dumps is: “I need to get the fuck out of North D.”  For when you really need to get the fuck away while also needing to make lectures the following day, Mt. Cargill is just the place. Being 680m above Dunedin really helps you see how tiny our silly little uni is in the grand scheme of things. The view is great for contemplating your life choices; it may even cause you to have some weird kinda indie movie coming of age moment if you’re lucky. 

If you weren’t already in a shit mood, then you will be after tackling the road to the summit. The crusty Mazda was fighting for its life up that steep gravel drive, feeling a lot like its driver at the time. Just pretend it’s a metaphor for driving away from your problems – it’s really fucking hard to get out of. But the journey is worth it, with a view so good it might actually force a smile on your face. Our time spent here was the finale of our expedition, and for a brief moment, all of our student first-world problems were cured. The vibes were on for the first time since the temperature dipped below 20 degrees. 

Scenery: 11/10
Occasion: Making your problems seem smaller through distance
Ability to cure depression: 10/10
Sad banger to blast: ‘Silver Soul’ by Beach House

This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2024.
Posted 4:52pm Sunday 21st April 2024 by Gryffin Powell.