Lawyers Head

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Lawyers Head seen from the east. Forbury Hill (upper right) and Blackhead (extreme top left) can be seen in the background

Lawyer's Head is a prominent landmark on the coast of Otago, New Zealand.[1] Located within the city of Dunedin, this rocky headland juts into the Pacific Ocean at the eastern end of the city's main beach, Saint Kilda Beach. It is named for the likeness of the cliff face to the profile of a lawyer in traditional legal wig.

Lawyer's Head, which reaches a height of 34 m, is connected to the city by the road John Wilson Ocean Drive, which runs parallel to the beach. The head itself commands a view across the city's southern suburbs and along the Otago coast for over 80 kilometres to the southwest. On a clear day Nugget Point in The Catlins can be discerned, and the Nugget Point lighthouse's beam can be seen at night. To the east, the suburb of Ocean Grove and the nearby Tomahawk Lagoon lie beneath the headland.

John Wilson Ocean Drive was closed from August 2006, to allow construction of the Tahuna Wastewater Treatment Plant outfall. The road closure had an unexpected benefit of stopping suicides from the headland; there were 13 deaths in the 10 years prior. Access to the headland was restored briefly in October 2009, but closed when there was another death less than three days after full access was restored. New Zealand Police Inspector Dave Campbell stated "Lawyer's Head now has the unenviable reputation of having the highest number of deaths by suicide in one location in New Zealand".[2]

One of a series of headlands which punctuate much of this section of the Otago coast, it is its proximity to the centre of the city and its distinctive shape which make it particularly well known. Other nearby headlands nearby include the higher 75 m Maori Head, one kilometre to the east, the cliffs along the coast of Forbury Hill three kilometres to the west, the natural arch of Tunnel Beach three kilometres beyond Forbury Hill, and Blackhead, two kilometres to the southwest of Tunnel Beach.

These basalt outcrops were all formed during the eruption of the Dunedin Volcano some 12-15 million years ago. The crater of this long-extinct volcano now forms Otago Harbour, and its rim is the ring of hills which circle Dunedin and form the ridge of the Otago Peninsula.

Lawyers head is an integral part of the iconic Chisholm Golf Links, developed by the city of Dunedin in 1933. The Links rated one of the best in New Zealand features the 8th, ninth, tenth and eleventh holes all having world class views of the Pacific. The ninth is considered to be the best hole in New Zealand and Lawyers head can rightfully claimed to be one of the finest meetings of land and sea featuring a golf course in the world. The course has been gradually modernised over the last thirty years and this process is ongoing. As in Britain the Links is common ground and features dog walkers, runners and trotting drivers amongst the many citizen users. The Links has hosted the New Zealand amateur championship, the New Zealand Masters teams event, an International match between Oklahoma University and New Zealand and many Australasian Tour events and Pro- ams.


  1. ^ "Place Name Detail: Lawyers Head". New Zealand Geographic Placenames Database. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  2. ^ "Moral Dilemma" (PDF). City Talk. Dunedin City Council: 16–18. March 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bishop, D.G., and Turnbull, I.M. (compilers) (1996). Geology of the Dunedin Area. Lower Hutt, NZ: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences. ISBN 0-478-09521-X.
  • Dann, C., and Peat, N. (1989). Dunedin, North and South Otago. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 978-0-477-01438-0.

Coordinates: 45°54′35″S 170°32′07″E / 45.909839°S 170.53515°E / -45.909839; 170.53515