The day we left Akaroa the sun finally showed its face. As we were headed for Dunedin, at least a five-hour drive away, we made an effort to be up and out at a decent hour. After leaving the steep hills and winding roads of the Banks Peninsula, the coastal Canterbury plains, south of Christchurch, were flat and the motorway straight. We made it to Timaru and pulled off into the town for some lunch at a café overlooking the waterfront. It felt odd to see Christmas decorations lining the main street. Further down the coast in Oamaru, we stopped to buy a soft sided cooler and to stock up on groceries. Our last stop was in Moeraki to see the boulders on the beach that are so often written about and pictured in guide books. They are a geologic feature that fires the imagination and we found them amusing, but not quite the big deal we anticipated from so much publicity.
As the day wore on and we got closer to Dunedin, the weather deteriorated and we encountered some rain. Nevertheless, we made it to our rented house in St. Clair, a beachside suburb of Dunedin, and were pleased to find the views from it just as spectacular as we had hoped. The house overlooked the beach at St. Clair as well as the harbor and city of Dunedin, with the Otago Peninsula in the distance.
It was nice to spread out and relax for a few days, cooking for ourselves, and enjoying our own space. We had some decent weather and some mixed weather in Dunedin. It was windy, but that seems to be the norm there. We never tired of staring out at the view! For a lot of tourists in New Zealand, Dunedin doesn’t quite make it into their itinerary. It’s just a little further out of the way if you are trying to visit the biggest and most popular attractions, and with so much to see in the country, it often gets left out. That’s a shame as it is a lovely, manageable city, and there are a variety of things to do and see. For one, there are excellent botanic gardens. The Dunedin Botanic Gardens are easy to access on the north side of the city, and on our first afternoon we went for a visit. Much to our delight, once again, the rose garden was in full bloom!
We also enjoyed other areas in the gardens, including the impressive Rhododendron Glen. There was even an aviary with parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, and many other interesting birds, many of which are native to New Zealand. Unfortunately, the birds were difficult to photograph due to the visual interference of the enclosures.
On the way home we passed by the iconic Dunedin Railway Station. I managed to snap a photo from the car.
The beach at St. Clair is known for its surfing, which is one reason we chose to stay there. Michael was hoping to get in some surfing, even if we were about as close to the Antarctic as you can get in a surf spot! Our first day in Dunedin, we checked out the esplanade in St. Clair and he found a surf shop and browsed their boards. We also found a nice seaside saltwater swimming pool. So our second day there, Michael went off in the morning to swim in the pool for exercise and came back a couple of hours later with a surfboard! This wasn’t so surprising because his plan all along was to purchase a surfboard to use in New Zealand. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, we set off to explore the Otago Peninsula with the thought of stopping so Michael could surf on the way back.
The Otago Peninsula creates a well-protected harbor for the city of Dunedin and is known for its wildlife. The road out to the end follows closely along the shoreline on the harbor side. As we drove out, we stopped to admire the birds on the flats. There were White-faced herons, a Royal spoonbill, Shags, seagulls, Oyster catchers, and Black swans among others.
Like the Banks Peninsula, this one also had steep, grass covered hills, and lots of sheep. At the end of the peninsula is the Royal Albatross Center. The only land based breeding colony of Royal albatross in the world is located here, along with a colony of Blue penguins. The center has a museum and exhibits about the albatross as well as Fort Taiaroa, an historical military installation. They study and protect the birds, and run tours where you can observe them from a protected location. We decided to skip the tour, but we did have a look at the exhibits. It was extremely windy at the end of the peninsula. Nevertheless, we walked over to a viewpoint where we could see hundreds of birds wheeling in the wind off the cliff tops. Most were gulls, but we did catch sight of one or two albatross gliding over the water, which was exciting. The wind was so strong, however, that it was all we could do to stand upright!
On the way back down the peninsula, we stopped to have a picnic and then took the high road the rest of the way. The views were spectacular as we wound along the tops of the ridges and looked down to the outer side of the peninsula.
As planned, we stopped at Smail’s Beach, a local surf spot, so that Michael could try out his new board. The wind was howling and the conditions weren’t ideal, be he got wet anyway. I enjoyed the flowers along the path to the beach. The extreme wind made it very difficult to catch waves. Still, at least the sun was shining.
That evening we had a gorgeous view of the city lights from the house.
The day we left Dunedin we went into the city center to poke around a bit. We walked around an area of the city known as The Octagon and enjoyed the architecture. Having parked by a coffee shop which provided delicious coffee and other treats, we found that there were also some murals nearby. Dunedin has a collection of murals by various artists sprinkled around the city. Another time, I would make a point of searching them out on a walking tour. I guess I’ll just have to go back!
As we left Dunedin headed for Queenstown, we both agreed that we liked the city and would willingly go back to spend more time there. It has a down to earth vibe, is unpretentious, and the people we met were friendly. We were glad we chose to go there.
Next stop is Queenstown, so stay tuned for more!
See you down the road.