Days 8 – 13: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
We have spent 3 days in the Dunedin area and really enjoyed our time here. After only passing through Dunedin for a brief stop last time we visited (back in October last year) we really liked it and so have been really lucky to be able to come back for a second time and stay longer.
Day 8 – Drive from Catlins to Dunedin
Today was mostly a driving day as we checked out of the lovely Newhaven Holiday park this morning. We left our spaceship at the campsite and took the short walk to the beach at Surat Bay. It was pretty cloudy and stormy weather and the beach and waves looked beautiful, as we walked round the corner to the wider expanse of sea. We then started our journey up to Dunedin.
We stopped at Owaka and the Catlins cafe (a favourite of ours) for lunch and a bit of free wifi. The weather was mostly rainy here but we didn’t mind – especially as it was a driving day. We took the drive up to Dunedin and stopped at Brighton Beach on the way – a bit different to Brighton beach in the UK! We arrived at our holiday park (more below) and settled in for the evening. We also took a walk over the sand dunes to St Kilda beach at sunset – which was gorgeous! 🙂
Day 9 – Otago Peninsula
We spent today exploring the beautiful Otago peninsula. We were awake early and set off early heading for the peninsula. There were beautiful views to the left of the road as we took Highcliff road. The mist was still clearing and the photos looked great! We drove to the car park near Sandymount at the end of Sandymount road. The road was gravel and fairly long – and pretty bumpy! But our spaceship got us there no problem 🙂 We took the walk up to Lovers Leap and the Chasm and really enjoyed the views along the way, and also the views from the car park!
Next stop was Allan’s Beach – again it was pretty remote and the road there was gravel, and very narrow at times (with just water to one side!) – luckily we didn’t meet anyone and soon parked up. We took the short walk over the small mound (over private land) to the beach and without really knowing what to expect were incredibly surpassed as its amazing beauty!! There was no one else around and it really was one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. We took lots of photos here and just enjoyed walking around. We spent the rest of the day driving the rest of the peninsula road and stopped for a hot choc and awesome penguin biscuit at the Penguin cafe in Portobello.
Day 10 – Lanarch Castle
We spent today at Lanarch Castle – perhaps I should put ‘castle’ in inverted commas – as it is more a mansion or large house rather than a castle! But it is apparently called the only ‘castle’ in the Southern hemisphere! As with the railway below we thought the price tag was a little high – at $28 per person. It certainly was a nice ‘castle’ – and had a good history so we spent a good few hours wandering around. We looked around all the rooms using our little info leaflet to give us all the info we needed. We especially enjoyed climbing to the top and seeing the panoramic views around the peninsula. Again, as with the railway (see below) we were a little underwhelmed but maybe this is because we are spoilt for choice back in the UK with our castles! We also spent time exploring the various gardens that surround the castle. An enjoyable place to spend half a day, but possibly overpriced and slightly mis-sold 🙂 We then ate lunch at the amazing Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders on Dunedin’s Octagon. The pizza here is delicious and they do cool half-metre and metre pizzas. Although we could have eaten more a half-metre was enough for us! Yum!
Day 11 – Taieri Gorge Railway – Dunedin to Pukerangi
Today we awoke early again, heading into Dunedin to take the Taieri gorge railway trip. It left at 9.30am and we took the scenic train trip up through the gorge to Pukerangi. It is deemed ‘one of the world’s great train trips’ and we had heard and read awesome things about it – and maybe it had really been built up but being completely honest we were a little underwhelemed! Don’t get me wrong we really enjoyed the trip and the scenery was beautiful, but just not stunning and we weren’t blown away by it. It is a shame, but I guess we just have incredibly high standards after all the incredible things we have seen in NZ so far. It was also really expensive at $86 per person!
The last section of the trip is best and anyone thinking of doing this should sit on the right side of the train – with the train facing forwards heading out of the station. We were on the left so the view wasn’t as good but we switched over half way for the return trip. We also thought the train might have been little older and more authentic, but apparently a steam train would be too expensive to run – though it would be cool! Good things were it was a cool train trip, with some nice scenery and a few stops along the way. If it had been half the price maybe we would have enjoyed it more! It was a unique trip in that the train did reached pretty high heights and the views down into the gorge were great.
All in all a good way to spend half a day – but in our opinion not worth the high price tag. We enjoyed a nice meal back at Ratbags after though and headed back to the holiday park late afternoon.
Day 11 – In Dunedin
We spent today relaxing in Dunedin. We really liked being here and really like the city. It is a great city – full of university students, and beautiful buildings! It is one of the few places in NZ you could easily imagine living and it being a great place to settle (if the job situation was better!). We were a bit thwarted today but a flat tyre though! On leaving the holiday park to head into Dunedin we somehow went over a nail which went straight into our tyre making it immediately flat! We pulled in right away and called AA who arrived within half an hour. They changed the tyre for us, and we had to head to a local Firestone tyre place so they could fix it. We left it with them and headed to the Otago Settlers Museum (amazing by the way) for a bit while they fixed it. We then returned and hung around for a while so they could change it back and we were back on our way. It was a shame it happened, but better today than a day we are somewhere much more remote!
Day 12 – Otago Settlers Mudeum and Drive to Oamaru via Moeraki boulders
This morning we spent time at a fantastic museum – the Otago Settlers Museum. This is an incredibly innovative and well-planned out museum. It has lots of interactive parts, and an amazing array of items covering a large period in history. We only spent a few hours here but could have spent more.
My favourite part was the reconstruction of being under deck on a boat that would have brought immigrants into New Zealand – it was dark and had all the noises as part of the reconstruction. The museum had loads of interesting items and it was really well laid out. Definitely recommended!
We then left for Oamaru, and stopped at Moeraki boulders on the way. Last time we visited it was high tide and we couldn’t see much, but this time it was low tide and we could see loads of boulders. It looked great and we took a few pictures here and enjoyed wandering around between the boulders.
We also stopped by the Oamaru Blue Penguin colony to buy a few souvenirs (we visited to see the blue penguins back in october but hadn’t bought anything from the shop). We were also able to wander round and see the houses of the blue penguins that they stay in when they come in from the sea at night. It was great! 🙂 We then drove on to Waitaki and our holiday park for the evening.
Where we spent time: Catlins – Surat Bay and Owaka, Brighton Beach, Dunedin – St Kilda beach, Otago Peninsula (Sandymount walk, Allan’s Beach, tip of peninsula, Portobello, Lanarch Castle), Dunedin city centre and Taieri Gorge railway, Moeraki boulders, Oamaru.
Where we stayed:
Dunedin Holiday Park (quite a busy and packed-in park but showers were clean and facilities were good. There are only 10 showers for women and 10 for men so you need to get in quick! Also good pic-n-mix from the onsite shop, and a short walk over the sand dunes to beautiful St Kilda beach).
Leith Valley Touring Park (a spacier and slightly greener park, also with good facilities and friendly owners – a few mins drive from Dunedin city centre).
Waitaki Holiday park (it has awesome reviews on Trip Advisor) and is pretty quiet and has really good facilities (including a nice kitchen and lounge and unisex showers) and friendly owners.
Where we are headed next: Mount Cook – one of our favourite places.