It seems it takes a moderate chest cold and sore throat to keep me still long enough to write instead of going off exploring outside. Technically I was supposed to work at the cafe today, but no one wants their scone and latte served with a side of chest cold cooties, so I had to call out. And of course, its a beautiful sunny day. So instead, I’m cocooned in blankets with a steady intake of hot tea and cough drops pining for the sun.
On a lighter note, yesterday we took another day trip up to Dunedin. It has become a favorite place of ours even though it’s about a 2 hr drive away. For all of our NZ readers, there is a Dunedin FL that is a fascinating little beach town. Fun fact: The name Dunedin comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. With there being such a rich Scottish heritage in the southern part of the South Island many towns and cities are named after people or places in Scotland. The remaining towns throughout NZ have Maori names in the native tongue. Some are tricky to pronounce!
Dunedin was New Zealand’s first “city” and sits on the east coast nestled at the base of the Otago Peninsula. This area is known for some amazing natural seascapes and cliffs. The Otago Peninsula is also home to the Royal Albatross Center. We visited here back in May to see the little Blue Penguins coming into their burrows after sundown. They are a beautiful slate blue color and move fast! It was difficult to get a good picture since no flash photography was allowed. But we did manage to get some great audio of the absolute racket they made! Check out the video below to hear for yourself…
We are planning on going back to the Royal Albatross Center in early September to hopefully see this year’s Northern Royal babies take off on their first flight. This colony of Royal Albatross are the only mainland breeding colony in the world! They have a live cam on their website, so even if you can’t visit Dunedin in person, you can catch a glimpse into the life of these majestic seafarers. Check it out on their website here. *Note: the center and webcam are closed at the time of this post due to extreme rain and flooding in the area. But be sure to check back soon!
Dunedin is home to University of Otago and definitely has a “college town” feel to it. A large chunk of the population is university students, so the city center is bustling with stuff to do. Yesterday we spent most of the day at the Otago Museum. It has a great variety of exhibits, free admission, and has a decent cafe if you are planning on exploring all day. We decided to see one of their planetarium shows and glad we spent the extra $10 to do so. Essentially an IMAX dome, it was interesting to learn about what the Southern Hemisphere sees in the night sky. We also found out that the southerners have a much better view of the Milky Way in their night sky compared to the northern half of the globe. The museum also has an indoor butterfly conservatory and botanical garden but it had just closed last week due to renovations and won’t reopen until December. But there is a dinosaur exhibit starting in August and everyone knows that dinosaurs are cooler than butterflies anyways.
After the museum we were both pretty tired but we decided to take our planned trip over to Tunnel Beach. This is one of the many natural wonders of the Otago Peninsula. The hike down to the lookout was muddy in places due to the heavy rains, but thankfully no washouts or land slips which are common in NZ with heavy rains. Another place we checked out on a previous trip to Dunedin was Sandfly Bay. Thankfully the name came from the wind-swept sand dunes and not the actual pesky sandfly!
If you go to Dunedin you have to go on a tour of the Cadbury Factory. Its a great way to spend a couple hours learning about the history of Cadbury and eating all the free chocolate they give you. The day we did the Cadbury tour, we also walked up Baldwin Street…the steepest street in the world. In July, during the Chocolate Carnival there is an event held that involves rolling little candy-coated chocolate balls, called Jaffa’s, down this street. Waste of perfectly good chocolate if you ask me.
In May, we drove up to Dunedin to spend the day at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary. This is a must do for nature and bird-lovers. The ecosanctuary is a protected area for many native and endangered bird species. Along the walking paths are a few feeding stations that make viewing the birds a bit easier. We saw Tui, Bellbirds, Kereru (NZ pigeon), a Kaka, and a group of Takahe, which are extremely endangered. The ecosanctuary is also home to kiwi, freshwater eels, ancient tuatara, and the tallest tree in New Zealand. I think the Takahe were our favorite with their beautiful blue feathers and funny noises while walking through the tussock. Reminded us of big fluffy blue chickens!
There are a few other places in Dunedin worth mentioning if you plan to visit. The Dunedin Railway Station is a fascinating piece of history and an iconic building in NZ. There are scenic trains rides available from this station that travel across the rugged interior of the South Island but we decided not to squeeze the budget too tight. We are hoping to check out the building on our next visit.
We also want to go on a Speight’s Brewery tour before we leave, so we will see if we can fit it in somewhere. Larnach Castle is known as New Zealand’s only castle, even though it’s more of a grand country home built in the 1870’s made to look like a castle. We skipped this one since admission prices were a little silly for something that could be easily toured in an hour.
With only a few months left before we depart, I expect us to make one or two more day trips back to Dunedin…there is just so much to see! We are really happy we ended up in Gore since it central to alot of fascinating places in the south. Within only a couple hours drive is Dunedin, Queenstown, Alexandra, the Catlins scenic area, and Fiordland National Park. Dunedin is one of the last planned stops on our road trip through the South Island in October so maybe we will save the brewery tour for last. We both might need a beer or two after 9 days of driving all over the country!
Thanks for reading!