Let me start by saying that I would love to go back to Dunedin. There are so many things to see and do, but Ed and I had our hearts set on exploring the Otago Peninsula, and so that was the main focus of our day. Nonetheless, since our shuttle bus dropped us in the center of town I was able to take a few pictures of the city center and the famously attractive train station before Ed and I walked to the location of the car rental agency where we were picking up a car so that we could explore the peninsula on our own. (We prefer making our own shore excursion plans – greater flexibility and much less expensive.) Dunedin is pronounced (duh-NEE-din) as apposed to the Scottish pronunciation (doo-ni-DIN) of its own town/city. However, I felt like I was totally in Ireland with the grassy hills and sheep all over the place.
Dunedin Train Station
The Otago Peninsula is a long hilly finger of land that forms the easternmost part of Dunedin. It is of volcanic origin and fronts 20 km of harbour. The Pacific Ocean side is rugged and steep, dotted with deep valleys, wind blasted trees and stunning views to the ocean. The harbour side is warm, sunny and sheltered with its own micro climate. The road follows the coast for some of the way, which invites us to stop and view the fishing shelters and a small beach.
Pacific Ocean Side
This is a side of the peninsula that I doubt a tour bus could travel. We follow Highcliff Road, which is narrow, with hairpin turns, an impossible speed limit, and no shoulders to speak of. It would have been nice to have more time to explore some of the side roads that would have taken us to the cliffs or to the ocean, but we do have to save some exploring for the next time.
Royal Albatross Centre
Predominantly the peninsula is known for it’s abundance of magnificent world famous wildlife, such as the rare Royal Albatross, the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin, as well as the Little Blue Penguin, Stewart Island Shag, fur seals, Hooker Sea Lions, and more. When we reach the very tip of the Peninsula, we arrive at the Royal Albatross Centre. There are lots of gulls, but we are blessed to actually have a rare sighting of an Albatross. After walking down to a cove, we also get up close to the fur seals.
Royal Albatross (Toroa) breed on Pukekura, Taiaroa Head. The cliffs are on their filght path to and from the nesting area and their ocean feeding grounds. Wingspan is 3 metres. They breed from October to September the following year.
Wahi Taoka – A Treasured Place – Until recent time, this headland was one of the most strategically important Maori* Pa (settlement or fort) on the east coast of the South Island. Prior the establishment of Dunedin in the mid 1800’s, over 2000 people lived in unfortified villages between Harwood and Pukekura. In times of danger the people from these communities would take refuge at Pukekura as the topography made it easy to defend. Friend or foe approaching by sea were visible for up to 35 km. All entrance points to the Pa could be well guarded. (*The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. They migrated over from Polynesian between 1250-1300 CE. After they began interacting with the Europeans who had migrated here, the Maori religious belief system became Christian and many cultural changes occured. Today there is a resurgence of interest in teaching Maori children their traditional culture and language.)
It has been a very full and satisfying day in Dunedin. Goodbye for now.