Melissa at Waipapa Point - it was so windy you could barely stand upright.
Took all day driving from Invercargill
, the weather was pretty grim when we left but cleared up as we went along. Our first stop was at Waipapa Point and it was so windy that we could barely stand upright, it was a real struggle to walk. It was also raining and the drops were being forced so hard into our faces with the wind that it really hurt, consequently didn't last there very long. Usually you can see fur seals around here, but they were obviously staying out of the storm today. We then went to Slope Point
, which is NZ mainland's southern-most point.
Slope Point - even the trees can't stand up straight!
Also very windy, but the rain had stopped so quite nice. You walk across farmland so the area is closed to tourists during lambing in Spring, which is worth remembering, as this is common throughout the Catlins. We then drove over to Curio Bay
to look at the fossilised Jurassic forest on the beach - it is apparently one of the best in the world and it is incredible to see whole tree trunks and stumps lying there, but now made of stone. You can still see a lot of the texture in them so quite interesting. We had a quick look at Purakaunui Falls and were lucky to be heading back just as a group of school kids turned up, so our serenity was not disturbed! These are apparently the most photographed falls in NZ, so we helped that record by adding our own.
Curio Bay and the petrified forest.
It was a lovely walk down, actually, with the sun shining through the trees onto the ferns below. Next stop was Nugget Point to see the penguins, sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals - this is one of the very few places where they all co-habit. Unfortunately, we did not see a one, not even a seagull, although there were two oyster catchers, so all was not lost. Drove on through Kapa Point and Balclutha before stopping for a much needed coffee at Milton. We knew we'd reached Dunedin when all the beautiful old homes started appearing, this area has loads of quite historical housing, built by the early settlers, particularly the Scottish.
Our first day in Dunedin was April Fools Day, but we don't think we had any problems! We had a look through the Art Gallery, which was very good - even had a nice Monet with a great display of the history in the painting.
It had been extensively x-rayed and restored and from this they found many old paintings underneath. Very little modern art - there was one whole floor dedicated to a NZ modern artist, but virtually nothing else, so not so good if this is your thing. Also had a quick look through the Otago Settlers Museum, which was excellent (also free!). Melissa was most interested in the special exhibition of historic samplers (needlework) whilst Noel headed off for the transport section. Also a great exhibition on about the Dunedin Jewish Congretation, the most southern in the world. Early afternoon we hopped on the Taieri Gorge Railway for a trip to Pukerangi and back ($53.60pp with the YHA discount). Some wonderful views up through the gorge and over the viaducts - you realise how harsh life must've been for the early settlers and builders of the railway.
Unfortunately the rain set in again as we got back in the evening.
Our second day was the foodie day, with a visit to the Speights Brewery and the Cadbury chocolate factory, both most enjoyable. It is worth remembering that the brewery in particulary generally needs to be pre-booked because there are limited places and they fill pretty quickly ($15pp with the discount voucher from the Tourist News). Apparently this is the last gravity-fed working brewery in the world, and it is still using the beautiful old copper bins and equipment. The tour was very informative and ended with an extensive sampling of the product. Like Monteiths, they were not particularly "hoppy" beers so good for those who are generally not beer drinkers. Next stop was Cadbury World ($15pp because we'd also been to Speights).
Fur seal after a hard day at sea.
Tours were running every 15 minutes and give you a generall idea of how a modern chocolate factory operates, including lots of free samples along the way. They also had a 2-for-1 Easter special so we stocked up! Also an opportunity to try some family block flavours that we don't have in Australia, like Banoffie Pie and Lemon Meringue (both most enjoyable). To burn off a few of the millions of calories we had just ingested, we walked up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world, and got our certificate afterwards. It actually didn't seem that bad, although once you're at the top you do realise how steep it really is. We then had a more relaxing walk through the Botanic Gardens, which were lovely. We didn't do all of it, but did visit the aviaries which had quite an extensive collection of native and exotic birds.
Sea lions, near the Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin.
Our last stop of the day was Olveston, a 1906 home built by David Theomin for his family ($14.50pp). When his daughter Dorothy died in 1966 with no heirs, she left the whole property including everything down to the last teaspoon to the city council to be opened to the public. It is a stunning home and gives a real insight into the lifestyle of a wealthy family of the early 1900's. We ended up with a private tour as the other couple didn't turn up - we were booked on the 4pm one so this is probably worth remembering. Of interest to Victorians is that David's wife Marie was actually born and lived in Linden in Acland Street, St Kilda.
We were collected at 10.30am the next morning by John, the owner of the Monarch Tours company (as we later discovered).
Rangers weighing the albatross chick, with parent and friends looking on.
We booked a wildlife day trip the day before and luckily the weather was good for most of the day, although it closed in during the evening ($162pp with YHA discount). We were driven over to Hoopers Inlet and around the area to see the wetland birds such as herons, puekekos, paradise ducks, oyster catchers, spoonbills etc - we were quite lucky that there were lots of birds around this morning. We passed Wellers Rock, one of the original whaling stations, set up by the Weller Brothers from Australia. Before heading up to the Royal Albatross Centre we stopped at the little beach just below it for a close-up view of fur seals and sea lions - we later saw two of the young sea lions fighting so glad they weren't too fussed when we were there. There were only 4 of us in our group, so we had a very personalised tour up to the albatross viewing area where there were several chicks to be seen, waiting for a parent to bring them some food.
Moulting Yellow-Eyed Penguins
It was great, because you didn't have to jostle for a view and could linger over one spot if you wanted. One huge parent (they have a 3m wingspan) flew in while we were watching, so very lucky. We also saw the ranger weighing some of the chicks, so had a great experience there. We were then taken over to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin colony and were lucky enough to see one coming in from the sea. The others we saw were on land and were moulting so couldn't actually go into the water yet. Unfortunately the rain was starting once we got the boat for the harbour and ocean trip, but still got up close and personal with some Stewart Island shags and one beautiful albatros while we were out in the ocean a bit. He kept flying very low over and around us so got a great look at him - quite spectacular birds.
We were provided with rain coats and binoculars so we were well looked after, and then given hot tea/coffee and little pies etc., on the way back to warm us up. The trip back into Dunedin Harbour was a bit obscured with rain, but got a lovely view right at the end of the city lights on the dark water - an enjoyable day all told.
We drove up to Oamaru
the next day to look at the old limestone buildings, many of which have been restored and are still in use. We drove up the coast, which took about 1 1/2 hours and provided lovely views. Oamaru itself is well looked after and seemed very nice. There is another little blue penguin colony here and they have an excellent viewing centre - we didn't go in because it was the middle of the day so the penguins would have been out at sea.
Little Blue Penguins, Dunedin Harbour.
We drove back through Palmerston to Macraes Flat so that we could go on the Oceanic Goldmind tour. Oceanic have a huge gold mine at Macraes and we did a 2 hour tour to see the main parts, including the refinery, a trout hatchery (!) and the old historic mining area ($25pp, cash only). It can be quite difficult to get through to make a booking on the phone line, but is worth the perseverance. We drove back through Middlemarch to Dunedin which was nice, but think we're starting to get a bit scenery'd out because it just didn't seem as grand as other parts we'd seen.
The last day in Dunedin was clear and bright and a perfect opportunity visit a couple of historic homes, each on a totally different scale. First visit was to Larnach Castle, built in 1871-4 by William Larnach - interestingly, he was born in the same town in Australia (Singleton) that Melissa was born, just a century and a bit earlier.
Speights Brewery, Dunedin.
The Barker family bought it in a very run-down state in 1967 and have since turned it into one of NZ's most popular tourist attractions, as "the only castle in New Zealand". ($20pp). It is worth climbing the tower for the fabulous views back to Dunedin and out to the ocean, and walking through the gardens which are steadily being developed. They have managed to also bring back much of the original furniture, most of which had been sold off by the family after William Larnach killed himself in his office at Parliament! We had lunch sitting by Portobello Harbour and then stopped at Fletcher House, built by James Fletcher and William Morris ($4pp). It was the first house they built and although it is very simple and for "ordinary" people, they only made 3s/6d profit! James Fletcher went on to found one of the most succesful companies in NZ construction.
Baldwin Street, Dunedin.
The lounge room still has some of the original wallpaper and the home has been restored to as it was when it was built. We then headed around the other side of the harbour to Port Chalmers, which is also filled with beautiful old homes. Port Chalmers is still an active port and a timber ship was being loaded - you get a good view from the lookout on the hill above the town. On the way back to our cabin, we stopped at St Kilda and St Clair beaches which were lovely and sandy and great surfing. They are unfortunately about to be marred by the construction of a $30m raw sewerage outflow - so much for clean and green New Zealand!