s/y Nine of Cups
Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
March 2011
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The trip from Stewart Island to Dunedin was a 152nm overnight...very cold and very
fast. The channel leading past Port Chalmers and into downtown Dunedin is narrow
and about 12 miles long. As we glided past the photogenic lighthouse at the entrance
and then past green, rolling hills dotted with grazing sheep, we wondered if we were
really approaching the South Island's second largest city.
Dunedin...A City of Firsts and Foremosts
  • University of Otago...the first university in NZ
  • Dunedin Botanic Garden - first in NZ
  • NZ's first city constituted in 1865
  • NZ's first daily newspaper
  • Larnach Castle...NZ's first and only castle
  • Best preserved Victorian/Edwardian city in the southern hemisphere
  • First public art gallery in NZ
Otago Yacht Club - Dunedin - 45S52.30 / 170E31.61
The lighthouse at Tairoa Heads was
particularly photogenic.
Black swans and lots of other seabirds
enjoyed the sand bar at the side of the
channel during low tide.
The Otago Peninsula, stretching along the
southern edge of the Otago Harbour, is
one of the most beautiful and renowned
areas of New Zealand. Wildlife abounds...
yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, seals,
sea lions and the world's only mainland
breeding colony of northern royal albatross.

At right, our home while in Dunedin, the
very friendly  
Otago Yacht Club.
Robert Burns' statue in the center of The
Octagon, the 8-sided central plaza of the
city center in Dunedin.
In 1848 Rev Thomas Burns began a
Free Church of Scotland ( Presby-
terian) settlement. The early settlers
formed the beginning congregation or
First Church of Otago. First Church
above is an imposing structure sitting
high on Moray Place.
Dunedin is dubbed the "Edinburgh of the South". Founded by Scottish settlers in 1848, the
name Dunedin in Celtic translates to Edinburgh. Besides the statue of Robert Burns' in the
town center and bagpipers galore, there's a Scottish store that claims to sell not only tartans
and crests, but haggis as well!   Rich in Victorian architecture and history, this university city
owes its historic wealth and ostentation to the Otago gold rush of 1861. Today, 1/5 of the
city's population of 124,000 are students.
According to the Guinness Book of World
Records, Baldwin Street is the steepest
street in the world. We huffed a bit, but
made it without cardiac arrest.
Tricks with the editing program allowed me to play with the "horizon" emphasizing the degree of
incline in the street. Over the 161.2m length, it climbs a vertical height of 47.22m which is an
average gradient of 1 in 3.41. On its steepest section, the gradient is 1 in 2.86. Every year a
Dunedin Festival foot race called "Baldwin Street Gutbuster" is run up and down the hill.
Wandering through the
University of Otago
campus, admiring the
old buildings, we
appreciated the
occupational  characters
molded into the
building's motif.
Dunedin's Botanic Garden, estab-
lished in 1863, was the first in NZ
and encompasses ~70 acres.
The garden was moved to its present site in
1867 and is now internationally recognized for
its excellence as both a public garden and its
botannical collections.
We admired rose gardens, rock gardens, herb gardens, rhododendron dells, formal
borders and forested slopes. There was a busy duck pond and an aviary with some 400
birds including some native varieties we had yet to see close up.
The Dunedin Railway Station is purported
to be the most photographed building in
NZ. It is a most impressive building.
The station's interior boasts Royal Doulton floor tiles, train-motif stained
glass windows and ornate Edwardian fixtures.
The Taieri Gorge Railway, travels 58 km
through 12 tunnels and over several bridges
and viaducts to Pukerangi and then returns.
All aboard and ready to go! The Taieri
Gorge Railway  touted by some to be one
of  the "great train rides".
At 197m long, the Wingatui Viaduct is
one of the largest wrought iron structures
in the southern hemisphere.
The view were stunning as the train
passed through an amazing variety of
landscapes from city to farmland to
rugged river gorge.
Look, Mom, no hands! We spent most of
the trip standing in the open viewing
platform between railroad cars.
The Otago Museum was pretty impressive.
A big moa (extinct NZ bird) greets you at the
door. Entry is free, but the moa likes to eat
$5 notes to help support the museum. Far be
it from us to starve a moa!
An authentic Maori waka (war canoe) the
Tangata Whenua Gallery (Maori culture).
In the Pacific Culture gallery, we were
"gob-smacked" at the number of island
cultures we had never even heard of.
A 58-foot fin whale skeleton dominated
the Maritime Gallery. Other exhibits
included Nature Galleries, an Animal Attic,
Southern Land-Southern People and
People of the World. All in all, an excellent
museum and most enjoyable, edifying day.
Check out what the Otago Daily Times had to
say about
Nine of Cups' visit to Dunedin.
ROAD TRIP! As usual when we have the
opportunity, we rented a car for a few days
to explore inland areas or ports we were
unable to visit with the boat. The first trip on
the itinerary was to Invercargill and Bluff...at
the very bottom of the South Island. There
were two objectives in mind other than
experiencing Southland: see a live tuatara and
eat world-famous Bluff oysters in Bluff. We
accomplished both and saw so much more
along the way. On the way to Invercargill, we
took the inland Southern Scenic Route
through lots of small towns and rural areas. It
wasn't far...about 300 km, but took the better
part of a day. First stop, Invercargill's
Southland Museum.
The tuatara statue outside the Southland
Museum whetted our anticipation.
The fascination with tuataras started when we first read a book on NZ animals and discovered
that these critters have a fossil history dating back from 225 million years and have no
surviving relatives. They are native to NZ, but now only exist in the wild on islands that are
protected and predator-free. These entirely unique animals have no external ears, but they do
have three eyes! The third eye in the middle of the forehead is hidden by scales. They have a
very long life span and in fact, Henry, pictured left above, is about 110 years old. He has his
own blog if you're interested....
This sign was posted at many of the
beaches, bays and coves at which
we stopped.
One of NZ's earliest settlements, Bluff is located
on a peninsula about 27 km south on Rte 1.
"From Cape Reinga to Bluff", a popular saying
here, means you've travelled the length of NZ.
The Bluff lighthouse sits on a rocky
shore standing sentry at the harbour's
entrance. It rained torrents while we
were there.
Bluff is Invercargill's port, but is suited
primarily for large freighters or fishing
vessels and has few amenities for yachts.
The signpost at Stirling Point is quite
famous here. New York is about 15,000
km away! We did eata Bluff oysters.
They were great! No photos.
The scenery is eye candy. Bright green
rolling hills broken only by the white dots
that become grazing sheep as you get near.
The local Hammer Hardware store in Invercargill is home to "The World's Fastest Indian". If
you haven't seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins, it's about an Invercargill resident, Burt
Munro, and his dream to race his Indian motorcycle on the Bonneville Flats to beat the world's
speed record for an Indian. What a lure to get a guy into a hardware store (as if they really
need one!). After inspecting and handling every tool in Hammer Hardware and looking at a
zillion other antique motorcycles on display, we headed back towards Dunedin along the
coastal route through an area called the Catlins.
Southland traffic jam!  The coast road took us through very rural areas. For
several kilometers,  the road was unsealed and  the sheep were driven down the
middle of the road with the help of sheep dogs while we watched and waited.
The Waipapa Point Light is particularly photogenic. The sheep graze almost down to the seashore as the lighthouse pops into view. The lighthouse
is 44' tall and was originally constructed of kauri and totara, local hardwoods, with rock in its base as ballast against the terrific storms and winds
which occur here. The light first shone on New Year's Day 1884. In 1976, the light was fully automated removing the need for the light keeper.
NZ's worst civilian shipwreck occurred off
Waipapa Point in April 1881. The
Tararua went on the reef and  131 of 151
passengers lost their lives.
The coast route is called
the Catlins Heritage Trail.
Can you tell which way the wind blows?
In Patagonia, the Spanish call this "arboles
banderas" or flag trees. The prevailing
southwest winds here leave their mark  in
the bend of the manuka trees.
The fields eventually meet the ocean and the
contrast is stunning. Sometimes there are
sweeping white-sand beaches and other times
rugged, rocky shores thick with kelp at low tide.
Though Bluff is many times considered to be
land's end in NZ, in actuality, the
southernmost point is Slope Point, about 7
km further south.
180 million year old petrified stumps, fallen
trees and fern imprints from the Jurassic
period can be viewed at Curio Bay making
this one of the world's finest fossil forests.
A young cormorant lying in the grass
The tiny Waikawa District Museum was
interesting and worth a stop. It doubles at
the post office so we had the chance to
learn about the area AND mail postcards.
Invercargill and Bluff
The Catlins
About 115km north of Dunedin lies the
picturesque town of Oamaru. American friends
Betsy and Richard ("Qayak") had spent a year
here. Betsy is a physician and was practicing at
the local hospital.
The town's limestone quarry provided (and still
provides) "whitestone" for its many Victorian
buildings. Walking through the historic district
was absolutely delightful.
Oamaru is noted for its blue and
yellow-eyed penguin colonies. It
poured the night we were there
and thus...once again...no penguins.
Part of the charm of the town is the signage.
Above, the NZ Whisky Company sign
caught my attention.
Richard walks Betsy to work at the hospital
each morning so we went along with them
along Wharfe, Tynes and Harbour Streets
through the Victorian district and along a
small stream with stepping stones across.
We drove to the top of the lookout for
panoramic views of the small harbor below.
Local knowledge is required to enter this very
shallow, sandbar-studded port. Renting a car
seemed  much easier.
Signpost on the top of the lookout.
Though we saw no penguins, we did
make a visit to Bushey Beach. No
penguins, but a sea lion and great view.
The views at Bushey Beach were gorgeous,
but the time of day was wrong for penguins.
The Moeraki Boulders strewn along the beach
were fascinating. Formed in the mudstone
cliffs behind them, they are septarian
concretions over 60 million years old.
The coastal route home was delightful on a warm, sunny day. We spotted one pond
with a black swan couple and some royal spoonbills. A close-up view of some photos
later also revealed a shag, two herons, some gulls, ducks and a stilt.
        To see more
New Zealand birds, click here.
The Otago Peninsula
There are two main roads around the
peninsula and several unsealed roads
connecting the coasts. Above, some
boatsheds at low tide on the Portobello
The 12-mile channel from the entrance at
Tairoa Heads into the Otago Harbour,
Dunedin is dredged, but just outside the
channel, the water shallows to bars at low tide.
At the Tairoa Heads Reserve, we walked along Pilot's Beach and caught sight of several
fur seals sleeping on the rocks. They come here to rest at night and use the rocks as
pillows. They each seem to have their own personality and watching them was amusing.
We've learned to tell them apart now...seals on rocks and sea lions on sand.
We twice visited Sandfly Bay to view
yellow-eyed penguins, but found that our
timing was all wrong. The yellow eyes were
molting and never left their nests in the tall
flax during this period.
Sandfly Bay beach was reached by
crossing a sheep pasture and then
descending steep, sandy dunes to the
sweeping beach. The path was lined with
vibrant purple wild asters.
No penguins, but the sea lions here are
more accustomed to human visitors and
carried on as if we weren't there. Above,
it was fun watching a sea lion family
interact on the beach.
Dunedin will have to rate right up there
with one of our favorite NZ cities.
While we were at the Otago Yacht
Club, we were invited to give a talk on
our travels. We had expected 15-20
people max and were astounded by
65 people in attendance... all friendly,
welcoming and interested. We heard
no evident snoring and no one threw
any rotten tomatoes, so we figured we
did okay. We stayed in Dunedin for
nearly two weeks and seemed busy
every minute. Lots to see and do here,
but time was now running short and
there were still some places we
wanted to visit.
Our next stop is hopefully the Chatham Islands...at least that's
the plan du jour. Much depends on weather and winds to get
us there. It's about 500 nm off the coast of Christchurch. So
come on along to the Chathams. If we make it there, you'll
experience a place that few people ever visit.

This will be the last website update for a few weeks, but
check our daily blog and position to see where we are and
what we're doing.
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