Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula

After finishing the Routeburn Track, we stayed the night in Te Anau. The following morning, we drove to Dunedin. It was about a 4 hour drive, and as with all drives in New Zealand, it was scenic. Dunedin is the gateway to the Otago Peninsula.

the grand dunedin railway station

the grand dunedin railway station

Upon arriving in Dunedin it was time to eat lunch. We headed to the intersection known for its inexpensive Asian eateries (George St & St Andrew St) and enjoyed some Vietnamese food. After lunch, we headed to Baldwin Street – recognized by Guinness as the world’s steepest street at a 35% grade. For every 3 feet traveled horizontally, the elevation changes by a little more than 1 foot. That’s steep!

walking up baldwin street

walking up baldwin street

it's easier to walk up the stair-sidewalk

it’s easier to walk up the stair-sidewalk

a picture from the top…great views below

at the top…great views below

going down required a sort of "lean back" to keep balanced

going down required a sort of “lean back” to keep balanced

Later that afternoon, we drove to the Otago Peninsula. The peninsula is known for its diverse wildlife, rugged countryside, coasts lined with beaches and spectacular cliff top views. We headed to Sandfly Bay in hopes of seeing a yellow-eyed penguin (a rare penguin native to New Zealand).  Between the parking area and the beach was a pasture full of sheep.

at sandfly bay

at sandfly bay

checking us out as we check them out

checking us out as we check them out

pretty as a picture

pretty as a picture

The best chance to see the yellow-eyed penguin is late afternoon or early evening. We hiked down the sand dunes to the beach. At the end of the beach is a “hide”, a small shelter with a viewing window to look out over the ocean. We went into the hide with hopes of seeing a yellow-eyed penguin come to shore. The penguins spend their day looking for food at sea, and then come onto land for the night.

sandfly bay

sandfly bay

viewpoint over sandfly bay

viewpoint over sandfly bay

walking down the sand dunes to the beach

walking down the sand dunes to the beach

so much sand

so much sand

the beach!

on the beach!

powerful waves

powerful waves

definitely not bikini weather

definitely not bikini weather

soaking it in

soaking it all in

At time we were there, the penguins were molting (in the process of losing their feathers and getting new ones). While molting, they don’t go out to sea every day, making it harder to spot one. From the hide, we could see all sorts of sea lions resting in the rocks below. They blended in with the rocks so well that I didn’t see them at first. Then, once I knew they were there, I kept spotting new ones.

view from the hide

view from the hide

can you see the seals on the rocks?

can you see the seals on the rocks?

We didn’t see any penguins from the hide, but as we walked back along the beach, we saw one lying in the sand. We called over a community volunteer who was at the beach; he told us it was a young one and it was sick. It was sad to see. I wanted to see a yellow-eyed penguin, but not under these circumstances.

yellow-eyed penguin

yellow-eyed penguin

As we continued our walk back across beach, we walked right past this sea lion. I had never seen one this close before.

hello sea lion

hello sea lion

so cute

so cute

That night, we camped at the Ocean View Recreation Reserve. It was right next to the beach and we saw a spectacular sunrise on that beach the next morning.

sunrise on the beach

sunrise on the beach

watching the seagulls

watching the seagulls

what a way to start our second to last day in NZ

what a way to start our second to last day in NZ

the sun begins to break through

the sun begins to break through

sunrise

sunrise

After sunrise, we headed to Tunnel Beach, which was just a 10-minute drive from where we camped. Tunnel Beach gets its name from the passage that was hand-carved through large coastal rock to provide access to a secluded beach at the base of the cliffs. It’s an easy one-mile hike to get down to the beach and back. The views were spectacular.

tunnel beach

the tunnel runs through this stretch of rock in the middle…tunnel beach is on the right

the tunnel

the tunnel

walking through the tunnel

walking through the tunnel

on the secluded beach

on the secluded beach

it's best to come at low tide

it’s best to come at low tide

serene

serene

and we had the place to ourselves!

we had the place to ourselves!

couple shot

couple shot

After Tunnel Beach, we drove to the end of Sandymount Road to hike the Sandymount Circuit. We hiked to Lovers Leap, The Chasm, the Sandfly Bay viewpoint, and up to the Sandymount summit. So many incredible views packed into this 3-mile hike. And, after a cloudy and cold day yesterday, this day turned out to be sunny and warm.

views from the trailhead

view from sandymount road

the circuit started with a walk through a canopy of trees

the circuit started with a walk through a canopy of trees

scenic

scenic

views for miles

views for miles

walking down to lovers leap

walking to the coastline

lovers leap…a drop of over 700 feet

lovers leap…a drop of over 700 feet

lovers leap viewpoint

the chasm viewpoint

continuing on the circuit

on the circuit

flat & easy

flat & easy

I feared these sheep might go over the cliff's edge

I feared these sheep might go over the cliff’s edge

cool trees

cool trees

lots of butterflies

lots of butterflies

hiking up to the sandfly bay viewpoint

hiking up to the sandfly bay viewpoint

sandfly bay viewpoint

sandfly bay viewpoint

view from sandy mount summit

view from the sandymount summit

view from sandy mount summit

I can see the campervan in the carpark below

back at the carpark

back at the carpark

This wrapped up our hiking in New Zealand. It was now time to drive to Christchurch, where our flight back to the states would depart tomorrow afternoon. We grabbed some snacks from the back for the drive. I looked down at my apple and noticed the sticker said “smitten”. How appropriate…after five weeks in New Zealand, we were definitely smitten with this place.

smitten indeed

smitten indeed

2 responses to “Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula

  1. Pretty fantastic ‘last day’ exploring NZ. What a wonderful trip you had. Thanks again for sharing it with the rest of us. Enjoyed seeing it through your eyes and wonderful photography.

  2. WOW…You captured so many picture perfect postcard images~what a beautiful place. Love all the wildlife photos~boy do those sea lions blend into the rocks! Can’t get enough of seeing those sheep~I love them roaming around in the landscape! Fun to see the tunnel both in it and above it in the terrain~very cool! Your right, perfect name for the apple of the day!

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