Easter time in the South Island of NZ

Dec 17th, 2011, 10:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 22
Easter time in the South Island of NZ

We will be spending 3 weeks on the South Island and will be there from April 2 to the 20th and fly out of Christchurch. We have no definite plans. Can you suggest an area where we should be for Easter time to find a cottage/ apt. for a few days and avoid the tourists ( which we are). I was wondering about the Duneden area. We like to hike and kayak and sight see. Should we stay in Queenstown for a few days and then travel to Duneden. Any suggestions on where to stay? Thank you for your help.
bms153 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2011, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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It's not the tourists so much, it's the locals. The Easter weekend (Good Friday-Easter Monday) is a very busy travel time for locals, as are school holidays which coincide with Easter. We've only been in NZ over Easter once. By design we headed north from Queenstown on Good Friday as everyone else was headed south. We spent the Easter weekend in/around Rakaia Gorge (west of Christchurch). It was deserted and it felt as if all of Christchurch had gone south for the weekend.

Dunedin might be similiar - perhaps the residents of Dunedin go north for the holiday?

I'd guess that as long as you avoid the most popular areas of Queenstown, Wanaka, the glaciers, Milford and Doubtful Sound, etc it won't be too bad. You might consider the Catlins, which is a good place to get away from it all and has some lovely walk trails.
Melnq8 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2011, 07:24 PM
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Posts: 22
Thank you , I'll look into that.
bms153 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2011, 12:20 AM
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You can rent a self contained apartment by the week in Dunedin (and most other areas of New Zealand). I think during Easter many university students will go home and the city will be quieter, less crowded. The 2012 Easter Break will begin on April 6 and school resumes on April 16.

Dunedin is underrated southern gem. The city itself is a university town, so there is a lot going on and it has many attractions, including the best museum on the South Island, the Otago Museum; a large and popular, yet splendidly serene Botanical Garden that has a delightful aviary and offers expansive views over the city; dazzling Victorian and Edwardian architecture; an attractive city beach with oceanfront cafes and restaurants, St. Clair Beach; the best Saturday morning Farmers' Market in New Zealand; and excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. Other central city attractions include the Dunedin City Art Gallery, which is right on the Octagon; Speight's Brewery, and the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. The only downside of Dunedin is the weather, which can be cold and windy.

Because it is coastal, Dunedin is scenic, with splendid beaches to the north and south. The Dunedin city limit also comprises many areas of natural beauty. There are many trails,
paths, and beaches to walk on, and in most cases you will find that you are completely alone! As Dunedin is the wildlife capital of NZ, you can encounter wildlife, especially at the beaches, where you might see seals, sea lions, penguins (Little Blue and Yellow-Eyed).

My favorite tourist attraction is Penguin Place. This is on the Otago Peninsula, which is east of Dunedin city (the Otago Peninsula is part of greater Dunedin). Penguin Place is about a 30 to 35 minute drive from downtown Dunedin. This is a privately owned and operated working farm, where you can observe the rare and endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin up close from a network of camouflaged trenches. While you can find Yellow-Eyed Penguins at a few local beaches, such as Sandfly Bay, Penguin Place is the best place to see them. You are less likely to disturb the penguins here.

Near Penguin Place, also at the end of the Otago Peninsula (at Taiaroa Head), is the Royal Albatross Colony. This is also a rare species, whose population is considered vulnerable. This is also a good place for spotting rare Stewart Island Shags. The tour of historic Fort Taiaroa is also interesting.

You can drive yourself or sign up for a tour that will take you to both of the above attractions at the Dunedin i-SITE Visitor Centre about a block from the Octagon in the city center:
Some of the tours include a harbor cruise and/or a scenic drive over the heights of the Otago Peninsula.

If you drive yourselves, there are two ways to get to the end of the Otago Peninsula from downtown Dunedin: Highcliff Road (the high road with spectacular views) or Portabello Road (which runs along the water and is also beautiful). If you are going to Larnach Castle, you will probably want to take Highcliff Road.

There are some fantastic beaches on the Otago Peninsula. They can be chilly and windy, but if you feel like taking a walk all by yourselves on a beach, and maybe seeing some rare wildlife, this is it. On the Otago Peninsula I recommend Victory Beach and the Pyramids. The walk out to the beach takes you through paddocks with sheep and loads of birds (the Okia Reserve). Nearby, you can see more birds at Hooper's Inlet and Papanui Inlet.

On the other, north, side of the Otago Harbor you can find the quaint small town of Port Chalmers (a container and cruise ship port with a few nice shops, restaurants and cafes). Drive beyond Port Chalmers to the spit and you will reach Aramoana and the Mole, which are good places for viewing wildlife and for walking along a seashell-covered beach. Keep an eye out for Royal Spoonbills on the way.

Also on the north side of Otago Harbor, you can find the wonderful Orokunui Ecosanctuary (about a 15-minute drive from Port Chalmers). On a nice day, this is a great spot for spending a few hours, walking on its trails, looking at the native plants and birds. Or have a cup of tea in the cafe of their gorgeous "green" building. The views are wonderful.

You can continue on to Warrington, a charming coastal community with a long lovely beach. Or Blueskin Bay, an estuary about 25 km. north of downtown Dunedin. There are usually lots of black swans in the estuary.

Dunedin's Botanic Garden is such a pleasant place, where you can stroll for hours. On a nice day, bring along a good book and find a bench where you can spend a few hours reading.The view from the terrace of the Mediterranean garden is the best. Apart from the aviary, I like the South African garden, with its many varieties of Protea, the most.

The Otago Museum is well worth visiting; the displays are interesting and the building is attractive, comfortable, and houses a cafe. It opens onto a huge grassy lawn with benches shaded by trees and is just steps from the University of Otago. The excellent University Book Shop is right across from the museum. If you like books, you could spend hours here.

The Octagon is the center of Dunedin's commercial district and it houses shops, restaurants, a movie theater, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which houses the popular Nova Cafe, often, some interesting exhibitions. There is another movie theater about a block away that shows foreign films, art films and documentaries.

The Dunedin Railway Station is the most beautiful of Dunedin's many beautiful heritage buildings. The Taieri Gorge Railway departs from here:
Many of Dunedin's private residences are also ornately decorated.

If you decide to stay in self-contained accommodation in Dunedin and you make your own meals, the New World Market at Centre City, which is downtown, has lots of gourmet items and a great wine selection. Prices are generally cheaper, though, at the supermarket Countdown, which is just a few block away. Pak'n'Save is another large discount supermarket a short distance from the city center. Because Dunedin is a cosmopolitan city with people from all corners of the globe, you can also find specialty Asian grocery stores, as well as many cheap ethnic restaurants (that offer take-out).

If you feel like getting some exercise while you are in Dunedin, try the Moana Pool, which also has a gym with great views.

The city of Oamaru is a 90-minute drive north of Dunedin. It has a beautifully preserved historic center and houses the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. The penguins start coming in as the sun goes down, though during the day you might be able to see some chicks in the nursery (the 'Blue Wing'). Their nest boxes are behind glass and the lighting is dim, but the chicks are adorable, though be forewarned: the fishy smell is strong. There are additional nest boxes outside the "Blue Wing." I don't know how many penguins will be around in April, though.

A handy stop between Oamaru and Dunedin is Moeraki Beach, which is renowned for its large, almost perfectly round boulders.
There is also a popular restaurant in Moeraki town, called Fleur's Place:

If you want to shop for luxuriously soft possum sweaters, shawls, scarves and more, a great place is the Waimate Knitwear Factory Outlet in Waimate about 40 minutes north and inland from Oamaru. (Waimate is about half-way between Christchurch and Dunedin).

You said you are flying out of Christchurch. You could consider flying into Dunedin from Auckland, then continuing to Queenstown from there (maybe stopping in Central Otago wine country on the way, if you drink wine), then down to Te Anau/Fiordland/Milford Sound, then back up to Wanaka passing through Queenstown again (and by way of the Crown Range Road), then up the West Coast to the glaciers, then up north, by way of Hokitika, Greymouth, then you can take the train to Christchurch or continue up north to Abel Tasman, then Marlborough, then Kaikoura before ending near Christchurch.
Diamantina is offline  

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