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Touring South NZ from Dunedin

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Jan 30th, 2012, 02:44 AM
  #1
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Touring South NZ from Dunedin

My daughter is attending U Otago this next semester and we will visit for 8-9 days at the end of March. She will have classes, so we are contemplating 2-4 day excursions from Dunedin. Overnight on Doubtful Sound is a priority. Stewart Island seems attractive, especially as my wife is a wild-life fiend, but the logistics for a short trip seem a bit complicated. Catlins sound interesting. Otago peninsula is a day-trip, yes? Taieri Gorge Railway if we have any $ left. Any suggestions on how best to use our brief time in NZ will be appreciated.
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Jan 30th, 2012, 05:13 AM
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If your wife is a wildlife "fiend" then you will be coming to the right place, as Dunedin is the wildlife capital of NZ. Birdwatching opportunities are particularly fantastic, but it is also easy to see sea lions and fur seals on the local beaches.

Yes, the Otago Peninsula can be done as a day trip if you would like to visit the Royal Albatross Colony and Penguin Place and a few other places. You can drive yourself or sign up for a Monarch Cruise. Their full day trip includes visits to both of the above as well as a wildlife cruise across Dunedin Harbor to the tip of the Otago Peninsula.
http://www.wildlife.co.nz/peninsula_package_tour

In fact, you could spend days exploring the beaches and wildlife habitats of the Otago Peninsula. You might also consider signing up for an Elm Wildlife Tour, which will take you to other wildlife conservation areas on the peninsula, such as Hooper's and Papanui inlets. Elm also offers tours that include visits to the Albatross Colony and/or a Monarch Wildlife Cruise.
http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/

There are many other beautiful beaches you can explore on your own located on the Otago Peninsula, such as Sandfly Bay, Allen's Beach, and Victory Beach.
http://www.dunedinnz.com/Libraries/D..._Map.sflb.ashx
http://www.planmyplay.co.nz/_webapp_159831/Sandfly_Bay
http://www.planmyplay.co.nz/_webapp_159830/Allans_Beach
http://www.planmyplay.co.nz/_webapp_...-_The_Pyramids

I also recommend visiting the other side of the harbor (opposite to the Otago Peninsula, the Port Chalmers side). The drive is pleasant and easy and you might see Royal Spoonbills along the way. Continue beyond Port Chalmers to Aramoana Spit and the Mole. You can often see fur seals lounging on the rocks and white terns gathering here, too. Albatrosses can be seen in the air or on the water. I have even seen Little Blue Penguins swimming near the Mole.
http://www.planmyplay.co.nz/_webapp_...s_and_The_Mole
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramoana

Port Chalmers is also worth a visit (but not for wildlife). I suggest stopping at the atmospheric and historic Carey's Bay Hotel for lunch or a drink. There is also a nice lookout at the top of Port Chalmers. Adjacent to the lookout is a sculpture garden with interesting contemporary works by Port Chalmers artist Ralph Hotere. Hotere is a Maori artist and one of NZ's most important living artists.
http://www.careysbayhotel.co.nz/

From Port Chalmers, you can drive up to the Orokunui Ecosanctuary, which is a great spot for birdwatching. On a clear day, their cafe offers amazing views.
http://www.orokonui.org.nz/

From Orokunui Ecosanctuary, you can continue on to beautiful Long Beach, then Blueskin Bay, then lovely Warrington Beach.
http://www.seenindunedin.co.nz/attra...l_beaches.html

Closer to Dunedin's town center, you should also visit Tunnel Beach (great rock formations), and, of course, St. Clair Beach, which is a popular urban beach complete with restaurants, cafes, surfers, and an outdoor pool that stays open through March.
http://www.dunedinnz.com/visit/see-a...ool.aspx?#tips

I think you will find this Department of Conservation Document useful.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/docume...nd-dunedin.pdf

There are many sights to see besides beaches and wildlife conservation areas in Dunedin. Don't miss the Botanical Garden and the Otago Museum. A lot of tourists tour the Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Speight's Brewery, which are both close to the Octagon. I enjoy just walking around looking at the stunning Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Make sure to visit the I-Site tourist information office at the Octagon; they are really helpful and you will find nearly every brochure you need here. They will also book tours for you, for Dunedin and beyond.

Dunedin can be cold and windy, so bring a good windbreaker/parka and be prepared to dress in layers as it can go from cold to warm in an instant. Today, we had 80 degree weather; it was sunny and glorious, but rain and wind is predicted for tomorrow.
Diamantina is offline  
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Jan 30th, 2012, 06:54 AM
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Wow. I knew I could count on the Fodor's community for advice, but I did not anticipate having a virtual tour guide/reference librarian. Great suggestions - thank you!
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Jan 30th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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There is also a back route to Queenstown that is nice, via Ranfurly and Rt 85, to Alexandra, Clyde, etc. Clyde is especially "cute".

Around Alexandra there are lots of orchards, some self-pick. Depending on time of year of course.

So you could go one way via the Catlins and take the inland route on the way back.
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Jan 30th, 2012, 02:39 PM
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I forgot to mention with respect to wildlife, Dunedin's Botanical Garden features a large outdoor aviary. Though these are not wild birds, they are beautiful and many are from New Zealand and Australia. The sweeping panoramas from the gardens are impressive, particularly from the Mediterranean garden.
http://www.dunedin.nz.com/botanic-garden.aspx

Also an easy day trip is a drive north to Oamaru for a visit to the Blue Penguin Colony. If you give them a call before going, they can give you an idea of how many birds you might see. The adults come in as it starts to get dark, but there are chicks in the nursery and nest boxes at certain times of the year. Oamaru's Bushy Beach also has a good hide for viewing Yellow-Eyed Penguins.

Oamaru is a cute town with a small, quaint, beautifully restored historic center. On the way up or down to Oamaru, make sure to stop at Moeraki Beach to see the wondrously round boulders on the beach. Fleur's Place in Moeraki is a popular restaurant, atmospheric yet funky, and it is right on the wharf. If you decide to eat at Fleur's I would suggest the cooked seafood specialties.
http://www.penguins.co.nz/
http://www.newzealand.com/travel/get...cfm/day/1.html
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...o/bushy-beach/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moeraki_Boulders

If you are in Dunedin on a Saturday morning, don't miss the Farmers' Market at the Railway Station.

I hope your visit to Dunedin meets with clear sunny weather. When the sun is out, this is a beautiful place to be. But the weather is so changeable here.
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Jan 30th, 2012, 05:03 PM
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The drive from Dunedin to Manapouri (where Doubtful Sound overnight leaves from) takes about four hours.

Stewart Island is a bit of a logistical dilemma for short trips. The drive from Dunedin to Bluff takes just over four hours, from there you catch the ferry to Stewart Island, and from Stewart it's a short hop over to Ulva Island, but one could easily spend most of a day just on Ulva. I always suggest at least a couple of nights in Stewart Island, even more so in your case considering the drive from Dunedin.

Diamantina, your encyclopedic knowledge about Dunedin always impresses me!
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Jan 30th, 2012, 06:22 PM
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Stewart Island really is worth the visit, and especially Ulva Island. Drive down thru the Catlins... lots to see, and then plane to Stewart Island. Allow at least 2 nights, actually several weeks would be better. Great walks, Ulva Island Open Sanctuary, Kiwi spotting. look at www.sailsashore.co.nz and browse into the site for lots of info.

Enjoy.
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Jan 31st, 2012, 04:05 AM
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Thanks for the compliment, Melnq8. After commuting back and forth from San Francisco/Marin County for two years, I have finally moved to Dunedin, so I am getting to know it more and more each day, street by street, beach by beach, paddock by paddock.

It reminds me so much of my hometown, SF, though Dunedin's urban center is smaller and less gentrified, and Dunedin in general area is a bit colder and windier. This is probably true for most of coastal Otago. Its coastal areas areas also similar to coastal Northern California, foggy, yet verdant and ruggedly beautiful, and populated with an abundance of wildlife.

Here's a slice of Dunedin life:
http://www.odt.co.nz/news/your-news/...share-st-clair

I have yet to tackle driving on the other side. I am still getting used to being a pedestrian here, remembering to look to the right first before crossing streets, remembering that pedestrians do not always have the right of way (unlike in California). Luckily, by the time I start driving the give way rules will have changed, so that they will be more like the U.S. This should make things easier--I think.
http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/arou...user-rule.html
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Jan 31st, 2012, 05:22 PM
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You'll get the hang of driving on the left Diamantina. If I can do it, anyone can, although I caught myself turning into the wrong lane the other day and scared the bejesus out of myself - and this after 3.5 years of driving on the left! I found it helpful to take a few driving lessons just to familiarize myself with road rules and roundabouts.

When my brother visited a few years back I had to reach out and physically stop him from stepping into the street a few times.

I now have issues when I return to the US for a visit. My mom laughs every time I head to the passenger side to drive or turn on the windshield washers when I want to turn.
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