Dunedin’s Charms Are Tempting Reasons to Stay Longer.
The uniqueness of Dunedin has been tempting people to stay longer for seven centuries ~ and still does.
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND
In the outskirts of Dunedin we stopped at Larnach Castle; a legacy of the 19th century Central Otago gold rush. Originally built in 1871, it was renowned for its superb craftsmanship. William Larnach modestly called his large mansion ‘The Camp’ and had this title placed in mosaic tiles on the floor of the foyer.
In 1967, it was purchased by a family who saw its restoration potential. At the time it was virtually empty of furniture and in a poor state of repair, including a leaky roof. Many of the original furniture pieces have since been repurchased or are on loan.
As we were signing in, Terry overheard a man telling his companion, “William Larnach was a banker and politician who later shot himself.” She responded matter-of-factly, “That’s something more politicians should do.”
One of the most photographed train stations in the world is the Dunedin Railway Station. It was the last of three built in the city between 1873 and 1906 and is the largest and busiest in New Zealand. Early in its life the station handled up to 100 trains a day. It was designed in Flemish Renaissance style and is constructed from two types of Otago stone; a dark volcanic stone from Kokonga and limestone from the Oamaru district. The broad area outside the station, at the foot of Stuart Street, later became known as Anzac Square in honor of the Australian and New Zealand forces which served in the 1914-1918 war.
We went shopping at a local market and then back to our motel where we made ourselves a scrumptious lamb dinner. As lamb is so plentiful in New Zealand locals enjoy it at home and often prefer something different when they go out.
‘Dunedin’ is old Gaelic for Edinburgh. The name was given to this New Zealand settlement by the first English and Scottish settlers in 1848; strong Scot roots are still evident today. The settlement boomed after the first gold rush in 1861 and by 1870 it was New Zealand’s largest city. In 1869 the Scots built the University of Otago (today the country’s largest); education continues to be the city’s biggest industry. Dunedin retains many of its Victorian and Edwardian structures which are not only enjoyed by tourists but film-makers as well.
A tour of Olveston House was next on our ‘must-do’ list. Unlike Larnach Castle which had been left virtually empty, the Olveston House is frozen in time. Mr. and Mrs. Olveston had moved to Dunedin when it was prospering in the gold rush days. Rather than digging for gold they made their fortune as suppliers of goods. From 1904 to 1906 they built this house and furnished it with the finest of furniture, art and collectables.
It was wonderful to see so many beautiful antiques on display in their place of use. It is a stop we would highly recommend for anyone coming to Dunedin. No photography allowed within the building, so we are unable to give you a sneak preview.
We walked from the Olveston mansion to Dunedin’s Otago Museum where we spent some terrific time learning about the peoples and creatures which inhabited this part of the world.
Resourcefulness and inventiveness were necessary to adapt to the region’s challenging environment, topography (big rivers, formidable mountains and jungle-like rainforests), and climate. Early Europeans saw value in the fields of grass and began the long tradition of raising sheep. Gold attracted more Europeans, many stayed and more intensive agriculture and industry (including coal and clay) flourished.
Tourism now plays a major role in many communities as New Zealand’s natural beauty attracts the world.
We left Dunedin, drove north and stopped to explore another wonder of nature; the Moeraki boulders look like a giant’s marbles emerging from the sand.
They actually come from the oceanside cliffs and roll onto the beach once waves wash away the mudstone which encases them. Some 65 million years ago they were created by chemicals crystallizing around a nucleus much like a pearl is formed – septarian concretions. They are almost perfectly round and at one time plentiful on this beach. The smaller ones have been removed by curiosity hunters. The larger ones weigh up to 7 ton and 6 feet across. They have markings like a turtle’s shell and when split apart from the relentless pounding of the sea there is some caramel coloring inside. Eventually they will be completely destroyed, but the cliffs hold more; slowly being exposed by the erosion of the sea.
An hour and a half drive from Dunedin brought us to Oamaru. We checked into the Bella Vista Motel … very nice … clean, with some cooking facilities, a firm queen-size bed and a telephone line. We weren’t in the room for any more than five minutes before we left to see the blue penguins come ashore after sunset.
In the harbor bleachers have been erected close by a blue penguin nesting site where nightly these flightless birds, the world’s smallest penguin, come ashore under viewing lights and stop to preen oil back along their feathers before heading to their nest boxes. They usually all come ashore within an hour span. While we waited a fur seal emerged from the water, ignored the public and settled himself on top of a mound in the penguin’s nesting compound. Twenty of the little blue penguins followed. They were much smaller than Sherrie was expecting, about ten inches tall and very agile; they climbed the cliff to their nests with ease.
New Zealand continues to educate and enchant.
SIGHTSEEING IN DUNEDIN
Stories, magnificent views, Victorian interiors and award winning gardens make this one of the ‘must do’s in Dunedin.
Address: 145 Camp Road, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin
Phone: 00 64 3 476 1616
Combine scenic vistas and fascinating destinations with the joy of train travel. Pick a train trip which suits your time, budget, interests and sense of adventure.
Website for sightseeing excursions: www.dunedinrailways.co.nz/our-journeys
Address: Dunedin Railway station on Anzac Square
Phone: +64 3 477 4449
Step over the threshold and into 1933; into a family home where living in monied-comfort was the norm and collecting art the passion. It’s as though the family simply moved on, leaving the home as it was … and that’s exactly what happened. Interior tours are guided and take one hour. We would suggest putting it on your ‘must-see’ in Dunedin list.
Address: 42 Royal Terrace, North Dunedin, Dunedin
Phone: +64 3-477 3320
Free phone (within New Zealand) 0800 100 880
Entry to the Museum is free (not including the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium and some special events and exhibitions) and has a café and shop. It is open daily except Christmas Day. Paid tours are available and ideal for those with limited time who want to see the essentials, or for those who want to hear the stories attached to many of the 1.5 million items in the collection.
Address: 419 Great King St, North Dunedin, Dunedin
Phone: +64 (0)3 474 7474
ACCOMMODATION IN OAMARU
Bella Vista Oamaru Motel
The Bella Vista is located on the main road north; within walking distance to shops and eateries, and a short drive to area activities (2.4km to the blue penguins). They have a variety of rooms (including some for families), good parking and appreciated laundry facilities. Bella Vista is a chain, so if you like one, most likely you will like the others.
Address: 208 Thames St, Oamaru
Phone: +64 3-434 2400
SIGHTSEEING IN OAMARU
OAMARU BLUE PENGUIN COLONY
During the day most of the world’s smallest penguins are at sea fishing while a few may be hiding in nesting burrows. Tours are available throughout the day from 10 am until ‘late’. Daytime tours allow viewing of nesting boxes. Most popular time is after sunset when these tiny blue birds come ashore in ‘rafts’ (groups) and waddle past bleachers of onlookers on their way to nesting burrows.
Address: Waterfront Rd, South Hill, Oamaru
Phone: +64 3-433 1195