Journeys on the Road
Otago Peninsula: Penguins, Albatross, Seals, Great views over Dunedin
Aramoana: Top beach, Stunning sunrise, surfing
Long Beach: Surfing, Climbing, Cave camping
Moeraki: Small town, Beautiful beach, Unique rock formations
Purakanui Bay & Canoe Beach: Beautiful beach
Tunnel Beach: Rugged cliffs, Rock tunnels and caves
Central Otago: Vineyards, Wine tasting, Stunning night skies
Catlins: Beaches, Surfing, Small towns, Forest walks, Farmland, Quiet escapes
Our Top Spots Details below in Our Story
- Top Beach: Aramoana (amazing sunrise and best surf spot)
- Top Views/Hike: Flagstaff and Pineapple track (also great for sunrise)
- Top Sunset: Blackhead Beach (also great to see the Aurora Australis in a geometric storm)
- To see the Wildlife: Whole Otago Peninsula (especially the penguins on Boulder Beach)
- A little further out: Moeraki
- Special Mention: Organ pipes walk
Our Top Eats We like to eat, and collect coffee cards…
- Best TA Coffee: Classic Cafe (a small coffee cart normally located on the corner of Princes St and Rattray St) Dispensary in the hospital foyer being the best closer to uni (also has great salads)
- Best Sit-in Coffee: The Fix
- Best Sushi: Hikari (best affordable sushi: Tokyo Express)
- Best Curry: Little India, but best memories will always be India Gardens
- Best Seafood: Careys Bay Hotel
- Best Casual Bevvie: Dog with Two Tails
- Going Fancy: No7 Balmac
- At the Beach: Starfish
- Special mentions: Governors Cafe (the GF caramel is to die for, and coffee cards are really effective – every 5th free!), Nova (open all hours of the day for coffee and food when everything else is closed, but a bit sooty that they removed the hazelnut chocolate cake from the menu, best cake I’ve ever had…), Marbecks (really great all round cafe)
I have lived in Dunedin for 6 years as a student, so the place is a lot like home for me. I did not have a car for most of this time making travelling around a bit of a challenge, but it also meant I got to know the center and spots close by really well. The year that Elric and I lived together in Dunedin we branched out and saw a lot of cool places around the area by car.
Dunedin has a very varied landscape with surrounding mountains, forests, beaches and pretty much everything else accessible by car for a day trip. It is a truely stunning area. These are just some of the day trips, and even just some short trips, we took exploring some more hidden parts of Dunedin!
In one day spent travelling around the peninsula we saw some stunning wildlife, amazing views, quiet beaches, serene surroundings, miles of farmland and one gorgeous sunset over Dunedin. It is an area so close to the center, yet feels like you are far from civilisation.
The classic route to the tip of the peninsula is around the harbour, through Portabello, all the way to the lighthouse at the far end where you can see the Albatross colony. It is a great route with nice views, but most people at the end turn around and go the same way back. Instead we decided to head up onto the top of the hills amongst the farm land and travel down the other side. This area is stunning and quiet. We even saw two seals playing in the water right next to the gravel road we travelled on. They were very interested in us for a little bit, but then carried on with their playing.
After exploring the farmland we continued along to Boulder Beach. We drove as far as we could before the road got impossible to travel, then we followed a track, sometimes needing to make our own track down to the beach. Our goal – watch the rare yellow eyed penguins surf in to the beach. The walk down the hill is a bit of a mission in some parts, and parts are through private land. Normally I think the path is a little better maintained, but as we were a little out of season (mid year) we needed to push through the bushes for some of the way.
Once we made it to the beach we wandered past some snoozing sea lions (giving them lots of space of course) to a little driftwood hut on the beach, perfect for penguin watching. As the sun started to go go down we saw several penguins jumping out of the water in the distance, and some playing together in the waves. A truly amazing thing to see.
Just before the sun began to set we bolted back up to the van to see sunset over Dunedin city. It was spectacular.
Check out this video Elric made of our trip to the peninsula. It’s a truely amazing place.
Flagstaff – Pinapple Track
The Flagstaff summit is one of the great walks in Dunedin. You can access it from 2 sides, one walk through the bushes starting at Woodhaugh Gardens, hiking up through the bushes, past the resovior and onto the Pineapple Track. This way takes up a good chunk of the day and is a really great walk or jog.
The other side is much shorter if you drive up to the start of the trail from the southern side off Taieri Road. This walk is perfect for a sunrise walk. After a few wines the night before this walk I told a group of friends that we would be waking up at 5am to walk to the top of Flagstaff for sunrise. I don’t think people thought we would follow through with it, including me, but sure enough in the early hours of the morning I sent a text around saying Elric and I were on our way to pick them up. I think we are all glad we did, it was stunning!
Another great spot for sunrise is Aramoana. After driving out to the peninsula we did a small hike up through farmland to a beautiful view of Aramoana, the beach and the infinite horizon stretching into the distance. Sunrise here was amazing, and the day was calm creating a gorgeous reflection on the ocean. Stunning.
Aramoana beach itself has got to be our favourite beach in Dunedin. Not many people make the journey out often so it is much quieter than the beaches closer to the city. It is covered in golden sand with seashells and is surrounded by cliff faces cutting it off from the rest of the world. The surf is great to as Elric can attest to.
This is something we had wanted to see for a long time. So as soon as we heard that there was a geometric storm coming through on a clear evening we headed out to Blackhead beach to get a glimpse and attempt a photo.
It was a calm evening and the lights were strong enough to be seen with the naked eye. Not extremely colourful like you see in the photos, but more like streaks of grey, maybe ever so slightly tinted with some green. The photos were where the true colour comes out. On long exposure I was even able to get some shots on my Galaxy! Some professional photographers got some pretty awesome shots that night.
This is the website where you can check out the geometric forcast for the next few days. If you see it getting above kp5 you can generally capture some colour with a camera, above kp7 you should be able to see something with the naked eye.
We left early in the morning to head up to Moeraki for the day. It is only around 1.5hrs drive north so it is perfect for a day trip. Moeraki is a very small town with a beautiful quiet beach. Quite well known for the restaurant Fleur’s Place. It’s a pretty pricey place that requires a booking due to many people popping down from Christchurch for a meal. For us lying on the beach with a picnic and some ginger beer was perfect.
Walking down the beach you can find the more iconic (and more touristy) Moeraki Boulders. You can see where the legends of alien landings come from as these formations look very extra terrestrial, and of course make for some cool photos.
There is a small path just past Fleur’s Place to a lookout over the beach and the ocean on the other side of the peninsula. It’s a great place to sit near the edge of the cliff watching the wildlife playing below you.
On the way back we took the longer route along the coast, past Karitane (also the spot of a great beach) and up through the hilly forest around Orokonui wildlife sanctury. It’s a beautiful drive through here. You feel like you are quite far from civilization, but as we came over the hills the lights of Dunedin city were there to welcome us back.
Purakanui Bay & Canoe Beach
In the midst of exam study we decided it was time to take a break to the beach. Purakanui Bay has a beautiful beach to relax on, beautiful views and a little old swing which is always fun for big kids like us. The road down is for 4WDs, just walk like we did it’s not worth getting stuck, or access it from the other side walking over the rocks to the beach.
Although the beach is small the area around is pretty cool. You walk down a steep track to a small rocky peninsula moulded by the waves. Then down through a small tunnel to the beach. The sun leaves the beach quite early the morning is the best time to go.
The surrounding cliffs and caves are pretty amazing to see. It can be pretty windy there though, and it’s pretty easy to get too close to the edge. Soon after we were there somebody lost their footing trying to get a cool photo and fell to the crashing waves below. Sensible is key 👍
There is variable weather in this area with often a completely different climate to Dunedin city, but as the name suggests she’s a pretty big beach! Elric likes it as a surfing spot because it is quite remote and there is some spectacular wildlife; dolphins, penguins and seals.
Although we didn’t do this there is a cave at the end of the beach where you can camp overnight with the penguins, and a lot of spots for climbing.
This can be a really quick 30min walk if you start on Mount Cargill Road, but we decided to take a bit of a longer walk through Grahams Bush starting from the end of Hall Road in Sawyers Bay. This was a really nice walk up through the trees. At the top you find the unique rock formations called the organ pipes.
Once at the top we climbed over the rocks and through the bushes to find a spectacular view. Somewhere along the way we lost the track and ended up having to bush bash our way back down the hill, which of course just made it more fun!
Check out what we did in the Catlins in my blog Where the Wild Things Are: New Zealand’s Far South! We spent a week travelling the far south including the Catlins, Fiordland region and the area around Queenstown.
Day trips here are easy and worth the journey!