Otago Peninsula is a crooked finger of land lying between the Pacific Ocean and the sheltered bays of Otago Harbour. It extends from suburban Dunedin to Taiaroa Head, where a breeding colony of Northern Royal albatross thrive on the steep and windy headland. Maori have lived around Otakou on the harbour side for about 900 years, taking advantage of its strategic location and abundant seafood. The peninsula’s cliffs, inlets and beaches are home to penguins, seals, sea lions and many seabird species. Drive out along Highcliff Rd for breathtaking views across the ocean on the right hand side, while far below on the left picturesque villages occupy the harbour’s edge. Dunedin city and the surrounding hills provide a panorama to the west and to the north Aramoana (“pathway to the sea” in Maori) reaches across to Taiaroa Head at the harbour mouth.
Cockling at Papanui Inlet
It would be hard to find a more peaceful and typically New Zealand spot than Papanui Inlet on the eastern side of the peninsula where black swans and pukekos go about their business and the occasional car raises dust on the gravel road. Come here at low tide and you will find beds of New Zealand cockles or little-neck clams which are delicious steamed open and added to pasta or chopped and made into fritters. There’s a daily limit of 50 cockles per person.
Rated as no 1 in Dunedin, Chisholm Park is a classic links course lying on sand dunes and with the challenge of a sea breeze off the Pacific. The stunning 360 degree views make it a very photogenic course and the rugged coastal vista from the cliff top 9th hole is particularly distracting. This is a course where you want to bring your camera and take your time. The club welcomes locals and visitors alike, and offers special deals through a local tour company to cruise ship passengers arriving at Port Chalmers. Only a few minutes’ drive from Dunedin’s Octagon and adjacent to St Kilda Beach and the Dunedin Holiday Park, it offers a tantalising glimpse of the rolling farmland and beaches of the peninsula.
Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial
A short walk from Highcliff Rd, just a few minutes from Dunedin, the Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial sits on a rock the size of a small house looking down the harbour towards Aramoana and Taiaroa Head. Visible from many spots on the peninsula and Dunedin, the solitary soldier stands as a symbol of the local young men who lost their lives in the First World War of 1914 -18. Many of the 52 whose names are engraved here died in foreign battlefields like Gallipoli, The Somme and Ypres. There’s parking room for only a couple of cars on the roadside, and the 500 metre long path up to the memorial is steep, but the spectacular views from this beautiful and isolated spot are rewarding.
Where to Eat
There are several places to eat when exploring the peninsula. Penguin Café in Portobello proudly boasts a fine selection of dishes made with locally produced bacon, pork and lamb and locally sourced vegetables, with all food handmade on the premises. Their wild venison and chicken and mushroom pies are a specialty, and traditional Cornish pasties are a favourite with locals and visitors. The staff happily share their knowledge of local attractions and can even provide picnic lunches for people wanting to do some of the local walks. Children are well catered for here and visiting knitters are encouraged to knit a square in the knitting corner.
Portobello Hotel dates from 1874 and offers traditional hotel meals, a bar with a pool table and jukebox, and over summer their ice cream parlour sells milkshakes, ice creams and sweets of every description.
John Bellamy and artist Pauline have made a big impact on the cultural and community life of the peninsula in the 27 years they have lived here. Their art gallery supports four fulltime artists including Pauline and their sons Manu and Max, with John looking after sales and framing all their work. John served four terms on the Peninsula Community Board and is particularly proud of the construction of a walkway along the edge of the harbour. The gallery has regular exhibitions of local artists’ work and also hosts poetry readings and other cultural activities.
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