It’s getting harder and harder to outrun those 3 or 4 little bars in the top corner of your cell phone that keep you on a leash to your inbox and other peoples contact lists. Gone are the days where explaining your extended lunch with the line “ahhh sorry, I didn’t have reception”.
There was a time in Dunedin’s recent history where surfers would have uncrowded sessions at Blackhead Beach because a lack of reception meant no one could text their friends that the surf was pumping. Lunch-goers dining in the Meridian Mall food court could enjoy their butter chicken with two hands as the thick concrete walls rendered cell phones useless down there. Now, with better phones, more data, free wifi hot spots and the fastest internet in the land, Dunedin - a place you used to come to escape, is now a place that is well and truly plugged into the mainframe. While this has obvious advantages as a city, the downside is we’re less connected with those closest to us and our immediate surroundings. Luckily, we’ve scouted the region for the few remaining spots where call signals and data fear to tread.
Note: Obviously, this will vary according to phone model and service provider. If in doubt just switch to air plane mode!
Not too far from the city centre lie dozens of beaches that attract people from all over the world. Inspired by their beauty, the first thing they often do is snap a selfie for their Instagram story only to find they have no reception, forcing them to enjoy the stunning scenery through their own eyes while lamenting that they couldn’t inflict FOMO on their friends. Tuck yourself beneath the cliffs and caves at Tunnel, Boulder, Long, Purakaunui or Aramoana beaches for a cell phone escape like no other.
At the movies
Okay, technically you don’t lose signal in the movies, but you are encouraged to switch off your devices while you’re in there, so it does count! Besides, you don’t want to be THAT guy that disrupts the whole theatre. Grab some popcorn and check out Reading, Rialto and Metro cinemas, or even the Regent Theatre for an easy 2 hour escape.
Whare Flat and beyond
Tucked away in the hills behind the city lies the tiny settlement of Whare Flat. Apart from farms, the main attraction here would be the myriad of riding and walking tracks and yep, you guessed it, very minimal cell phone reception. In fact, the whole region from Whare Flat to Middlemarch has pretty sketchy coverage and that’s just how the down-to-earth locals like it.
Over an hour’s drive from the city, yet still within our boundary lines, you’ll find Loganburn Reservoir. You’ll lose reception long before you reach the body of water which is probably as far away as you can get from the city while still claiming you’re in Dunedin. Things to do here? Not a lot really. Unless you like fishing for plump Brown Trout and admiring landscapes so beautiful they wouldn’t look out of place in a Graeme Sydney gallery.
Tarmac at Dunedin Airport
As with any air travel, using a phone that isn’t in airplane mode is a big no-no. For travellers arriving at Dunedin Airport, those painful few minutes the plane is taxiing on the tarmac can feel like a life time as you anxiously wait to meet loved ones or find out if your ride has bothered to turn up. Don’t worry, it’s worth the wait. Inside the terminal the reception is A+ and they offer free wifi to make up for it. So sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
Depending on your provider, reception in the deep valleys and native bush of Orokonui Ecosanctuary can come and go. This shouldn’t be a worry though, people that visit the sanctuary come to connect with nature and the abundant wildlife rather than wifi. Save that for the cosy Horopito café at the end of your adventure.
Post submitted by Hayden Parsons