A port town full of history and charm, Port Chalmers captures your heart on the first visit. High above the hum and beeping of the container terminal, Flagstaff Lookout offers a panoramic view from Otago Peninsula’s Taiaroa Head, Aramoana at the harbour mouth, to the historic Scott Memorial high on the hill on the other side of town. While straddle trucks move containers like sugar cubes below, the stylish stone buildings of the main street beckon. The banks, tailors, pubs, boarding houses and stables of the late 1800s have been transformed into cafes and restaurants along with vintage clothing and collectables shops and other quirky businesses. There’s even a supermarket, chemist and convenience store.
The Port Chalmers Golf Club celebrates its centenary in 2014. The future is looking excellent for this club run by hard working volunteers who take a generous approach to junior members, have deep roots in the local community, welcome visitors, use Facebook, and best of all they have Emerson’s Beer on tap.
It’s one of the most beautiful 9 hole golf courses in the South Island. With native bush edging the fairway and extensive native plantings, bird song is never far away. Visitors are very welcome and cruise ship passengers arriving at Port Chalmers are well catered for with a free pick up service, and inexpensive charges for green fees and equipment hire.
Located in the old Port Chalmers Post Office on the waterfront, adjacent to the cruise ship wharf, this maritime museum provides a window into the region’s nautical past. With collections covering commercial fishing, shipping, Antarctic exploration and social history, the objects, archives, photographs, manuscripts and books here provide an invaluable resource for research while offering a stimulating display for visitors.
The Boat Shed, a stunning new building which looks out over Port Otago’s operations, offers visitors a close up view of a 100 year old wooden seine fishing boat, a complete ship’s cabin from the 1880s, and an X Class yacht.
The longest running café in Port and open 7 days, this is the place to come for coffee, breakfast or lunch. With large windows looking out onto the main street and a sunny sheltered courtyard, the Port Royale is a popular spot to relax and enjoy the fresh baking, salads, cheese rolls, bagels, Royale Fry Up, Eggs and Soldiers, and locally roasted coffee. They have plenty of gluten and dairy free options and everything is available to take away. Works of art by local artists are on sale and you’ll see lots of locals chilling out here also.
Shoppers looking for retro and vintage clothing, accessories, homeware and pottery are in for a treat on both sides of George St, Port Chalmers main street.
At Box of Birds you’ll find Crown Lynn and Beswick pottery, retro framed prints, tea cosies, postcards, hats, scarves, cake tins and more.
Georgie Girl has pre-loved label women’s clothing, accessories, jewellery and modern corsets.
Christianne’s has a full range of pre-loved clothing and accessories including hats, coats, boots and knitwear. Vintage fabric and haberdashery items are also available here.
Step into Aurora Design and be wowed by the exquisite handmade felt hats modelled on designs from the 1920s and 30s. Restored Art Deco furniture is also for sale.
This walk takes you up the eastern side of Port Chalmers through the old residential area to a hilltop lookout and unique sculpture garden featuring four large works.
Begin at the corner of Grey and George Streets, and walk up Grey St then turn left into Scotia St. Continue to the end of Scotia St where you will find the Flagstaff Lookout with views over the port, to the harbour mouth and over the town.
Here you will find the entrance to the Hotere Sculpture Garden where you can see Black Phoenix 2 by Ralph Hotere, Aramoana by Chris Booth, They Do Cut Down The Poles That Hold Up the Sky by Shona Rapira Davies, and Brick Column by Russell Moses. Renowned artist Ralph Hotere had his studio near here, but it was demolished in 1993 when Port Otago removed part of the bluff.
A gravel path leads down the hill to Back Beach, from where you can return to George St by turning left and walking past the log wharf, or take the longer route by going right and following the edge of the harbour back into town.
Steve Walker – Port Chalmers Convert
Like many Port Chalmers residents, Steve Walker and his wife Liana live in a street named after one of the first ships which brought settlers here in the 1840s, Victory Place. Singapore born Steve and USA born Liana are part of a more recent migration – out of towners who have chosen to live here because as Steve says “it’s one of the most beautiful historic towns in New Zealand with a wonderfully eclectic mix of people”.
It’s typical of Steve to describe his satisfaction with Port Chalmers in terms of the people. He must know just about everyone here through his many roles. He writes for the monthly newsletter the Rothesay News, is Club Captain of the Golf Club, co-chair of the West Harbour Beautification Trust, Quizmaster extraordinaire, and chairs the Chalmers Community Board for the Council. He also enjoys a pint or two at the local pubs, was a prime mover in the hugely successful cycle/walkway project, and is now the proud owner of a New Zealand passport.