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.
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. The quaint harbourside hamlet was a location for the feature film, The Light Between Oceans.
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.
It's worth heading out to Port Chalmers just to peruse the eclectic collection of stores lining the quaint main thoroughfare, George Street. Shoppers looking for retro and vintage clothing, accessories, homeware, pottery and other curios will be well rewarded here. 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. The Port Pantry is the place to stock up on lovely local artisan goods and cookbooks as well as the HQ for Egg & Spoon Artisan Pantry Supplies including Wild Fennel gourmet seasonings and Dog Town mustard.
There are a number of excellent places to enjoy a light bite or hearty meal in Port Chalmers. Union Cafe is legendary for its freshly prepared food and delicious hot chocolates and the Galley Cafe and Bar is another firm local favourite with its enclosed courtyard ideal for lingering over excellent pizza and tapas. The Portsider is the cozy pub and purveyor of fine craft beers and food, a great place to stop in and chat to the locals.
A beautiful local landmark and Instagram spot, Iona Church was built in the 1870s of Oamaru stone and features kauri beams and lovely stained glass windows.
Walk to Hotere Sculpture Garden
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.
Held every 3rd Sunday of the month; fresh local produce; arts and crafts; pickles and preserves; hand-made and bric-a-brac; books; coffee; plants & more