Dunedin is one of the biggest cities on New Zealand’s South Island and only a few hours drive away from Queenstown. We hadn’t really heard much about it, but a few people from work had mentioned that it was quite good for shopping. We were keen to see as much of NZ as possible so we decided to spend a weekend in Dunedin and explore it for ourselves.
We looked on Wotif and found a cheap hotel for the night so booked it there and then and drove there from Queenstown. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Queenstown to Dunedin so we were glad to park up and stretch our legs once we got there. We left our car in the hotel car park and walked into the city centre.
I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting Dunedin to be like, but I was a little underwhelmed as we wandered through the city. Compared to the beautiful Queenstown, Dunedin felt a bit dirty and run down. It reminded me of a typical English town in many ways.
We grabbed a quick lunch and walked around the shops. We needed some more winter clothes as the temperature had been gradually dropping over the last few weeks. It wasn’t a particularly successful shopping trip though, we didn’t really find anything that we needed.
We were both a little bit disappointed with the city centre so we decided to look at the more touristy side of Dunedin.
I picked up a leaflet for the Speights Brewery Tour, my favourite NZ beer. One look from Michelle told me that that wasn’t going to happen though.
After a quick look around the Dunedin train station, one of the most impressive buildings in the city, we decided to head back to the car to go and explore the areas around the city.
Once in the car, we followed signs for the Otago Peninsula and headed away from the city. We were soon in sight of the harbour and open water. I spotted a road to the left, called Portobello Road, that seems to run right alongside the harbour’s edge. We took the turn and followed the road for several miles.
This was a much better side of Dunedin, and much more like the sort of thing we wanted to see. Coastal roads and green hills in front of us.
Not really sure of where we were going, we decided to follow a sign for Sandfly Bay, the road took us up and away from the harbour road and into the hills of the peninsula. Within 15 minutes or so we arrived at a car park with signs for the walking route into Sandfly Bay. It was early evening by this point so we were unsure whether or not to follow the walking trail or to keep driving around.
In the end we decided to walk, and we definitely made the right choice.
After a short walk, we arrived at the top of a cliff edge, looking down across a perfect looking bay.
The sun was on it’s way down a the sky was turning a beautiful pink colour. We only had 30 minutes or so left of light, but we wanted to get down and onto that beach to watch the sun go down.
The route down to the beach involved walking down steep, deep sand dunes. It was almost impossible to walk on as the sand was so deep and with each step we sank to our knees. Running and jumping down the dunes was the easiest, and most fun, way to get to the beach. We would worry about the climb back up later.
We walked to the waters edge and took off our shoes. In typically British fashion, we went for a paddle.
The lighting was amazing, the whole sky had a pink tinge to it and the bay looked incredible. After a pretty average day looking around the city, this had completely made up for it and was completely unexpected.
In a lot of ways, the last 30 minutes had summarised everything I love about being in New Zealand. There is always something incredible around the corner and it’s always worth exploring a little bit further. The potential for moments that will stick in the memory for a very long time, is always there; and this was very much one of them.
We hung around for a while, enjoying the moment, before the difficult climb back to the car park. The sand dunes were ridiculously soft, with each step up we would slide back six inches in the sand.
It was almost dark by the time we reached the car. We headed back to the hotel to shower and change before heading back to the city to find a restaurant and a cold beer.