I wasn’t expecting to like this town as much as I did! It’s generally known in New Zealand as a college town as the oldest university in the country is located there and while I was in town over the summer holidays and the place was kind of empty, I still loved it. It was like any typical indie college town you would find in America and I think that is what I liked about it.
I stayed at The Chalet and loved it! It’s a bit of a walk out of town and up a huge hill and unfortunatly, I don’t think they have a shuttle from the bus or train station and it would suck without a car to get your stuff up the hill. There is plenty of street parking and never had an issue with finding a space while I walked almost everywhere in town. I got a single room on the top floor, right next to the bathroom, room 14, I think and I loved it! Plenty of light, cute window, huge closet and desk. There was also a small tv room at the top with just FTA, but it was a great place for me to chill out at the end of the day. The place was pretty empty when I was there and I had full control of the remote. SCORE! The bathroom is a full bath, plus there is another seperate water closet. On the second floor there were a few lounges and the bottom floor has a HUGE kitchen, HUGE dining room and pool table! The biggest downside of this place is it is cash only, which I was not prepared for as in all my travels I had not seen a place that didn’t take EFTOPS. Whatevs, I just left my passport till I got the cash together to pay, no worries! The place is cutely decorated, claims to have a ghost and little Harry Potter-isms everywhere. Loved it!
My first stop in town was the I-Centre where I got a map that had a self guided walking town of the town in it and loved it! Two museums it takes you past are the Otago Settlers Museum which like the City and Sea Museum in Wellington, I was surprised I loved! Yay for simple free museums that are very focused on their aim, especially regarding a part of the country that I was generally unfamiler with. Dunedin is a little different then the rest of the country, as a lot of their first settles were from Scotland and their accents are a little different as well. The other museum was Otago Museum which was also free but just a huge museum that covered so much. I arrived so late that I didn’t get to see everything, which was a little dissapointing. I still had half the walk to go after this museum, but it was late in the day and started to rain, so I just waited for the rain to clear before heading back for the day. All this took half a day, because I drove from Oamaru in the morning.
The next day I drove out to the Otago Peninsula. I stopped at New Zealand Marine Studies Centre & Aquarium which was interesting for sea life in the area. I liked the fact that it was run by the university and I think run by the students and therefore always changing. Birds and Albatross in particular are a huge deal out there and while I don’t care about birds all that much (give me something warm and fuzzy, like seals or sea lions any day!) I went on a cruise out on the water for an hour or so and it was pretty cool! On the way to catch the ferry, I drove along the water and there, for anyone to stop and approach, seal lions were lounging on the beach! It’s pretty amazing how close you can get to the animals in New Zealand. I also stayed out on the peninsuela as late as I could to watch the little blue penguins come ashore, but unlike the “show” in Oamaru it was very hard to see once it got dark. And having the guide yell at everyone to stop flashing pictures got very annoying very quickly (but then, so did the flashes). It was only slightly worth it, even for free. It makes Oamaru worth it, even for the cost.
The next, I was headed out, but I had two stops first. The first one was at the Speight’s Brewery because there is a tap of spring water outside that anyone can walk or drive up and fill their bottle with as the water runs 24/7 for free. I had to go and fill my bottles up before I left and it was yummy! Highly recommended. The second stop was at Baldwin Street, which is known as the steepest street in the world. I don’t know, I feel like I have seen steeper streets in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But nowhere else, but New Zealand would advertise something like this. It is kind of dangerous! People revving their cars to get to the top, imagine how many accidents something like this would have in the US! I parked at the bottom and walked it and I was pretty pooped by the time I got to the top. There is a nice bench and water fountain to take a break with and watch people try to run it and drive their cars up. I don’t know how I would feel to actually live on or near the street, with tourists on it all the time!
I came back through town a few days later on my way back from Invercargill to Akaroa and stayed at The Chalet, in the same room, I didn’t even have to request it! I arrived late and left early, and since I had already done most of the town, I didn’t go out and see anything except to fill up my bottles again and get coffee for the road at this super delicious place called The Strictly Coffee Company near the octagon and it was so good!! Highly recommend seeking this place out if in town.
Moral: In thinking about my time and travels in New Zealand, I think if I went back, I would try to settle in Dunedin. It’s not as big as Auckland and while I lovelovelove Akaroa, it’s just too small and Dunedin seems to be the perfect size. But then, ask me again when school is in session and kids are everywhere! But for one of the “bigger” New Zealand towns, I enjoyed myself a lot there and have only good things to say about it! It seems to be a mix of small town triditional New Zealand, but in one of their larger towns.