Dunedin is not a sunny place, but having said that, it is quite possible that the Scottish Farmers that were the founding fathers of the city probably thought it was in comparison to what they left behind in Britain. To put this in perspective when you are planning your trip, the average maximum temperature in January is 18.9 degrees Celsius where as Sydney (also in the Southern Hemisphere) has an average maximum of 25.9 for January. Trust me, this is not a place you plan on visiting for a beach holiday
But here in lies a certain amount of contradiction. The photo below is taken at a beach on the eastern side of the Otago Peninsular. During my first visit I sat on a log eating my lunch, the warm sunshine super heating me through my jeans (it was November and the only sunny day during my three days in Dunedin (the other two being drizzly and cool) and I was overwhelmed, as I often am, by the desire to swim. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t been in the ocean for a few weeks or the beach looked so much like home that I just had to try it.
After changing in to my swimmers I made my way down to the shore, the squeaky alabaster sand ran through my toes as I walked. The same clear blue Pacific Ocean water that I had known for most of my life rolled in lovely shore breakers towards me, I was feeling very positive.
When the first wave touched my toes it was a bit of a shock. Like little needles really and very, very, sharp ones at that. By the time the water had reached my calves I think my legs were about to change from fire red to vivid purple and I ran from the water just like all the “cold-a-phobes” I’d always bemoaned. I did eventually manage to get to the point of lying in the water, but the moment the wave rolled over my back I was out of there, never to return.
But the Otago Peninsular is a visually splendid place. The road hugs high cliffs most of the way around and presents amazing, “to die for”views, which doesn’t take too much imagination to believe to be quite possible. Such is the height of the hills on the peninsular, one minute you can be driving along admiring the view and the next thing you are driving through low-lying cloud as thick as any London pea soup fog.
Things were no different on my second visit to Dunedin. The gothic nature of many of the churches and other buildings seems extremely fitting in respect to the weather. Otago stone is a renowned building material in New Zealand and has been used extensively in and around Dunedin giving the entire city a solid, stoic feeling. One of the best things to do really is looking at the architecture, built on incredibly steep hills this can be quite a physically demanding thing to do, but fantastic “old everything” is everywhere.
If you like good food, make sure your visit includes a Saturday. The farmers market held at the world famous train station (also made out of Otago stone) is an awesome place for breakfast. You also have the chance to wander round the station, which really does deserve its notoriety. My second visit also coincided with the Thieves Alley Market, which sees the Octagon (centre of the Dunedin CBD) and surrounding streets closed for the day. On this particular day many of the Artisans from Christchurch were there and it made a fabulous market.
I stayed in the Manor House Backpackers on my first visit and it was fine, great old house close to the Octagon. Unlike the place I am too embarrassed to mention (Penny Backpackers) on my second trip and would advise you to avoid like the plague. One of my fondest moments for the first trip was watching “500 Days of Summer” with an American Girl, two German Girls and a Chinese Student at The Manor House. The American and I may have been the only ones laughing but you knew the other girls got it they just weren’t as loud as us.
I have watched that movie many times since then and I always think of Dunedin. It helped me realise that a good chick flick can break down even the biggest language barrier.
Tips and Extras
• Port Chalmers, where the cruise boats dock has some interesting quirky shops and is a nice drive, well worth the trip, and good coffee.
• Also visit the entrance to Port Otago
• The Otago Gallery in the Octagon is great art gallery.
• Dunedin has the best op shops