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Outdoors

Otago Peninsula top 11 things to do

  • 5 minutes

Location map and tips what to do nearby

Explore, experience and enjoy Otago Peninsula attractions. Relish the chance to get up front and personal with the endangered Royal Albatross. Be captivated by the elegance of a Victorian era garden with Larnach Castle as a showpiece. Find out what’s at the harbour mouth, Aramoana salt marsh, where sea lions lounge on the artificially constructed Mole (ocean barrier) and fossick for sea shells on isolated beaches.

Explore Port Chalmers with its contemporary busy industrial port and historic buildings. Think about catching a ferry to Quarantine Island, a tantalising glimpse into the past.

Otago Peninsula is home to several well known private wildlife sanctuaries for yellow-eyed penguins and little blue penguins as well as a significant repository of ancient native forest at Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

WHERE IS THE OTAGO PENINSULA?

The Otago Peninsula, Dunedin is situated on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

OTAGO PENINSULA TOP SIGHTS LOCATION MAP

  1. Royal Albatross Colony

A stupendous wing span and solid body is ungainly on land yet the streamlined majesty of flight is uplifting to watch. The albatross viewing observatory is helpfully protected from the elements with extensive windows. Though the brisk wind buffets the window you are cosy inside.

The albatross take to the skies using the cliff face, the prevailing wind direction and their body strength to launch themselves in search of food for hungry chicks. Devoted parents share custody of the fluffy chicks ensuring their offspring are monitored and cared for.

The Royal Albatross Centre is a polished visitor experience with a detailed chronology of the albatross’s life and the perils facing these magnificent ocean birds. There is a well stocked visitor gift shop and adjoining cafe.

The Royal Albatross Observatory is only accessible via a guided tour. The guided tour is packed with amusing stories interspersed with a serious conservation message about the plight of the 3 metre wingspan soaring ambassadors of the oceans.

A MUST-GO WILDLIFE AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND ATTRACTION

Royal Albatross near Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand.
Royal Albatross near Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand.
INTERESTING FACT

The Royal Albatross Centre is the location for a slice of NZ military history, complete with a disappearing gun… find out more when you visit the albatross

In the breeding season check out the live cam Royal Cam: Royal albatross/toroa

… read more about FAQ and interesting facts Royal Albatross Centre.

 

  1. Penguin Place

Harington Point, Portobello, Penguin Place Pakihau Road, Otago, New Zealand @veraw04ng
Harington Point, Portobello, Penguin Place Pakihau Road @veraw04ng

Join a tour of Penguin Place and listen to dedicated volunteers and staff explain the issues involved in predator control, rehabilitation of sick, starving or injured yellow-eyed penguins. Visitors touring the site fund the conservation programme.

  1. Pukekura – Little Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins Pukekura offer visitors a glimpse into the daily routine of Little Blue Penguins. Observe from a purpose built viewing platform penguins waddling home to their nests. It’s fascinating watching the tiny Kororā, the world’s smallest penguin, emerging from the sea at dusk at Takiharuru/Pilots Beach, on the end of the Otago Peninsula. Tours include information on the penguins, plants, other wildlife and Māori history. Blue Penguins, Pukekura guarantee to see penguins! Restoration work on site to protect the land and the penguins is solely funded by revenue generated by our tours.

The tour starts from within the royal albatross centre situated at the end of the Otago Peninsula at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. Getting to Blue Penguins Pukekura is easy. Drive yourself, and allow 60 minutes from Central Dunedin. Please check in within the centre 15 minutes prior to the tour start time.

@PukekuraPenguins
@PukekuraPenguins
  1. Lizards & Native Eco-Sanctuary Reserve

@OrokonuiEcosanctuary
@OrokonuiEcosanctuary

Orokonui Ecosanctuary is home to native tuatara (survivors of the dinosaur era) and numerous native birds. There are various tracks through native forest. Visitors have the option of self-guided or guided forest tours. Highlights include opportunities to view tuatara, Otago Skinks and bird species korimako, tūī, and kākā. Guides will share their knowledge of Orokonui’s history, its conservation stories, and discuss any taoka (treasured) native species you encounter along the way. The guided tour finishes at our viewing platform, amongst ancient podocarp/broadleaf forest.

TIP

Wildlife encounters can be wrapped around a guided tour organised by Elm Wildlife Tours or Monarch Wildlife Cruises & Tours. Catch a boat and cruise the harbour with prime water side views of the harbour, Royal Albatross colony, ocean birds swooping in to feed the nutrient rich harbour waters, sea lions and dolphins resting on shore. The one hour cruises depart from Wellers Rock Wharf (Otago Peninsula) are the most popular tour option offered by Monarch Wildlife Cruises & Tours. Check Monarch for other tour options and pick up details for visitors staying in Dunedin.

INTERESTING FACT

The Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin, is a veterinary facility specialising exclusively in the treatment of New Zealand’s native species. The services include receiving sick and injured animals, diagnosis and triage, treatment, hospitalisation and recovery, and working to ensure successful rehabilitation and release back to the native environment.

CAN YOU VISIT THE WILDLIFE HOSPITAL, DUNEDIN?

At the moment the Wildlife Hospital is not open to visitors. The hospital is largely managed by volunteers whose precious time is spent with its wildlife patients. Check out the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital for ways to support the wildlife hospital. Make a donation or purchase a T-shirt.

@Dunedinwildlifehospital
@Dunedinwildlifehospital
TIP

Need a coffee or meal while exploring the Otago Peninsula check out Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel. The character hotel is great for a coffee. Enjoy a house speciality, pub fish n chips. Fish in all its glorious cooked forms. Standing the test of time the hotel no longer has accommodation but is still a truly Victorian pub with an excellent reputation for fresh locally sourced ingredients and friendly old fashioned hospitality. At peak times forward bookings for meals is recommended.

Port Chalmers with the distinctive spire of Iona Church in foreground, Otago, New Zealand
Port Chalmers with the distinctive spire of Iona Church in foreground

CYCLING ENTHUSIASTS

Check out Dunedin Cycling Trip from Port Chalmers to Aramoana Spit – Best Bits.

Most enthusiasts choose to go out on the low road and come back along the high road. For mountain bikers, the dirt roads around the inlets are great for chasing away cobwebs.

  1. Port Chalmers

A gritty functional industrial port is surprisingly layered with historic highlights. Port Chalmers has an assortment of galleries, second hand clothing stores, collectables and vintage objects, cafes and boutique stores located in nineteenth century buildings. The category 2 heritage rating shop facades next to the Bank of New Zealand building are a contrast between a busy container port, the world of shipping and sailors. Yet the contrast is part and parcel of the story of Port Chalmers.

… read more about what to see and do in Port Chalmers, Otago Peninsula.

The downtown of Port Chalmers, the suburb of Dunedin city (New Zealand).
The downtown of Port Chalmers
  1. Taiaroa Head Lighthouse

Otago Peninsula Taiaroa Heads overlooking Aramoana and harbour entrance, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Otago Peninsula Taiaroa Heads overlooking Aramoana and harbour entrance

Taiaroa Head is a breathtaking headland on the Otago Peninsula that has gathered global attention for its remarkable conservation pursuits. Not only is Taiaroa Head home to the world’s only royal albatross mainland breeding colony, it is also a place where New Zealand travellers can get up close to a number of endangered seabirds and native marine wildlife. Guided tours around the headland and its Royal Albatross Centre will enable you to see the area’s celebrated birds as well as little penguins, fur seals, Stewart Island shags and yellow-eyed penguins.

  1. Portobello seaside village

Visit a seaside village with a strong community spirit. Portobello is a convenient stop on the way to Taiaroa Head and Royal Albatross. Renowned scientific Portobello Marine Laboratory, under the auspices of Otago University adds to the interesting mix of local residents from scientists to local artisans. Check out the galleries and in need of a coffee break the local pub is a great place to stop. For more information check out What’s so great about Portobello.

Portobello, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin, New Zealand @Ulrich Lange
Portobello, Otago Peninsula @Ulrich Lange
NOTE

Happy Hens shop, an Otago tourist souvenir which has become a local icon due to the vivid hand-painted ceramics and wooden chickens is now solely available on hand and Dunedin city souvenir gift shops.

  1. Otago Peninsula Museum

The Otago Peninsula Museum was started by local people in 1974, with a small room in the Portobello Coronation Hall used to display photographs and historical items.

Otago Peninsula Museum, New Zealand @Portobello Community
Otago Peninsula Museum @Portobello Community

In 1986 the Museum was opened in its present site. The main office building and display room was built and an original  settler’s cottage from Portobello was  donated. A replica barn was built to house farm machinery and equipment collected from locals and the surrounding countryside.

Highlights:

  • A Peninsula Motor Service bus cab
  • The Cape Saunders lighthouse lantern room
  • The old local jail
  • The radar room from Taiaroa Head
  • Local ANZAC memorial rock
  • A cannon found at Harington Point

The Museum also collects local family histories and genealogies as well as photographs relating to the Otago Peninsula and its families.

  1. Glenfalloch Gardens and Restaurant

Glenfalloch is a private garden and chalet restaurant in Macandrew Bay. The original Glenfalloch Gardens date back to 1871 when George Ray Russell purchased the 100-acre block of land and planted an impressive assortment of Radiata Pine trees before heading back to his motherland, England, in 1900. Glenfalloch has been under the care of the Otago Peninsula Trust, a private charity focused on preserving the region, since the late 1960s; these days, the Woodland Gardens feature an extensive collection of native ferns, exotic flowers and indigenous trees that showcase the area’s rich botanical history.

Glenfalloch Gardens is part of the Dunedin Gardens & Parks series.

Glenfalloch Garden Restaurant, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Glenfalloch Garden Restaurant
  1. Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle entrance night views, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Larnach Castle entrance night views

Larnach Castle has a superb gift shop with excellent NZ sourced souvenirs and collectables. The interior of Larnach Castle is stocked to the rafters with Victorian embellishments and original pieces from the mid 19th century… read more about Larnach Castle one of Dunedin & Otago Peninsula top sights.

  1. Walk on the wild side – Otago Peninsula

Remote beaches, possibility of wildlife (seals and sea lions) and panoramic views of the Otago coastline offer visitors the chance to get outdoors and enjoy the spectacular Otago Peninsula.

Walk to Sandfly Bay and combine coastal views with wildlife viewing – kids will love the sand dunes and can earn a Kiwi Guardians medal here too. Take a stroll down the path through farmland to the viewing platform. Enjoy the breath-taking views of Sandfly Bay, the coastline and the wild ocean. Continue down the track which progresses down the sandhill on to the beach. Take care as erosion can damage the sandhill making some parts difficult to walk.

Sandfly Bay, Beach Paradise South Island New Zealand
Sandyfly Bay
Victory Beach, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand @Hiking the World
Victory Beach @Hiking the World

The key highlights of Victory Beach are the basalt volcanic rock pyramids. The pyramids are named for their incredibly symmetrical shape echoing shades of Egyptian ancient architecture. From the Pyramids you can continue up the surrounding dunes to soak in the panoramic views and perhaps observe sun bathing fur seals.

BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE

Best Bits travel guide is published by nzjane.com. Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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