Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt

Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Portobello

  • 4 minutes

Portobello, Otago

Portobello there are plenty of things to do. Portobello’s local pub is a chance to slow down after the winding coast road from Dunedin. Take in the Otago harbour views from the jetty. Cycling buffs can enjoy a Port to Portobello ferry ride.

The downtown of Port Chalmers, the suburb of Dunedin city (New Zealand).
The downtown of Port Chalmers

Highlights, best things to do in Portobello

  • Otago Peninsula Museum. A place where dedicated volunteers have imbued Portobello visitors connections to the past.
  • Scenic Ferry Cruises between Portobello, Port Chalmers and across Otago Harbour with cycle ferry. Cross Otago Harbour with a ferry transfer on Port To Port Cruises & Wildlife Tours’ boat MV Sootychaser. Whether you’re visiting cafes, picnicking at Back Beach, visiting local sites or just want to go for a cruise.
  • Relax on the jetty and observe the bird life. Keep your eyes peeled for whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins, mollymawks and the Royal Albatross.
  • What to do nearby: Royal Albatross Centre, a definitive must-go destination for visitors to the Otago Peninsula
  • What to do nearby: Larnach Castle is a top Otago Peninsula attraction

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. 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.

Recent additions include:

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

The Museum also collects local family histories and genealogies as well as photographs relating to the Otago Peninsula and its families. In 2012 the Museum wrote a book “Portobello – A Brief History” and this was reprinted in 2013.  This is a fascinating account of the history of the Portobello community and its early beginnings as a settlement in 1840. With a range of historic photographs of places, houses and people this local history is a must for genealogists and those interested in this historic area.

Otago Peninsula Museum – Portobello Community

CHECK FOR OPENING HOURS to avoid disappointment.

Social media presence

@Portobello Hotel & Bistro
@Portobello Hotel & Bistro

Where to take a great selfie in Portobello

  • Aquarium Rd end and view the harbour, Quarantine Island and watch the boats and container vessels Look upwards for the occasional Royal Albatross
  • Jetty with yourself dive bombing off the floating pontoon
  • Nearby Broad Bay and Macandrew Bay with their heritage boat houses
  • Pub brunch / lunch in the The Portobello Hotel & Bistro
@Happy Hens
@Happy Hens

Portobello’s fame

  • In 1840, Otakou Marae was one of three places Waitangi Treaty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi was ratified by local chiefs
  • Portobello – Happy Hens originated in Portobello and for many years was the principle retail outlet. After 30 years, Happy Hens Dunedin Icon Store, at Portobello, has now closed but available online.

Portobello’s notoriety

  • Loss of habitat Te Rauone Beach Coast Care. Te Rauone Beach is suffering from severe erosion. The beach and foreshore has been a place of arrivals and departures forever.

What is the meaning of the name, Portobello, Otago Peninsula?

  • European wars between Spain and England in the 17th century… Scotland, near Edinburgh has a settlement named after the victorious Porto Bello campaign. Scottish settler William Christie in 1840, brought the name to Aotearoa New Zealand when he settled on the Otago Peninsula.

Porto Bello, a battle to defend the slur on an English captain when his ear was cut off.


Getting to Portobello, Otago Peninsula?

There are two driving routes from Dunedin. The well surfaced yet winding coastal Portobello Road or scenic ridge line route, Highcliff Road. Port to Portobello ferry offers an alternative harbour crossing connection from Port Chalmers.

Portobello’s festivals

  • Portobello Back Paddock Pursuit Get wet and muddy slipping and sliding down improvised chutes in farm paddocks. The event is irregular due to difficulty supervising safety during the even.
  • Portobello Blues Fest is now Otago Blues & Roots (Formerly Portobello Blues Festival) evolved from Portobello blues and roots after Covid 19 scuppered plans for the festival’s relaunch in 2020.
@Portobello Paddock Pursuit
@Portobello Paddock Pursuit

What keeps Portobello ticking?

  • Tourism and science with Otago University Marine Laboratory
  • Boating … A place for Dunedin and Otago Peninsula locals to go boating on the harbour. The Boating Club owns the remnants of the ferry jetty and a slipway a short distance from the centre of the village. In the past, Portobello residents caught the ferry to the city, before the Portobello Road along the foreshore was constructed. Portobello Pontoon in Latham Bay.
The view of Dunedin city suburb Port Chalmers with Portobello village on the other side of Otago Harbour New Zealand
The view of Dunedin city suburb Port Chalmers with Portobello village on the other side of Otago Harbour

45°50.3S 170°38.7’E (An excellent pontoon now that the leaks have been repaired. Depth at low water is about 1 m but varies depending on neaps or springs. With a draft of 1.7m a yacht can lie alongside from half tide on the flood to half tide on the ebb. Springs or neap half tides are always the same depth. Best to come alongside the port side too. The wind and tide can be tricky. A notice board informs you how many boats can be secured to the pontoon and for how long but it looks pretty strong to me. Other boats can anchor nearby with the same tidal limitations).

Careys Bay to Portobello Pontoon 3.0nm

Source Otago Harbour Anchorages – Otago Yacht Club IncOtago Yacht Club Inc.

Portobello’s population

  • 1,158 (2018 Portobello – Broad Bay area)

Judgment on Portobello

  • Portobello is a hidden surprise on the Otago Peninsula. Visit and find out why.

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Dunedin Travel Guide nearby attractions and events.




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


Our editors independently visit tour operators, purchase tickets, pay for accommodation, and rate products and places. We are not paid to go on a tour or visit a place. We only make money if you decide to purchase a product through our website links. We promise to never accept free products from manufacturers in return for boosting their products. Read more about our affiliate programme in the terms and conditions HERE.

Related articles


If you have a query about content, travel deals or anything else, our team is happy to answer all your questions 🙂

    Your information is secure, no third party involved.
    100% Safe, secure, privacy guaranteed. Privacy Policy.