Day 30 – 3rd February 2020, Dunedin

Penguin sanctuary young one in rehab

After a slow steam down the coast from departure Akaroa yesterday, we were docked in Port Chalmers, the port for Dunedin, about 07:00. This is a scenic arrival, as the ship navigates the buoyed channel through the inlet, but on checking outside, I noted it was totally overcast, with very low clouds obscuring the shore. Therefore, no point heading out to watch the arrival.

Today we have a private tour, which starts with a drive through Dunedin, with multiple stops, followed by a drive around the Otago Peninsula viewing various birds, sea lions, penguins and albatross.

The camera shutter got a serious workout today, so my dilemma is how to pick only 30 or 40 photos for the blog out of almost 250. Well, I culled photos down to 66, so enjoy.


  • Tour type – Private tour
  • Vendor – Back to Nature Tours (
  • Name – Royal Peninsula Tour
  • Duration – 7.5 hrs
  • Summary – Small group tour that starts with a drive around Dunedin, with a few stops. You then head out to the Otago Peninsula visiting Larnack Castle, followed by extensive wildlife sightings – various birds, penguins, sea lions and royal albatross.

We departed the ship, walking around the docks to the passenger terminal, which is located between the 2 berths used for cruise ships. We met our guide (Ben) inside and once we had the 4 pax from our ship and 6 from the Golden Princess, we set off.

World's steepest street sign

World’s Steepest Street Sign

After a short drive from Port Chalmers, we entered Dunedin at the new multi-use stadium, then headed up Lovelock Ave to drive around the Botanical Gardens. Returning to the city down Cumberland St, we thought it was steep, but that wasn’t the steepest street.

Baldwin Street world's steepest street

Baldwin Street – World’s steepest street ???

The Dunedin founding fathers established a rigid layout of streets in a block pattern, which caused an issue with this street – either change the street direction, or go straight up the steep hill. They elected the latter, so Baldwin St is 19%, with one section reaching 23% elevation. A town in Wales has pestered Guinness Book of World Records (GBWR) saying their street is steeper, but they measure it differently. Within a week of Wales receiving the GBWR designation, Dunedin received a letter from Wales, requesting their signs be removed. Being of rather stubborn Scottish heritage, Dunedin gave the letter careful consideration, but as seen above, the signs remain.

Next stop on our Dunedin tour was the Otago University, where we parked and Ben walked us a short distance through the grounds.

University Leith River

Leith River running through the grounds

University registry and clocktower building 2

Registry and Clocktower Building

University Kiwi Christmas Tree

This tree is known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree, as it gets red flowers in December

Departing the university, it was a short drive to the Dunedin Railway Station, passing the old Cadbury factory enroute.

Old Cadbury building

Cadbury, with factory to the right

The locals tried to purchase the factory and had sufficient funds, but the company backed out of the deal. The grounds have now been purchased, with the factory being demolished for a new hospital.

Railway station panorama

Dunedin Railway Station

Completed in 1906, it was built from both light and dark stone, which gives the distinct look, common with other grand local buildings.

Railway station mosaic floor

Mosaic floor inside the main entrance

Railway station bulkhead

Intricate bulkheads surround the main entrance

Railway station Judi sitting on bench

Judi sitting on a bench in the main foyer

Departing the station, we headed down Wharf St, passing a couple of older buildings.

Dunedin Law Courts

Dunedin Law Courts

Dunedin old prison

HM Prison, where scoundrels used to reside at the pleasure of Her Majesty

Wharf Street became Portsmouth Dr as it rounded the end of the inlet, then climbed through housing sub-divisions on the Peninsula. The city council are very protective of urban sprawl consuming farming land, so have clear demarcation of city limits. It was very pronounced, as we drove through dense suburbs, then transitioned directly to farmland.

Otago farmer's warning for snowflakes

Ben showed us this sign – Brilliant!!!

On the peninsula, our first stop was Larnach Castle, which unfortunately due to the weather was mostly shrouded in low lying clouds.

Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle

Built in the 1870’s by William Larnach, a well known businessman and politician, who was actually a corrupt scoundrel. He took his own life, with the castle being sold shortly thereafter. It fell into disrepair, until purchased by the Barker family in 1967, renovating the castle extensively. As one of New Zealand’s few castles, it is now open daily as a tourist attraction.

Larnach Castle piper welcoming visitors off the bus 2

Piper welcomes passengers off each bus

Larnach Castle entrance

Entrance stairway

Larnach Castle cafe

Cafe where we stopped for tea and scones

Larnach Castle flowers

Flowers in the garden

Larnach Castle looking down Otago Inlet to Dunedin

Departing the castle we spotted a quick clearing in the clouds

The remainder of the tour would now focus on wildlife and I believe you will agree it most definitely didn’t disappoint. Our first viewing was of various birds, as we drove around Hooper’s Inlet.

Hoopers Inlet descending to the shore 3

Descending from the ridge to Hooper’s Inlet

The little white specks, seen above, are in fact sheep, lots of them. On my first trip to New Zealand in 1975, they had about 90 million sheep. We took 500,000 back to UK. However, today they only have about 30 million sheep, but produce more meat from less sheep, as the wool trade has contracted significantly.

Hooper's Inlet arrival

First views of Hooper’s Inlet

Hooper's Inlet 4

Hooper’s Inlet from the inshore wetlands looking towards the entrance

Now for the stars of the show – the various birds we spotted.

Hooper's Inlet white faced heron 4

White faced heron sitting atop a post

Hooper's Inlet white faced heron close-up

White faced heron close-up

Hooper's Inlet Royal Spoonbills

Two Royal Spoonbills with reflections

Hooper's Inlet Royal Spoonbills 2

Royal Spoonbills

Hooper's Inlet Pied Stilt 2

Pied Stilt strutting through the water

Hooper's Inlet Pied Stilt 4

Young Pied Stilt

Hooper's Inlet Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing with reflection

Hooper's Inlet Masked Lapwing 2

Masked lapwing

As an additional bonus, Ben continued right to the end of the inlet adjacent to the shoreline. We hopped over a stile, then walked about 400 yds to the beach. Approaching the beach, Ben put his arm out, shepherding us off to the side of the track, as a full grown sea lion was resting at the exit onto the beach.

Hooper's Inlet beach Sea Lion 2

Adult Sea Lion sleeping, but blocking path to the beach

Hooper's Inlet beach with sea lion pups

Hooper’s Inlet Beach with baby sea lions a couple of hundred yards away

Hooper's Inlet beach Sea Lion pup

Juvenile Sea Lion

Hooper's Inlet beach Sea Lion pups 5

The 3 juveniles were rough-housing

Hooper's Inlet beach Sea Lion pups 3

Juvenile Sea Lions

Back in the mini bus, we retraced our route about 1/2 way round the inlet before climbing back up to the ridge, then heading down to the other side. Next stop was Penguin Place, which is a privately operated sanctuary. The yellow eyed penguins live on the sanctuary, but they still go out to sea in search of food.

Penguin sanctuary sign

Penguin Place private conservation reserve

We drove into the reserve almost to the opposite side of the peninsula. Once parked we hiked down a couple sets of stairs.

Penguin Sanctuary stairs down to tunnel

Looking back up one of the sets of stairs we descended

Penguin sanctuary trench entrance

Covered trench to penguin viewing areas

On entering the trench system, they request everyone stays together and remains quiet, especially when viewing penguins from the “Hides”

Penguin sanctuary trench to viewing hide

Heading through the trench

Penguin sanctuary viewing hide

Penguin viewing hide

We could view the penguin and take photos through the missing board, but were requested not to put hands, lenses, etc through the viewing gap.

Penguin sanctuary yellow eye awake 2

Yellow eyed-penguin

Only 1 penguin was in view, so we retraced our steps out of the trench and hiked up to a lookout, passing a baby hiding under a tree. The adults were out at sea looking for food.

Penguin sanctuary baby penguin hiding under tree 6

Baby penguin hiding under a tree

Due to the distance and leaves, it was a challenge capturing the entire penguin, so these ones were the best shots. His face frequently was hidden by the leaf above, so timing on the shutter button was critical.

Penguin sanctuary baby penguin hiding under tree 5

Baby penguin

Penguin sanctuary beach from lookout 3

Penguin Place Beach

Penguin sanctuary Judi at the beach

Judi at Penguin Place Beach

Penguin sanctuary hide and access trench

One of the viewing hides and access trench 

On return to the mini-van, we returned to the entrance, where we visited the rehabilitation area, where they have multiple pens for young or invalid penguins. Enjoy photos of the baby penguins.

Penguin sanctuary young one in rehabPenguin sanctuary young one in rehab 8Penguin sanctuary young one in rehab 7Penguin sanctuary young one in rehab 5Penguin sanctuary young one in rehab 3Penguin sanctuary young one in rehab 2

Penguin sanctuary close-up 3Penguin sanctuary close-up 2Penguin sanctuary baby penguins 3Penguin sanctuary baby penguin

Penguin sanctuary baby penguin 3

Even when bottle fed, once released they have same survival rate as those raised by parents

Departing the Penguin Reserve, we headed to our final stop, the Royal Albatross Centre.

Albatross centre Judi and guide Ben returning

Royal Albatross Viewing Platform

Albatross centre albatros on cliff 4

Royal Albatross sitting on the cliff

Albatross centre albatros in flight 2

Royal Albatross in flight, unfortunately at considerable distance

Albatross centre boardwalk

Royal Albatross Viewing Platform

We enjoyed 15 minutes at the Royal Albatross Centre, as we had to depart for the return to the ship. Extensive road works are taking place, delaying us for about 10 minutes, but once through the road works,  Ben made good time, getting us to the terminal about 15 mins before all aboard.

This was an exceptional tour and if you are in Dunedin, I highly recommend trying Back to Nature Tours.

Shuttle Bus

Viking provided a complimentary shuttle service to Dunedin from Port Chalmers. The shuttle bus departed from the bottom of the gangway.  Not sure of the frequency or where it took you in Dunedin.


6 thoughts on “Day 30 – 3rd February 2020, Dunedin

  1. HaHa, isn’t that the truth. Having to go ashore in full uniform, us poor Otaio cadets got blamed for everything.

    Unfortunately, we only returned 15 mins before all aboard, so no time to visit some of the local refreshment purveyors ashore, that I frequented back in 1975.


    • Thanks Ingrid – It was amazing. I had the regular lens on one body and the doubled 200 on the other, switching back and forward to get the best shots. Amazing experience, definitely the best tour so far.

      Yes, hard to imagine that we have been aboard for 30 days already. Only 3 months left and we arrive in Australia Feb 7th.

      Liked by 1 person

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