Beautiful scenery and a brewery

Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
Trip End Jul 07, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, May 28, 2009

On arrival in Dunedin we checked into a lovely hostel (they are so much better here than in Australia), had dinner and went to bed, hoping not to meet the resident ghost!

The next day was another beautiful day. We had intended to visit the Cadbury Factory, but it was closed, so instead we walked to the historic train station to admire the architecture, stained glass and mosaic floor. We also booked tickets for a scenic train trip. We then went to the church to have a look, followed by the pretty cathedral. Dunedin has a lot of Scottish influence, so I bought some Scottish shortbread. Then we returned to the station to take our seats on the Taieri Gorge Railway. On a lovely old train we journeyed for over 2 hours through farms, rolling hills, fields, and across rivers to a stunning gorge cut deep into the rock. There was not a house to be seen, just trees, rock and river. It was beautiful, especially with the Autumn colours. We got off the train a couple of times to take photos, and we travelled through the gorge for over an hour to Pukerangi, where we stopped for 15 minutes. From there we could see the snow-covered peaks of the mountains of central New Zealand. After taking too many photos, the train took the same route back. I had hot chocolate and Scottish shortbread on the way. Back in Dunedin we headed for Speight's Brewery. We were told about the history of the brewery, shown how the beer was made, shown the large copper vats on the brewery floor and finally given a taste of 6 different Speight's beers. Speight's is a south island beer, and they love it! David liked the dark ales but I preferred the pale ale and Speight's Gold. We could pull the drinks ourselves, which is easier said than done. I would be no good as a bar maid because I got loads of froth in my beer. We had 30 minutes of unlimited tasting, and we had not eaten, so by the end we were quite tipsy. We still went to the supermarket and cooked dinner though.

The next day we drove to the Otago Peninsula, just outside the city. We drove along the coastal road, giving us great views of the twinkling bay, green hills and cliffs ahead. Out first stop was a woodland garden, which was covered in Autumn leaves and had great views over the bay to the hills beyond. We then headed further round to Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle. It wasn't a castle by English standards, more of a stately home, but it was very pretty. It is on the top of a hill, overlooking the sea, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens.First we looked around the castle and learned about the history of the Larnach family, which involved money, affairs and suicide. The house was beautifully decorated with carved wooden ceilings and ornate furniture. We climbed to the top of the tower, which gave us yet more stunning views over the twinkling sea and green hills. We walked around the gardens, among the pretty flowers, pausing to take endless photos of the scenery. I know I keep going on about it, but it was so pretty! We had free tea and coffee with our scones and jam in the cafe before heading off to the tip of the peninsula at Taiaroa Head. We accidentally went the wrong way and ended up on the cliff top road, giving us even better views out to sea, with cliffs, rocks and huge waves on one side, and a quiet harbour on the other. At Taiaroa we ate our sandwiches looking over the sea from the top of a cliff. We then went to catch a wildlife cruise which took us into the harbour, past blue penguins, sea lions, a seal colony, many birds, albatross chicks sitting on top of the cliffs and then out to sea. There we saw large numbers of huge albatrosses fighting over fish, swimming, squawking and flying. They are huge - their wingspan is up to 3m. It was wonderful to see all the wildlife (and the beautiful coastline) so close up. After the cruise we went to the yellow-eyed penguin colony. It is not the best time of year to see them, so in 2 hours we saw only 3 penguins (and 2 seals), but it was still lovely to see them in the wild. Two of them were very close to us, so we could see their yellow strip. we also visited the penguin hospital, where its 3 resident penguins looked at us suspiciously. Two were there for malnourishment and one had a bad foot. By now it was dark so we returned to Dunedin and cooked dinner.

The next day we left Dunedin for Invercargill.
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