The bright lights of Dunedin, from Otago Peninsula. © Dunedin NZ

Otago Peninsula road trip: wildlife and wild history


View the map

TAP FOR MORE INFO:

Family squabbles, love affairs and bitter accusations – sounds like the plot of a soap opera. But within the stone walls of Otago Peninsula’s Larnach Castle, it was a reality.   

The history and stories of the castle are fascinating. 

From original owner William Larnach and his six children losing their wife and mother, Eliza, when she died at 38, to William remarrying Eliza’s sister Mary, and then Constance, a much younger woman when Mary died, coincidently also aged 38. 

On the frosty drive south to Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is my first port of call. 

Fresh snow has fallen the day I arrive. Mountains and treetops shimmer under a dusting of white powder. In the stillness, tūī are chatting away at full throttle. Two resident ducks have a chilly dip in a fountain pond. The horn of a ship in the harbour blasts in the distance.

The following morning dawns clear – what the locals call Dunner Stunner – and I’ve heard the walk to Lovers Leap is the place to be on days like this. I take the scenic route through Broad Bay. 

Hoopers Inlet Road is a thin track tracing the harbour’s edge like a delicate ribbon. Pale yellow sunlight filters through the car windows and warms up the winter morning. 

The silky water is a millpond today, and black swans fishing for breakfast cast silhouettes across the mud flats. 

Winding higher towards Lovers Leap, a fork in the road confuses me. I pull over and ask a farmer for directions. I just need to keep driving straight, he tells me, but there’s a small problem: his cows are being moved to a neighbouring paddock and are on the road. 

I smile as I slowly follow the hundred-odd herd of cattle. ‘You know you’re not in the city, when…’ 

Tussock-clad hills frame dramatic ocean vistas and pools of emerald waters hug the curved coastline. The pay off for a half-hour walk is spectacular: the plunging cliffs and moody seas at Lovers Leap. If it wasn’t for a rumbling tummy and a craving for coffee, I could happily perch and look at the ocean all day.

Let's start seeking for adventures in this beautiful place😍🇳🇿

A post shared by Rita Giannelli 🦄 (@just.a.foodie) on Feb 8, 2017 at 10:43am PST

At Penguin Café in Portobello, I settle onto the sunny front porch with a homemade pie and hot drink. Afterwards, Portobello village provides visual sustenance with galleries of handcrafted jewellery and beautiful art.

The Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head, the pointy end of Otago Peninsula, is where you’ll find the world’s only mainland royal albatross breeding colony. 

I keep a look out while strolling Pilots Beach, but don’t see any today. There are hundreds of kekeno, New Zealand fur seals blobbing on rocks, though and a blue penguin huddled away from the harsh winds. 

Dusk has set in as I re-trace my route back down the peninsula. Along the water’s edge past brightly painted bus shelters and private boat sheds with rickety jetties. 

Explore more…


Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Heritage and history

Larnach Castle: a vision of past and present

Larnach Castle stands proud and bold on the highest point of the entire Otago Peninsula. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Natural attractions

Otago Peninsula: catching the wind

Otago Peninsula is the ruins of a gutted volcano, an eroded pudding of lava that cradles in its arms the glorious Otago Harbour. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Natural attractions

Otago Peninsula: prodigious wildlife and a bona fide castle

If ever you should tire of the splendours of Dunedin, explore the Otago Peninsula, extending from the city to the northeast, to the southern headland of the entrance to the harbour. Read the story . . . 

Dunedin District Where to stay in

4.2 /5
From $130
4.2 /5
97 Motel Moray Place Visit website

Convenience…..Comfort…..Affordability 97 Motel Moray is the closest motel complex to the Octagon, the centre of Dunedin City, surrounded by great city shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars. . . . More . . . 

From $130

Book now

Book now

3.9 /5
From $120
3.9 /5
Woodlands Motels & Apartments Visit website

Adjacent to Otago University, near hospital, museum, Botanic Gardens, shops, cafes and bars. Fast food outlets close by. Self-contained (full kitchen). Free wi-fi throughout the property. . . . More . . . 

From $120

Book now

Book now

4.7 /5
From $115
4.7 /5
Best Price Around
Mosgiel Regency Motel Visit website

Welcome to our 16 very comfortable, spacious ground-level units. Conveniently located on main street, and just a 15-minute drive to the airport or Dunedin city . . . More . . . 

From $115

Book now

Book now

From $135
The Victoria Hotel Visit website

Kia ora, Welcome to the Victoria Hotel. We are located in the heart of Central Dunedin, minutes walk away from the city's attractions, shops and businesses. . . . More . . . 

From $135