This is a little out-dated, since Nugget has already been born and is already OVER one month old at the time of this posting, but nonetheless, enjoy reading about part 2 of our BABYmoon. I’ll post again soon with updates about the wee sprout!
After a tour of the Coromandel on the first half of our ‘BABY’moon, we spent Christmas in Christchurch with friends, and then quickly ventured south for New Years Eve. We had heard a lot about the Catlins National Park, and had never been to Dunedin before…those were reasons enough to plan our next adventure.
This was our first time driving down the eastern seaboard of New Zealand. Typically, our road trips take us inland as we chase the Southern Alps in all their glory. But the eastern coast has a few surprises of its own that are well worth checking out, if you have the time.
After 3.5 hours of driving, we arrived at our first destination: the Moeraki Boulders. These large spherical stones are scattered along the beach, after many years of sea erosion on the shoreline caused them to surface from the shore’s sediment. Some weigh several tons and are up to 3 meters in diameter! New Zealand Maori legend explains that the stones are the remains of eel baskets washed ashore from the legendary canoe that brought Maori ancestors to the South Island, before wrecking at nearby Shag Point.
After a delicious fish n’ chips lunch overlooking the ocean, and after stopping at a yellow-eyed penguin nesting point (with little luck at spotting many), we were on the road again, headed for Dunedin.
One wonderful thing about New Zealand summer is the gloriously long daylight. So, despite another hour in the car, we still had plenty of time to tour the town. Dunedin was one of the first settled areas in New Zealand, as the harbour and surrounding bays attracted whalers and made access by sea easier. Now it is known for its gorgeous Edwardian/Victorian architecture, as well as a ‘college town’ for Otago University students. The beautiful stone buildings reminded us of what Christchurch used to look like, before the earthquake.
One of the many beautiful bays/harbours outside Dunedin
We spent the afternoon walking the steep trail down to Tunnel Beach. The picturesque cliffs drop off into the ocean, and huge waves crash against the shoreline, forming arches and caves. The story is that the actual tunnel leading down to the private, and otherwise inaccessible beach, was created by John Cargill in the 1800s for his daughter. Not a bad tree-fort/hideaway if you ask me!
Careful on that edge there, Evan!
We enjoyed the remainder of our evening exploring Dunedin, and ringing in the New Year!
Our second day in Dunedin enabled us to explore the city further, visit the First Church of Otago, and tour Lanarch Castle (the only castle in New Zealand).
The steepest street in the world was a little too much for 24-week pregnant Morgan to walk in its entirety
The First Church of Otago
One of Dunedin’s most famous buildings: The Old Train Station
Lanarch Castle is the only castle in all of New Zealand. The castle was built as a private residence by William Lanarch for his family in the late 1800s. Materials were imported from all over the world to create this structure. The gardens around it were just as impressive as the views overlooking the harbour from atop the home. Despite the beautiful castle left behind, the Lanarch family’s story has a very sad history. It just goes to show that money can’t buy happiness, health, or fidelity.
Lanarch Castle facade (above left); view of the harbour from the garden (above right)
From atop of the castle, looking out onto the many harbours that surround Dunedin (below)
We farewelled beautiful Dunedin and headed further south toward the Catlins National Park. We detoured to Nugget Point, one of the most iconic landmarks in the Catlins. We were tickled at the idea of taking our Nugget to Nugget Point.
The lighthouse on Nugget Point was built in 1869 to warn ships of the dangerous rocky islets surrounding the peninsular outcropping. The islets (Nuggets) are home to many seabirds, penguins and fur seals. What a great way to spend the first day of 2016!
We spent our final day in the Catlins venturing through bush walks, waterfalls, the Cathedral Caves, Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay.
Matai Falls (above left); McLean Falls (center and right)
Cathedral Caves rank in the top 30 of the longest sea caves in the world and can reach up to 30 meters high. After walking down a 30 minute trail to Waipati Beach, we had to walk alongside cliffs and through crashing waves to find the entrance to the caves. We managed to make it to the entrance without getting too wet, but we weren’t as lucky on way back to the beach. Oh well, each adventure has its own risk.
Inside the Cathedral Caves
Porpoise Bay has a pod of resident hector dolphins that we were lucky enough to spot! Evan even had the courage to wade into the 16 C (60 F) water to swim with these playful visitors.
Adjacent to Porpoise Bay is Curio Bay. Curio Bay contains a petrified forest and is home to about 8 of the world’s most rare penguins: the yellow-eyed penguins. In fact, Curio Bay is one of the few places in the world where you can get close to these wild animals, in their natural habitat. We were incredibly lucky to spot one of these penguins along the shoreline before dusk, waiting for its mate to come in from a long day of fishing.
We had a long journey back; Curio Bay is pretty far from Christchurch! But it was a great trip and we loved seeing a new corner of New Zealand.
It’s crazy to think that next time we road trip through the country, we’ll have another Forester in tow!