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Exploring New Zealand’s stunning Otago Peninsula

Leaving the mountains of Queenstown behind Andres and I drove four hours East through quaint hamlets, stopping at historic pubs to fill up on hearty pub grub, and all the way to the coast of Dunedin.

The intense colours of Autumn faded as we got closer to the sea, replaced by lush green hills, soggy sheep and salty winds. The landscape reminded me so much of Ireland that I soon found myself hankering for a warming dark ale and a plate of battered fish with some kind of potato.

The Otago Peninsula was just the change of scene we were looking for. It’s very underpopulated considering it sits right next to a major city – just a narrow road winds around the coastline, hiking trails take you to rocky coves and cliffs, unpaved roads take you to deserted beaches and farmland inhabited by docile sheep make up all the other beautiful bits in between.

We arrived to wild and windy weather, booked in to a traditional seaside cottage and set out to find as many of the local creatures we could find. Along the way we took a hike to Lovers Leap through a beautiful tree lined wood, stopped for seafood chowder out of the rain and then ignored the map, following farm lanes and goat trails wherever they took us.

Because of it’s location, the peninsula is home to a huge number of fur seals, sea lions, albatross and penguins – so much so that people call it the wildlife capital of New Zealand. We were determined to see as many animals as we could without paying for any of the pricey tours.

With sideways rain pelting at us we knew that it was great weather to find some seals – it seems the gloomier and colder the season the more inclined they are to come ashore. So we took a steep hike down to a place called Sandfly Bay; considering the beach is inaccessible by road with a difficult soft sand climb all the way back up we figured we’d have the place to ourselves. Sure enough, the sweaty hike back up was challenging, but seeing the local seals was completely worth it!

Technically you should keep as much distance as possible when you see a colony of fur seals but they look so sleepy and cute it’s hard not to slowly edge closer, that is until you smell them and they realise you are there, jumping in to action with a large scary bellow. They may be small but somehow they do a great job of  intimidating you when they put their lungs in to it.

We weren’t patient enough to sit in the cold as the sun set and wait for the penguins to waddle in from the beach and we didn’t see any of the huge gliding albatross, but the fur seals and one sleepy sea lion stole the show, and momentarily our hearts!


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There are 4 Comments to "Exploring New Zealand’s stunning Otago Peninsula"

  • Your photos are just stunning…I especially like the one of the seal roaring.
    I know what you mean about wildlife…we were once up at Mission Beach and got too close to a cassowary…what looks regal and beautiful at a distance has far too big of a beak and scary talons up close!

  • Hi Kris, this post is making me ‘home’-sick. I’m too scared to get that close to the sea lions but Patrick doesn’t hesitate. The ‘risk’ makes for great photos though. Everything about the drive from Queenstown to Dunedin is so dreamy…I’m looking forward to going back and being someone who lives there opposed to someone who visits frequently xoxox

  • Erica says:

    Beautiful photographs , would love to go one day

  • kris says:

    Thanks so much ladies – glad you love the images – photography is definitely a growing passion – animal resistance and all! Hearing you on the scariness of cassowaries Mother Down Under – those creatures really NEED to be taken seriously. And Vanisha – I really hope you make it there for a more permanent stay, it seems to be such an underrated place with super lovely people and I can imagine calling Dunedin ‘home’ too one day. More of Otago on the blog soon…

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