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a VirtualTourist member from Englewood


To visit Dunedin, yes, no? What to see and do?

I am working on my itinerary to New Zealand during the latter part of November, and early December. I am considering visiting Dunedin, but my time is limited. I'd like to see the penguins, and albatros colony, but my time would be short, and I was wondering if I should go or not. As of now, would probably be arriving from Te Anau, arriving around 4 pm, and departing next day to head to Mt. Cook. Therefore, I think going to Dunedin would be out of the way, but maybe worth the time. I just wish I had more time, but I don't and can't help but want to "see and do it all." With that, I thought, we'll lets go for it, but now I am starting to wonder whether to go or not. So, I just thourght I'd ask on this forum what others thought. Thanks for your help.

5 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Christchurch

Hi there,

as I think Otago Peninsula is one of the most spectacular places in NZ I would always recommend a visit.

If you arrive in Dunedin at 4pm in December it is early enough to see the penguins coming to the shore at dusk. It takes less than 1 hour from Dunedin to Taiaroa Head at the very end of Otago Peninsula where the Royal Albatross Colony is (and also penguins).

On the next day you could make a half day tour on Otago Peninsula, drive along the summit road, make a walk or two to the beaches or watch birds at the two big inlets.

You could also stay on the Peninsula for the night, there are some interesting farm stays, one even offers Penguin Tours. On the other hand Dunedin has an incredible lot of fabulous and affordable restaurants for a great dinner.

It is 330km from Dunedin to Mt. Cook, driving time would be between 4.5 and 5 hours. As it does not get dark before 9pm you would have enough time for exploring Otago Peninsula and still arrive at Mt. Cook in the evening.

It is perhaps a little stressful to do such a lot in a day but I think it is possible.

Have a look at my Otago page, I have a lot of tips about Dunedin and Otago Peninsula. I travel there quite often.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Hong Kong

hello sissi, I will be travelling to NZ in Mid Jun for 3 wks & in the mid. of planning my itin. wld love to go to Dunedin to see penguins. it wld be much appreciated if u cld suggest the best time to visit? Also is 3 days enough to see Dunedin? thanks Jane

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Christchurch

Hi Jane,

for detailed info about Penguin watching near Dunedin please check the first tip in my Things to Do list on my Otago page.

In June dusk is the time to go for penguin watching. Actually it is already pitch-black at 5.30pm, so you can already get ready in late afternoon.

The chance to see them during daytime is higher when they are moulting (about Feb/March) or have their chicks - but this is Sept to December for Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Aug to Nov for Little Blues.

Penguins use to spend to whole day at sea for feeding and come back to shore when it is getting dark. There are always exceptions but you will not see them coming to shore in dozens during the day.

Great places for Yellow-Eyed Penguins on Otago Peninsula are the penguin hide at Sandfly Bay (including strenious walk back to the car...) from where you can also see seals and Alan's Beach.

There are also commercial penguin tours, for example Elm Tours. Check here:

This Farmstay close to Allan's Beach on the Peninsula also offers penguin tours:

Three days are plenty of time to visit Dunedin. You can do a lot of fabulous things. Dunedin is a beautiful but also small city, so you do not need a real lot of time.

You could spend another day on Otago Peninsula, there are fabulous spots for bird watching, fantastic beaches, great views and nice walks.

I also highly recommend a tour opposite the Peninsula, on the Blueskin Road, and to Aramoana. I have listed those tips as Off the Beaten Path Tips on my Otago page.

If you also travel north of Dunedin I highly recommend a visit to the Penguin Hospital at Katiki Point which is just some kilometres from the Moeraki Boulders. There is not just the hospital but also a Yellow-Eyed Penguin colony. Sometimes they waddle from the beach to the hospital because they know that they could find food there. Absolutely cute!

Directions: If you come from Dunedin, turn right before the Moeraki Boulders to the township of Moeraki. After a short while turn to the right and follow the sign "To Lighthouse Road". After approximately 3km you reach the lighthouse.

If you need more info just tell me, I will try to help you.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hi Sissi,

What time is best to visit the penguin hide in Sandfly Bay in Nov (4pm, 5pm or 6pm)? How much does it cost?

Would it be more fun to see the penguins in the hospital at Oamaru vs sigthing them in Sandfly Bay?

I am planning to drive from Mount Cook-Oamaru-Dunedin.

Thanks a lot

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Christchurch

As you will travel in winter it is hard to say if penguin watching will be very successful... Numbers are high in the breeding season later in the year (from September), and then there is also a chance of seeing them during the day.

In July the best time is after 5pm. The penguins come out from the sea at dusk, after sunset. I would not recommend to do this at Sandfly Bay as afterwards you have to walk along the whole beach and at the end up a steep sand dune. This is no fun in the dark and when it might be freezing cold - only if you are frost-proof and if you have a very good torch. I only do penguin watching there after September when there is a chance of viewing them during the day/late afternoon. However, it does not cost anything to go to the penguin hide - and during the day it is a great walk and a spectacular beach.

You can see an interesting graph on the website of the (blue) penguin colony at Oamaru:

The penguin hospital BTW is not in Oamaru but at Katiki Point near Moeraki (some kilometres from the Moeraki Boulders). Their peak time is March - but there might be penguins at all times of the year. Viewing is also free, donations are welcome.

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