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Otago Peninsula

The 24km (15 mile) long Otago Peninsula is a hilly, indented stretch of land forming the easternmost part of Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island. Volcanic in origin, it forms one side of an eroded valley which now contains Otago Harbour. The peninsula is around 1.5km wide, where it is attached to the mainland at its western end, and has a maximum width of 9km. It offers the visitor a wide range of attractions which include unusual wildlife, woodland gardens, spectacular coastal scenery and a number of buildings of historic interest.

Although at the western side the peninsula contains some of Dunedin's outer urban areas and along its shores, on the side of Otago Harbour, there are several settlements, most of it is sparsely populated, covered by hilly open pastureland . A popular 64km (40 mile) round trip by road along Otago Peninsula, depending on the chosen direction, takes the visitor along the Highcliff Road (which runs along a part of the peninsula's spine) in one direction and in the other, along the Portobello Road (along the Otago Harbour side coast). This can take anything from 1½ hours to a full day, depending on the stops made along the way.

Map courtesy of

The photo near the top of the page, and those below, were taken from a drive along the Highcliff Road, which offers the best views of the surrounding waters. The Road leads up towards Larnach Castle (see below) and then heads down to Portobello, on the Otago Harbour side, roughly midpoint along the peninsula. Prior to returning back along the landward side of the peninsula, a drive was taken right up to the end of it, to the Taiaroa headland at the mouth of the Otago Harbour. Here is the Royal Albatross Centre, which is home to the world's only mainland royal albatross colony. During the nesting period, guides take visitors to an observation post, where the birds can be seen nesting and flying, given the right conditions. The visit featured on this webpage did involve some royal albatross spotting, only due to being fortunate enough to be speaking to an amateur enthusiast who was out watching them in flight, and alas, the graceful movements of these fine birds, combined with the poor zoom on my camera, did not permit any photographs to be taken of them in all their glory. Taiaroa Head is also the site of the 'Armstrong disappearing gun', a 15cm (6") naval defence gun, which was put in place in 1886 during the "Russian Scare". The gun is named so as it was designed to pop out of the ground, fire, and then disappear back down into its pit. The gun is the only one of its kind in the world which is in its original position and still working.

The following photos were taken whilst making a stop at Larnach Castle (20km/12 miles from central Dunedin). it was built from 1871 to 1885 for the financier, businessman and politician, William J. M. Larnach and is known for being the only castle in the whole of New Zealand. The building is a grand stone mansion, built along Scottish baronial lines and is set in beautifully created grounds. The interior has a number of fine features including elaborately decorated ceilings and a large hanging staircase; many European artisans were brought here to work on its construction. It is possible to climb the narrow stone steps that lead up to the top of the castle's tower for fine views of the peninsula and beyond.

As well as various natural features, other attractions on Otago Peninsula include Otakou, the site of one of the earliest Maori settlements in the area, Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens, where there is a homestead which was built in 1871 and several woodland walks, New Zealand Marine Studies Centre which has an aquarium and Penguin Place, where it is possible to view Yellow-eyed penguins close-up.

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