Otago: Dunedin to Milford Sound to Queenstown

posted in: Down Under 2024 | 2

Lack of time and lack of connectivity have made it impossible to blog about Otago (the province where I’ve been in southern New Zealand the last three days). And to be honest, there’s not much to write about. This is by far the most beautiful part of New Zealand, and the pictures tell the story far better than I can. I’ll just give a quick rundown, and then I’ll link you to all the albums so you can see for yourself.


On the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, we stopped in Oamaru for lunch. This is a picturesque town filled with Victorian architecture and a Steampunk vibe. Oamaru is listed by Guinness for having the largest ever gathering of steampunks. On June 4, 2016, 228 participants came to Oamaru. 

This fellow was wandering around town.

Steampunk, a term coined in the 1980s, refers to an imagining of things Victorians would have invented for the modern world. I visited a playground in Oamaru with a number of steampunk-inspired features.

This gallery had a number of tempting steampunk items for sale.

Not everything in Oamaru is steampunky. Check out my album for all my photos from Oamaru.


The name of Dunedin comes from the Scottish-Gaelic name of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Just as Christchurch is the most English city outside England, Dunedin is the most Scottish city outside Scotland.

On the way to Dunedin, we stopped to see some interesting boulders on the beach.

I had plenty of time to wander through the city, though we only spent two nights there. The architectural highlight is probably the railway station, said to be the most photographed building in the southern hemisphere after the Sydney Opera House.

Here are the rest of my photos from Dunedin.

Otago Peninsula

From Dunedin we took two excursions to the Otago Peninsula. The first was to visit Larnoch Castle, New Zealand’s only castle. 

Newsflash: it’s not really a castle. It’s just a big house with beautiful grounds. But it is one of very few New Zealand homes of this sort. Built in the 1870s, it was abandoned for a good part of the 20th century and fell into ruin. In 1967 a young couple bought it. They spent decades on its restoration, filling it with period furniture and antiques, including some of the house’s original furnishings. The family still owns it and have kept it open for tours and accommodations.

The second trip to the peninsula was more nature-oriented. We went to a farm on the coast to see colonies of New Zealand fur seals and endangered New Zealand sea lions. We also hoped to see the endangered yellow-eyed penguins, and we got our wish, though only from a distance.

This is the most threatened species of sea lion; there are about 12,000 remaining.
There are believed to be about 4,000 remaining yellow-eyed penguins. On the Otago Peninsula, their numbers are decreasing, and there may be none left here in the next 20–30 years.

Here are my photos from the Otago Peninsula, including more of all the above plus some flowers from the Larnach Castle gardens and some scenery.

Drive from Dunedin to Milford Sound

I took lots of photos on this drive. As I said, this is the most beautiful part of New Zealand, and all along this drive, the scenery got better and better.

Milford Sound

We took an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, which is actually a fjord. Except for getting eaten by sandflies (I seem to be having a severe reaction, with some major swelling and itchiness), this was a fabulous experience. The vistas were breathtaking.

Sterling Falls, one of two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound. All the other waterfalls (and there are many) are temporary, disappearing in extended periods of no rainfall.
We sailed into the Tasman Sea, and when we turned back, this is what we saw. This is also what Captain James Cook would have seen when he circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770. For this reason, he believed this was nothing but a small bay, and he sailed past it. It wasn’t until 1823 when a Welshman named John Grono entered the fjord and named it Milford Sound after Milford Haven, an inlet on the Welsh coast. Of course, it already had a name; the Maori called it Piopiotahi. Piopio was a bird (now extinct). Tahi means single. Legend tells that a single Piopio flew here in mourning after the death of the legendary hero Maui.

Here are my photos from Milford Sound, including a few of the nighttime sky. You can see the Southern Cross, which appears on New Zealand’s flag.

Flight to Queenstown

The group plan was to drive from Milford Sound to Queenstown (where I am now). This bus ride included a lot of backtracking. Mark (our Trip Experience Leader) gave us the option to fly back on a small plane, and I took that option along with two others. This got us to Queenstown in 45 minutes, (as opposed to the seven hours the rest of the group spent on the bus). It was a great flight. You can see a photo of Sterling Falls from the plane at the top of this post. Here are the rest of my photos from the airplane.

We’re now in Queenstown, which I’ll blog about later.

2 Responses

    • Lane

      Thank you Joy! It makes me happy to know you’re reading about my travels.

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