From Invercargill we took the slow route (Once again the Southern Scenic) to Dunedin through a region known as the Catlins. Despite driving through the heart of the Catlins I couldn’t quite relay what it is succinctly. There are ragged coast lines, farms, waterfalls and untouched temperate rainforests. It was scenic, but scenery changed quickly.
Dunedin is a small city (but large for the area) known for being very Scottish and full of students. It’s home to the University of Otago, the country’s oldest. I didn’t get a feel for the Scottish reputation, I suppose you need to know some locals. Definitely had a university town vibe, but I was struck also by its well preserved buildings, somewhere between Art Deco and 50s. Many have fabulous fonts and paint jobs.
Dunedin recently commissioned a new slogan to attract local tourists, at the cost of $145k NZD. The result? “Dunedin: a pretty good plan D.” The intent was to recognize that kiwis would rather tour elsewhere (other countries), but since borders were closed this was a good-enough option. The new slogan was greeted with deserved ridicule.
A real highlight for me was our trip to the end of the Otago Peninsula where we joined a “tour” to see the famous little Blue penguins. The smallest penguin species, they are only found in NZ and spend their days out in the ocean feeding. Your chance to see them is at dusk when they return in groups to their nests. We were able to see about 70 return, and they walked quite close to the specially designed viewpoint for tourists. Museum reps were with us to answer questions.