As the holiday drew to a close, we spent a day in Dunedin, walking about, going to museums and generally not sitting in a car for the first time in a week. The weather was very mixed to say the least – rain, sunshine, sudden period of cold southerly winds, sunshine and rain again. It made me feel quite at home…
Anyway, we started our day walking to the university. The University of Otago is the oldest university in New Zealand, founded in 1869. The campus sits beside the Water of Leith, which is the same name as the river that flows through Edinburgh (of course, I just loved this fact). It felt like a proper university somehow, with the Gothic buildings and interesting looking doorways.
University of Otago
A drainpipe, in keeping with the rest of the building
It began to rain quite heavily, so we headed into the Otago Museum. The museum was started by a Sir James Hector in order to display his rock collection, but now has displays of all sorts of things from stuffed animals to artifacts connected to maritime history. The museum will be 150 years old in 2018 and can be found on Great King Street. It is well worth a visit, with lots to see and a nice cafe on the ground floor.
From there we walked to the railway station, a building you have to see if you happen to be in Dunedin. It opened in 1906, having taken three years to build. In its heyday, it was the busiest station in New Zealand. The booking hall has an amazing mosaic floor, and a frieze made of porcelain runs around the balcony. The main platform is New Zealand’s longest and is about 500m long.
Me in Anzac Square with the station and a signpost that says Edinburgh is 18,869km away
Some of the floor tiles
Trains do still run from here, but only tourist sightseeing trains. Just next to the station is the Toitū Early Settlers Museum. This museum focuses on the people of Dunedin, from the earliest settlers up to the present day, and is a great way to discover more about the city (originally it was going to be called New Edinburgh) and the surrounding area. One particularly interesting room was filled with photographs of some of the first settlers and their families. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling as you can see below, and it made for a fascinating glimpse into the past.
We missed the Chinese Gardens next door, as the weather was not really right, and instead headed into town for some lunch at the Excelsior Cafe, where we both enjoyed bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. From there we headed to The Octagon, and were pleased to see the sun come out in time to see the statue of Robert Burns. Yes – a statue of Scotland’s national poet at the other end of the world.
From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad
Just across from this statue, lies the Dunedin Public Art Gallery to where we went next. The gallery was gifted to the city by Mr and Mrs Percy and Lucy Sargood in memory of their son who was killed at Gallipoli during the First World War, and is a mixture of art works from all eras and continents. There is a special place to commemorate the works of Dunedin born painter, Frances Hodgkins. I had known and liked her works for ages, and hadn’t realised she had been born in Dunedin (I confess, I didn’t appreciate she was a New Zealander until relatively recently). We spent ages here looking at both some of the permanent collection and the special exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Sitting for Frances’ exhibition with explored the relationship between Frances Hodgkins and her sitters.
Inside the gallery 2
After a restorative cup of tea, we headed back to our bed and breakfast for a rest before heading out again for dinner. The sun had come out and showed us what Dunedin looks like with blue skies.
A much needed drink before dinner, sitting outside at The Octagon
Where we stayed: The Albatross Inn, bed and breakfast on George Street, which is full of curios and deliberately retro features. We had a comfortable room, and breakfast included freshly baked muffins cooked by the owner. On the Saturday, we had to leave early, and breakfast, including fresh fruit, was laid out for us, just ready to make our toast.
A beautiful rainbow on the way back after dinner
What we missed: albatross. And other things too of course!
Most fun bit for me: the street names. You have to admit, it is fun to be in a city on the other side of the world where the streets have the same names as the town you grew up in: Princes Street, George Street, Great King Street….
Moray Place, Dunedin, not Edinburgh
What we did next: drive back to Christchurch and fly back to Wellington.
Verdict: a great trip but far too short!