Nugget Point

In which Miles starts his exploration of The Catlins Coast with a visit to Nugget Point and its Lighthouse.

To view the full gallery of 27 pictures on imgur, click here.

I spent enough time in Dunedin to get various reports from fellow travelers, and I left Dunedin with a plan that included four destinations along the coast – and several wild animals that I hoped to meet.  First stop – Nugget Point.

The air was cool, but the first half of the day was sunny with blue skies.

Catlins Coast at Nugget Point
Catlins Coast at Nugget Point

A trail follows the coastal cliffs to the Nugget Point Lighthouse.

First glimpse of Nugget Point Lighthouse
First glimpse of Nugget Point Lighthouse

The marine mammals are plentiful in this area, but far away at the bottom of the cliffs.  You’ll need to zoom in to the pictures below to see them.

Seals and/or sea lions sunning on the rocks
Seals and/or sea lions sunning on the rocks

I imagine they appreciate not being bothered by humans in their area.  But the one in the picture below looks like he is climbing the cliffs to say hello.

Seal or sea lion
Seal or sea lion

Tiny islands known as “The Nuggets” give the point its name.

Nugget Point Lighthouse and The Nuggets
Nugget Point Lighthouse and The Nuggets

The point itself is especially scenic.

Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Nugget Point
Nugget Point

On my way from Nugget Point I stopped briefly in Roaring Bay.  It was still a couple of hours until the yellow-eyed penguins were due to start coming ashore – starting around 3pm that time of year – so I continued on.

Roaring Bay
Roaring Bay

My next destination was Cannibal Bay.  I saw a sign for the Southern Scenic Route, and took that.

Southern Scenic Route
Southern Scenic Route
Southern Scenic Route
Southern Scenic Route

Next stop – Cannibal Bay.

To view the full gallery of 27 pictures on imgur, click here.

#NuggetPoint, #NuggetPointLighthouse, #TheCatlins, #SouthernScenicRoute

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

In which Miles enjoys the unique flora and fauna of Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

To view the full gallery of 37 pictures on imgur, click  here.

Orokonui park and Visitor Centre
Orokonui park and Visitor Centre

Orokonui Ecosanctuary is an ecological island wildlife reserve developed by the Otago Natural History Trust in the Orokonui Valley near Waitati, New Zealand, 20 km to the north of central Dunedin.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Orokonui Ecosanctuary

It sounded like a good place to enjoy a nice walk, and a chance to see some of New Zealand’s rarer plants and birds, and some other animals.  Takahe, shown below, are critically endangered, but the five at Orokonui are not especially shy.

Takahe are critically endangered
Takahe

A sculpture of Tāne Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest” in the Māori pantheon, watches over the skink house. Where they live.  The skinks.

Tāne Mahuta watches over endangered Otago Skinks
Tāne Mahuta watches over endangered Otago Skinks

The Otago skink, Oligosoma otagense, is an endangered species of large skink of the family Scincidae, found in the central Otago region of New Zealand.

Otago Skink
Otago Skink
Otago Skink
Otago Skink

I was hoping to see tuatara, but none showed themselves.  The most recent common ancestor of the tuatara with any other extant group is with the squamates (lizards and snakes). For this reason, tuatara are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes, and for the reconstruction of the appearance and habits of the earliest diapsids (the group that also includes birds, dinosaurs, and crocodiles).  Below is a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Tuatara, in Waikanae, New Zealand - from Wikimedia Commons
A Tuatara, in Waikanae, New Zealand – from Wikimedia Commons

Orokonui claims the tallest tree in New Zealand, the Australian mountain ash shown below.

Australian mountain ash
Australian mountain ash

The Easter Orchid was in bloom and smelling heavenly.

Easter Orchid
Easter Orchid

Orokonui was as advertised, a good place to enjoy a nice walk, and a chance to see some rare plants and animals.  I’ve included some pictures below, but to view the full gallery of 37 pictures on imgur, click  here.

New Zealand bellbird/korimako/makomako
New Zealand bellbird/korimako/makomako
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Tūī
Tūī
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Robin/kakaruai
Robin/kakaruai
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Tomtit/miromiro
Tomtit/miromiro
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
Orokonui Ecosanctuary
New Zealand pigeon/kūkupa/kererū
New Zealand pigeon/kūkupa/kererū

To view the full gallery of 37 pictures on imgur, click  here.

#Orokonui, #Ecosanctuary, #Dunedin

 

Tunnel Beach

In which Miles visits Tunnel Beach, another very cool piece of New Zealand’s South Pacific Coastline.

WordPress is giving me problems again, and unfortunately I can’t guarantee that all of the pictures in the gallery below will load.  For the full gallery of 30 pictures on imgur, click here.

The Tunnel Beach Track leads to an amazing space made up of sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

The natural tunnel shown above and below isn’t the one the beach is named after, but that whole peninsula is impressive from many angles.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is actually named for the tunnel down to the beach that a local politician, John Cargill, son of Captain William Cargill, had commissioned for his family in the 1870s.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

It’s a beautiful beach, and probably very pleasant at low tide.  It must have been closer to high tide when I visited,  and the waves kept most visitors close to the cliffs.  In the picture below, one person makes a break for it while the rest remain stranded on a large rock.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

Below is the bottom end of the tunnel and stairs.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

I hope you enjoy the pictures of this unique beach and coastline.

WordPress is giving me problems again, and unfortunately I can’t guarantee that all of the pictures in the gallery below will load.  For the full gallery of 30 pictures on imgur, click here.

Dunedin Chinese Garden

In which Miles escapes the Dunedin city center in a traditional Chinese urban oasis.

You can view the full gallery of 22 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

“Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic, truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest”. Wen Zhengming (1470 – 1559)

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

Dunedin Chinese Garden does a great job of using the space available create a variety of environments both open and intimate.  The city peeks over the garden walls, but can’t touch the tranquility within.

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

A very nice Chinese lady, visiting Dunedin Chinese Garden with her kiwi husband and three little girls, told me that gardens like this were found mostly in houses of rich people, and that there aren’t many left today in China.  She was excited to share this part of Chinese culture with her daughters.

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

There’s a tea house with a courtyard for enjoying drinks and snacks and a variety of games.

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

I’ll let you enjoy the pictures.  For more information, visit the Dunedin Chinese Garden website.

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

You can view the full gallery of 22 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Dunedin

In which Miles warms up to the South Island‘s second largest city, and eventually gets sun and blue skies to compliment some of the highlights of Dunedin.

You can view the full gallery of 26 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Dunedin is a sort of staging area for expeditions to the wilder parts of the Otago area, especially the Otago Peninsula, including Sandfly Bay, Pilots Beach, and Sandymount.  and the southern coast and Catlins.  Fortunately Dunedin is an old enough city to also offer some points of interest of its own, including some nice old buildings, at least by the standards of such a young country.

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station is apparently the most photographed building in New Zealand, and second most photographed in the southern hemisphere, after the Sydney Opera House.

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

I was tempted, but didn’t try any of the passenger train trips that leave from Dunedin Railway Station.  The Taieri Gorge Railway tour claims to be one of the world’s great train trips, and one of Dunedin’s top attractions.

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

The Octagon seems to be the center of the city.  St. Paul’s Cathedral and Dunedin Town Hall dominate the northwest corner.

St. Paul's Cathedral and Dunedin Town Hall
St. Paul’s Cathedral and Dunedin Town Hall

Both  of these pictures were shot using panorama mode, and contain some distortion of the architecture.

Dunedin Town Hall
Dunedin Town Hall
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral

Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand’s oldest, was established in 1863 on a site surrounding the Water of Leith now occupied by the University of Otago. After extensive flooding in 1868, the gardens were moved to their current site in 1869.

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

There were just a few trees showing fall colors.

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

Unfortunately I visited with only an hour or two to spare, and didn’t get around to going back.

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

There’s a lot more to Dunedin of course, and to the surrounding area, and I’ll post about some of it soon.  Dunedin Chinese Garden was a favorite.

Dunedin Chinese Garden
Dunedin Chinese Garden

You can view the full gallery of 26 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

 

Sandymount

In which Miles chooses a short walk on the Otago Peninsula that includes views of The Chasm and Lover’s Leap.

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Sandymount is on the Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin.  With a half-day of probably acceptable weather and no plan, I Googled to find a walk.  The DOC offered some options.

Some of the panoramas I took that day show quite nicely the weather as it was around Dunedin at the end of March; foggy, cold, some rain, clearing nearly to blue skies, going back to cold and wet.

Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific OCean
Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific Ocean from the Chasm Circuit
Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific Ocean from the Chasm Circuit
Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific Ocean from the Chasm Circuit

The coast is usually amazing in New Zealand, but The Chasm is something a bit different.  I found Lovers Leap quite interesting.

The Chasm
The Chasm
Lovers Leap
Lovers Leap

Somehow the weather complimented the landscape perfectly.  It may have started cold and wet, and only just stopped being, but this was a beautiful day.

Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific Ocean from the Chasm Circuit
Hoopers Inlet and the Pacific Ocean from the Chasm Circuit
Lovers Leap
Lovers Leap
The Chasm Circuit
The Chasm Circuit

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Pilots Beach, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula

In which Miles meets northern royal albatrosses, little blue penguins, and possibly the most chill marine mammals in New Zealand, on Pilots Beach.

You can view the full gallery of 20 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Ten years ago I toured the Royal Albatross Centre, located at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin.  New Zealand is usually windy, but it was a still day, and the great birds, build to soar on the winds, just sat in their nests.  This year I skipped the tour, but enjoyed watching the northern royal albatrosses flying over the carpark.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

The Taiaroa Head colony is the only albatross colony found on a human-inhabited mainland in the Southern hemisphere.  There are about 60 breeding pairs at Taiaroa Head.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

When they are not breeding, northern royal albatrosses undertake circumpolar flights in the southern oceans, and in particular like the Humboldt Current and the Patagonian Shelf.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

Northern royal albatrosses are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

There are short walkways near the carpark.  One offers views of the Pacific coast and lighthouse.

Lighthouse at Taiaroa Head
Lighthouse at Taiaroa Head

Stairs lead down to Pilots Beach.  It’s a small beach, and it’s crowded with seals and sea lions.

Otago Harbor and Pilots Beach
Otago Harbor and Pilots Beach

Female and young male sea lions can be a cream color, but males are very similar in color to seals.  Male sea lions can also grow to be much larger.  The other main feature that distinguishes seals from sea lions, as far as I know, is that seals have very pointy noses in comparison to sea lions.

My best guess is that the pictures below shows a seal on the left, and five sea lions to the right of him – but we don’t have a good view of the faces of three of them.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

While taking pictures of the sea lion below I noticed that I had almost stepped on one that was lying quietly behind me.  It just looked up at me without moving or making a sound.  These guys are very used to people!  Part of the beach is fenced off, so there is plenty of space for any creatures that are less fond of humans.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

 

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

It was a great chance to watch these guys playing in the water.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

Enjoy the video below of seals and sea lions on Pilots Beach.

I had left the beach without seeing the nests of the little blue penguins, but a helpful kiwi couple told me that there were at least two penguins in their nests, so I went back to look for them.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

Little blue penguins would usually be out fishing for most of the day.  I suspect that this one was at home in the afternoon because he was molting, or shedding old feathers.  If you have a close look at the picture below, I think you can see some of the old feathers that haven’t yet fallen out – and plenty that have.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

Like yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins don’t go out to fish when they’re molting.  They live off of their fat during this time, and use up a lot of it.  This fasting makes them a bit grumpy, which may or may not explain the expression in the picture below.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

The trip out to the Royal Albatross Centre is very scenic.  Below are some views of the coast along the Otago Harbor.

Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula

You can view the full gallery of 20 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

#PilotsBeach, #TaiaroaHead, #OtagoPeninsula, #RoyalAlbatrossCentre, #Seal, #SeaLion, #Albatross, #LittleBluePenguin, #Dunedin, #SouthIsland, #NewZealand

Sandfly Bay

In which Miles meets two sea lions, and four yellow-eyed penguins, and zero sandflies on the Otago Peninsula.

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

I spent some time in the van at Sandfly Bay thinking about going back later in better weather.

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

Cold rainy weather seems to mean far fewer sandflies, but I don’t think that was a factor in my decision to brave the elements.  It may have worked though; I didn’t get any sandfly bites.

The trail is fairly steep, and becomes sandy.  It’s clear that going back up is going to be a workout.

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

The beach was empty when I arrived, other than the usual gulls and oystercatchers.  I decided to walk the length of the beach anyway.

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

There is a hide for viewing the penguins without being seen by them – for a price.  The available literature – travel guides and info online for example – indicates that the hide is available to the public, but the only hide on the beach is locked, with a sign saying that the public hide has been removed, and that the existing hide is for members of a certain company’s tour groups.  Fortunately a lot of yellow-eyed penguins are far less shy than advertised.

View from near the commercial hide
View from near the commercial hide

When I returned to where I had started on the beach there was a small groups of about four people taking pictures of a couple of sea lions.  These were the first sea lions I had met in person, but I didn’t know it at the time – for several days I told people that I had met a blonde seal, and that it was cuddling with another seal.  Later I learned that females and small males can be a cream color, with darker brown backs.  It was lucky that these sea lions were not as aggressive as I had read (and later discovered for myself) that they can be.

New Zealand Sea Lions
New Zealand Sea Lions

The New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), also known as Hooker’s sea lion, and whakahao in Māori, is a species of sea lion that primarily breeds on New Zealand’s subantarctic Auckland and Campbell islands and to some extent around the coast of New Zealand’s South and Stewart islands. The New Zealand sea lion numbers around 10,000 and is perhaps the world’s rarest sea lion species. New Zealand sea lions are one of the largest New Zealand animals. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_sea_lion

After I took pictures of the sea lions for a while, a very nice young blonde German guy and his nice blonde and German girlfriend politely pointed out that I was missing the penguins!

They had already climbed well up a sandy hill.  The young Germans were helpfully pointing out one of the penguins to others who  had just arrived when the penguin raised a flipper as if to say “I’m right here!”

Yellow-eyed penguin
Yellow-eyed penguin

The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) or hoiho is a penguin native to New Zealand. This species of penguin is endangered, with an estimated population of 4000. It is considered one of the world’s rarest penguin species. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow-eyed_penguin

We remained roughly the recommended 200 meters away from the penguins, so they are small in the photos below.  While we watched,  the German guy saw another pair coming ashore.

Yellow-eyed penguins
Yellow-eyed penguins

I was surprised that they climbed such a large hill with those little legs, but I guess they feel safe nesting up there.

Yellow-eyed penguins
Yellow-eyed penguins

I did my best to clean up the video below.  Some problems remain, but I think it has some good moments – enjoy!

I hoped to later get a better look at yellow-eyed penguins – but I was glad that I decide to take the walk down to Sandfly Bay.

You can view the full gallery of 21 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

#SandFlyBay #Sandfly #SeaLion #YellowEyedPenguin #OtagoPeninsula

Moeraki Boulders

In which Miles takes in the Moeraki Boulders, the famous New Zealand septarian concretions.   Okay, spherical boulders.  Okay, okay, round rocks!

You can view the full gallery of 11 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The Moeraki Boulders are large spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

This is another of those quick stops; the Moeraki Boulders are just off of State Highway 1.  They’re about a half-hour drive south of Oamaru.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

I won’t go into the way these types of rocks form, I’ll just link again to the always helpful Wikipedia’s page on septarian concretions.  There are a number of Moeraki Boulders that are cracked, and others that are broken, so you can get a good look at what they look like inside.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

In a country full of cool rocks, the Moeraki Boulders hold their own, and are definitely worth a look.  I passed by again today, and stopped again, and both times the waves in places forced me up onto the rock at the back of the beach, so it is a good idea to just remove your shoes to avoid getting them wet.  I was told that at high tide the boulders are not even visible, which suggests that at high tide you’ll be wading along this stretch of beach.

You can view the full gallery of 11 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

 

Oamaru Public Gardens

In which Miles soaks in the peaceful atmosphere of one of the oldest public gardens in New Zealand, and has a chat with Lenny, the resident yellow-crested cockatoo.

You can view the full gallery of 11 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

34 acres was set aside when Oamaru was surveyed in 1858, and Oamaru Gardens was opened in 1876.  I saw signs directing me there when I was feeling like relaxing in the shade on a hot day, and it couldn’t have served better.

One of my first stops was the small Chinese Garden.

Chinese garden in Oamaru Gardens
Chinese garden in Oamaru Gardens

I’ve seen these gardens described as “mature”, and I think it suits – they are large and well-planned, with many large trees.  The greenhouse fits this description as well (except for the trees).

Greenhouse in Oamaru Gardens
Greenhouse in Oamaru Gardens
Greenhouse in Oamaru Gardens
Greenhouse in Oamaru Gardens

I spent some time in the shade of this weeping elm.

Weeping elm
Weeping elm

I felt privileged to have a brief chat with Lenny.  He was ignoring a French guy when I arrived, and proceeded to ignore a local and regular visitor after our conversation.  A short while later I heard him screeching loudly from a distance.  I wondered if he had decided that he wanted someone to talk some more.

Lenny the resident yellow-crested cockatoo, from Australia
Lenny the resident yellow-crested cockatoo, from Australia

There are two different buildings housing a variety of birds.

Even the small playground was photogenic.

On the playground in Oamaru Gardens
On the playground in Oamaru Gardens

You can view the full gallery of 11 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.