Monthly Archives: May 2023

Blue Penguins, Fur Seals & Steampunk HQ

New Zealand has 3 types of penguins and I had my heart set on meeting the beautiful blue penguins.  These penguins are the smallest penguins in the world and they can primarily be found in Otago Peninsula and Oamaru.  So, we leave Dunedin and head to Otago Peninsula to try to see them.

We learned that the best time to see them is before 0900 when they leave to go fishing or between 1900-2100 when they return from fishing.  So, we left early to try to catch them in the morning.  We arrived to the facility around 0800 and to our surprise the gates to the viewing platform were locked.  Well shoot!  We did manage to get some beautiful sunrise photos.

And we spotted some fur seals pretty far away.  The blue arrow is pointing to their spot which you can see in the lower right photo (zoomed in).

The penguins should have been on this beach….but we could not see them from such a far distance.  The lower right photo shows the blue penguin that we were searching for on the beach.

On the way to Otago Peninsula or Pilot’s Beach we found a penguin crossing sign.

Moeraki Boulders

We left Otago Peninsula and headed toward the Moeraki Boulders.  These are large spherical stones resting on the beach that have been exposed through the shoreline erosion.  There are other boulders remaining in the mudstone that will, eventually, fall to the beach to join the others.

These boulders are magnificent in their color, shape, and size.  Each one is unique and beautiful.  Several boulders weigh tons and the largest ones are over 2 meters wide!

We found one in the mudstone just itching to come out so we tried to put it back in.

We get back on the road and make our way to Oamaru.  This town is most famous for its blue penguin colony and its limestone architecture.   But, we also find a hidden gem inside the Steampunk HQ.

Steampunk HQ

I am not really sure how to describe this incredibly unique and novel museum called Steampunk HQ.  Perhaps you have heard of Steampunk before, but this is all new to me.  Steampunk is Industrial revolution meets Victorian era collection.  It is a place for all things quirky, weird, unusual, and just plain strange.  You are encouraged to touch everything, sit in cars, pull strings, push buttons and yank cords.

Matt had a grand time playing this old organ that shot out the strangest noises and melodies.

We each goofed around with lots of bits and pieces.

They had this super cool room that lit up all around you.

Even the outer parts of the building had strange things attached to them…check out the fisherman on the roof.

Limestone Architecture

Oamaru is known for its legacy limestone buildings which are relics of embarrassing wealth long since gone.

And unusual sculptures

Blue Penguins

The blue penguins took over an abandoned quarry in 1970. In 1992 the local community decided to build a sanctuary around their habitat.  Currently there are 249 breeding pairs that reside in this area.

These little guys swim 75km each day at an average speed of 4-6km per hour.  They will dive up 70 meters around 1500 times per day!  They can hold their breath for about 2 minutes. 

These are pictures of pictures as we were not allowed to get that close or to photograph the penguins.

The sanctuary built little houses for the breeding pairs so that they have somewhere warm to go once they return from fishing.  Each breeding pair returns to their particular home.  A few times we could see a juvenile or a molting adult inside, but the photos just don’t come out well.

The have a viewing room where they set up little portals to spy inside the little homes.  They keep a red light on so as not to startle the penguins, but at least we could see them up close and personal.

Penguins have waterproof feathers that keep them warm while they are swimming.  But once a year, they will molt and shed the old feathers and grow new ones.  During this 18 day period they stay inside their home.  These are also a rare breed of penguins in that they can hatch eggs twice in a season.  The parents will incubate the eggs for 35 days, then raise them for 8 weeks and then set them to the sea.  The juveniles will stay at sea for a full year before returning home.  Unfortunately, only about 35% will return.

The little blue penguin is just below Matt’s knee.

As we round the sanctuary we come across a fur seal colony.

These two were very playful.

Scott’s Brewery

We stop off at Scott’s Brewery (Wayne’s last name is “Scott” so he was particularly excited to stop here).  Read the back of the shirt as it is super funny.

Saw these in a gift shop by the Penguin Sanctuary at Otago Peninsula….just made me laugh.

We were not able to get really good photos of these beautiful little penguins, but I sure did love seeing them.

  • Kilometers traveled:  179km
  • Hotel: Brydone Hotel
  • Time Traveled: 3 hours
  • Kilometers walked: 7.7km

Events from this blog occurred in early March.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind live events.   We visit the large bustling town of Dunedin in our last blog.

Eastward Bound: Dunedin

We reached the end of the road when it comes to going south in New Zealand.  There is nothing beyond Steward Island so it is time to start heading east toward Dunedin.  But, we take the time to enjoy several stops along the way.

Fortrose Cliffs

The Fortrose cliffs offer a stunning view of beach, rocks, and cliffs.  Super pretty magical spot to be in first thing in the morning.

It was a bit cold and rainy so we continued on to our next stop, the Waipapa Lighthouse.

Waipapa Lighthouse

The Waipapa Lighthouse was constructed in 1881 after NZ’s worst passenger ship disaster occurred.  131 of the 151 souls on board lost their lives that day their ship ran aground.  Some of the bodies were transported back to Fortrose, but over 60 people were buried in a mass grave site near the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was operational until about 1976 when it finally became automated.  People lived on the grounds until about 1981 before moving away.  The lighthouse is a short and stubby one standing at only 12.4m tall.

Views from the lighthouse were a little obstructed by the grounds, but the walks around the lighthouse were lovely.

The rain was starting to come down a little more so we departed and made our way towards Curio Beach.  I hopped out to snap a photo and when I returned to the car a bird was keeping watch.

The photo of Curio Beach.


We finally make it to Dunedin and wow – we were surprised at what a big, bustling city this is.  We did not expect it at all.   The first thing I wanted to see is Baldwin Street which was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the steepest street in the world!

This 350-metre stretch of road has a maximum gradient of 19 degrees (though there are little bits that are 21 degrees) with the ground rising a metre for every 2.86 metres you cover horizontally.

The photos just don’t do it justice, but we did force our little BMW to drive up and down it just because we could.

At the top there is a little memorial.

Matt is not too fond of Dunedin because there are lots of one way streets, lots of traffic, and just lots of everything.  Its a good thing we are only here for one night.  We start to move north tomorrow.

  • Kilometers traveled: 275km
  • Hotel: The Laws Court (would not recommend!)
  • Time traveled: 5 hours
  • Kilometers walked: 4.3

Events from this blog post occurred in early March. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind live events.  In our last blog post I share our experience at Stewart Island, the 3rd largest island in New Zealand.

Stewart Island: NZ 3rd Island

New Zealand’s third largest island is Stewart Island which is located 30nm further south from the South Island.  It is truly the furthest south you can get in New Zealand.  At this point, I have gone to the furthest north point of Cape Reigna in the North island and the the furthest south point in Stewart island.

We arrive to the ferry dock early, so we decide to detour 10nm down the road to Stirling Point which is 46 degrees south on the South Island!  That’s pretty far south!  I am pointing to each direction I’ve been (Cape Reinga and Stewart island).

We have to take a ferry ride across Foveaux Straight which is known to be a treacherous crossing.  Our ferry holds about 100 people and is about 23m long and 8.5m wide.  When filled with passengers and cargo, it can weigh up to 70 metric tons!  We cruised at 22kts and had a bit of a lumpy ride over, but not terrible.  The “no go” threshold is 50kts of wind and or 4.5m seas.  Can you imagine?  No, hell no!

We get waves crashing on the sides of the window more times than I can count.

We leave the Bluff on the south island around 0945 and arrive into Half Moon Bay (or the city of Oban) around 1045.

Stewart Island Tour

We immediately hop on to the bus to take our 1.5hr Stewart Island tour.  It is a small island with only 410 full time residents.  There is a small library, community center, museum, market, school (2-12 years), fuel station, shops and eateries.  

After we drive through town, we stop at Observation Rock which gives you a beautiful view of the town and harbour.

We drive by bathing beach and Meghan’s beach which have absolutely beautiful sandy beaches.

The very stunning Half Moon Bay took our breath away.  Perfect sandy beaches and not a soul on it!

We pass by a telephone tree which actually has a telephone on the tree!   We ate at Kai Kart which has been voted the best fish and chips in NZ!  They were pretty darn good.

A life size chess set sits on the coast just by the ferry dock.  Our ferry is coming in as I snap the photo.

We head back to the hotel just in time to enjoy the sunset at the 7th floor bar.

Anchored to the South Island

Maori creation stories tell how Maui, a legendary Polynesian voyager, pulled up from the sea floor anchor stone Te Puka a Maui (Stewart Island) to act as an anchor for the great ancestral canoe Te Waka o Aoraki (South Island of New Zealand)

The stylized anchor chain is secured firmly on land by a shackle but disappears beneath the Foveaux Straight to remind us of the physical and spiritual connections between the traditional taurapa or stern post o the Te Waka or Aoraki.

The bronze anchor chain is on Stewart Island and the silver is at Sterling Point (Invercargil).  Stewart Island anchors more than Maui’s canoe.  It anchors in its rocks, rivers, and rugged shores and in its garnishments of plants and animals, the hope of generations unborn that places like this will always exist.

Fun Facts about Stewart island

  • Stewart Island is 180,000 hectres (bigger than Hong Kong and Singapore combined)
  • 85% of the island is protected as a national park
  • 6% is protected by the government DOC
  • 6% belong to the Maori tribe
  • 3% belong to local NZ
  • All households are sold and currently unavailable.  It is a 4-year wait to hire the 2 local builders on the island and bringing in housing materials costs 3-4 times more than standard fees.
  • There are no mice, ferrets, stokes, or pigs on island.  However, they do have rats, possums and feral cats which they are desperately trying to remove from the island.

Fun filled and fabulous day.  Wonderful opportunity to go to this little island.

  • Kilometers travelled:  75km
  • Hotel: Laglands Hotel
  • Kilometers walked: 5km

Events from this blog occurred in early March.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind live events.  Our last blog post took us to Invercargil where we visit a rockin transport and motorcycle museum.