With a sense of unfinished business, we left the mountains behind and drove south to Invercargill. The city felt tired (although that was possibly a projection by us) with lots of empty shop units and a general feeling of disrepair. We pitched up at Central City Camping Park and headed back into town via Dee Street (the main drag) taking in some of the better looking older buildings but overall leaving with a sense of disappointment. We looped back around along the estuary walkway to the Stead Street wharf when we decided we needed a coffee! We arrived at the always open, free wi-fi giving Starbucks and were greeted by the Christmas menu, and cups, on the 29th of October!
The next morning, we travelled across the south of the South Island taking in the Catlins as we wound our way to Dunedin. The first stop was to the Waipapa Point Lighthouse, erected after NZ's worst civilian shipwreck in 1881, and is still in operation today albeit with a solar powered LED light that is operated remotely from Wellington.
With the Cathedral Caves closed we carried on straight to Purakaunui Falls and set out on the trail, braving the rain. This was rewarded as we were the only people at the viewing point with everyone else sheltering from the rain in their cars (being Scottish does have its perks!)
The next stop was lunchtime and we enjoyed the rugby clubhouse feel of the Catlins Inn in Owaka. We made it in just in time as the heavens opened as we closed the door behind us. Once we had finished lunch we braved the storm and drove to Nugget Point, so named by Capt. Cook who described the rocks in the bay as nuggets of gold. Sadly we didn't get out to the lighthouse as the wind was fierce across the walkway but the rugged coastline was awe-inspiring.
Our next stop, just down the road, was a bit of a long shot gamble as we parked up at Roaring Bay, home to some rare Hoiho (yellow eyed penguins). We walked down, took a spot in the hide and waited. An hour came and went before we finally gave up. We would have loved to see them but, with only 20 breeding pairs calling the bay home, our chances were slim to begin with.
We decided to not stay in the Catlins at Kaka Point, as originally planned, due to the storm and instead headed north to Dunedin and the Top 10 Holiday Park to give us a better starting position (and nights sleep) in the morning.
On Thursday morning, we set off to explore the Otago Peninsula and started at Larnach Castle. We wandered the beautiful gardens, explored the castle itself and enjoyed a coffee beside the wood fire in the converted coachhouse. For full disclosure, castle is a bit of a misnomer, stately home would probably be more appropriate!
The next stop was an off-roading adventure to reach! Craig utilised the low gears on the campervan for the first time as we descended a single track gravel hill and continued on single track gravel roads to get to the parking spot for Victory Beach. Safely parked, we walked out hoping to see Hooker's Sea Lions (sadly, now New Zealand Sea Lions) but our wildlife bad luck was holding out. We did however, get the beach to ourself and saw the wreck of the steam ship that named the beach.
With our thirst for nature unquenched we drove north to Harrington Point to the car park for the Royal Albatross Centre. This wasn't our final destination however as we were aiming for Natures Wonders, to undertake a 8 - wheeler argo tour to see yellow eyed penguins, seals, heron and possibly albatross however the gate was closed when we arrived. After having lunch and waiting over an hour we decided to carry on into Dunedin and miss the experience. As the holiday parks in Dunedin were not in the city centre we decided to book into an Airbnb for a couple of nights and Lyane's place on Queen Street was amazing! On Thursday night we holed ourselves up with dinner, caught up on some TV and relaxed.
After a leisurely morning we headed into Dunedin (Dùn Èideann - Edinburgh) and took a stroll around the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, taking in the Style and Substance and Frances Hodgkins exhibits.
Having visited so many of their alehouses, we toured Speight's Brewery. A fascinating insight into the history of the city as well as the brewery that we thoroughly enjoyed. The tour finished in a bar where we sampled 3 different beers of our own choosing (although the original Gold Medal Ale was our favourite).
We spent some time wandering the streets and came across the beautiful station building which would definitely hold it's own in a European capital.
A lazy evening followed, where we enjoyed the space, the free laundry facilities (sorry Lyane) and unlimited WiFi (it really is the little things!)
Onwards to Oamaru and then following the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle trail northwards.