24 Hours in Dundein

It's time for this New Zealand road trip to come to a close. After a day of kayaking Milford Sound, we spent the night in Te Anau and then headed to Dunedin. Dunedin became a part of the itinerary, as it provided the cheapest and closest airport with transfers to Auckland, but I'd been hoping to go there to see penguins! So we decided to make the most of our 24 hours in Dunedin before heading of to Auckland to start the next leg of our journey (the vacation part!!)

In the evening we headed out for a little Mexican food and a walk around the city. Dunedin's architecture reminds me so much of my time in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it's no wonder as it's a Scottish settlement and the name 'Dunedin' is Gaelic for 'Edinburgh'.

I wish we'd had more time to explore the city and the architecture, but we had to pack in as much as we could in our short time, and my top priority was PENGUINS!

In the morning we woke up and headed to Penguin Place. It's a private conservation dedicated to helping the endangered yellow-eyed penguin survive. Tours are a little pricey, but it all goes to funding the conservation, so it's worth it. I must admit the tour was not what I expected... I had in my mind that I'd see a bunch of cute little penguins running on the beach - not the case. Apparently the yellow-eyed penguins are very shy, so we very quietly viewed them from hidden underground trenches, as not to disturb them while they sat on their eggs. As we walked through the trenches we could see the penguins hiding in their houses as they waited for their mates to return with food.

Once we emerged from the trenches, we were treated to stunning views of the ocean and the beach, and had the chance to see some fur seals sun bathing in the grass.

This guy was really showing off for the cameras...

We also spotted some little blue penguins hiding out in their homes. The blue penguin is the world's smallest penguin and stands just over 25cm tall. They forage for food for up to 25km offshore and 70km from the colony each day just to bring home food for their partners. How sweet!

After the penguin tour, we decided to squeeze in one more attraction and a bit of lunch before our afternoon flight from Dunedin to Auckland. We stopped at Larnach Castle and Gardens, New Zealand's only castle.

OK, so maybe it's also New Zealand's tiniest 'castle' as well, but it was a beautiful day and the gardens and views from the top of the hill were absolutely gorgeous.

Around the garden were little nods to Alice in Wonderland. My personal favorite was this tree - it's right out of a fairy tale! Apparently Alice has some connections to New Zealand...

"I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth!  How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards!  The antipathies I think…  but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know.  Please Ma’am, is this New Zealand?" - ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

My other favorite part of the garden were the succulents. There were wonderful textures, patterns and colors overflowing from the flower beds. New iphone background - check!

We also enjoyed a delicious lunch and tea in the Larnach Castle Dining Room. The rich wooden interior walls, arched ceilings and waitresses dressed in kilts definitely made me feel like I was back in Scotland.

Finally it was time to head to the airport, but not be before driving up the steepest street in the world! The photo doesn't even do it justice, but driving up this road was terrifying. I felt like the car was going to slide backward at any minute. What a pain it must be for the people living on that street to have all the silly tourists speeding up Baldwin street. It's definitely a Dunedin 'must do'.

All of this road tripping had us feeling exhausted and in need of a vacation. Time to say goodbye to New Zealand for the week and 'bula' to Fiji!

Don't go chasing waterfalls: Muggy Milford Sound Adventures

Since I've been living in New Zealand, Milford Sound has been one of those places that everyone tells me I have to see. Quite a few people have told me it's their favorite place in New Zealand. For nearly a year, I've been trying to get to this magical place hidden in the south west of New Zealand's South Island Fjord land.

South Island Detours

One my favorite things about road trips, and New Zealand road trips in particular, is the opportunity for spontaneity, the ability to go at your own pace and all of the incredible things you encounter when you deviate from 'the plan' and go with the flow. I learned this on my first trip across the West Coast of the South Island with my parents, discovering hidden gems along the way. And it was even more true this second time around with Joe, Jeff and Ashley.

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While I was home in Louisiana for the holidays, so many people asked me what I missed about New Zealand and what things I'll take back to the states with me when I return one day. It's difficult to come up with an answer because I can't say that I've been captivated by a particular food, custom or material item here in New Zealand...

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