48 Hours Port Chalmers
What is it about port towns that’s so alluring? Is it the constant motion against the dramatic landscape; the people, a potpourri of creatives, earthy lifestylers with owner-operated businesses and salty locals; or a combination of it all? Whatever it is, Dunedin's Port Chalmers has it in spades.
The birthplace of New Zealand’s export trade is still a bustling port and cruise ship berth in the warmer months but is also home to a lot more. Whether it’s the historic architecture, kākā or crafties, seafood or shops, Port Chalmers is effortlessly cool and packed with memorable experiences. Here’s our ultimate 48 Hour Guide to this historic harbour village and its surroundings.
Friday morning catering for adventurers
10 George Street, Port Chalmers
Run by highly experienced and talented chefs Mathew Lewis and Sheena Booth, His and Hers Catering is the go-to for any catering needs in the harbour and wider Otago.
Thankfully, they also run a Friday shop open to the public. Expect a menu of delicious kai ranging from homemade pies to noteworthy noodles and sweet treats like the old staunch custard square. Alongside immediately eating whatever takes your fancy, grab some supplies for later in the day when you’re out adventuring. Do keep an eye out on Instagram as well, as they’re not open on the occasional Friday. However, when they are, they sell out quickly, so get in early! Opens 9.30am.
600 Blueskin Road, Dunedin
A protected paradise of 307 hectares full of lush regenerating forest and precious native species, including kiwi, tuatara, takahe and the charismatic South Island kākā, Orokonui Ecosanctuary is named after the valley the reserve is nestled in. The long-term goal of the ecosanctuary is that its residents and community thrive, and once there, you’ll agree that this goal is being met. To explore the sanctuary, you have the option of a self-guided walk or a one or two-hour tour through native grassland and ancient forest habitats, spying on all the different species.
Next up, you’re making your way to the small coastal settlement of Aramoana and its long sandy beach, complete with steep cliffs and the Aramoana Mole, a massive man-made breakwater. This is a great spot to pull out those golden goodies from His & Her Catering, have a picnic on the beach and take in the landscape. Also, keep an eye out for roaming wildlife like yellow-eyed penguins, native New Zealand sea lions and greedy red-billed gulls - they’ll be after that custard square for sure!
Not far from the beach is the short Aramoana Boardwalk, which starts at the domain and runs through the salt marsh, leading to a viewing platform looking out to the ocean. It’s just over 1km there and back and well worth the journey as the marsh is a wildlife reserve and home to a lot more bird life.
Espresso & eclectic shopping
George Street, Port Chalmers
After all that adventuring, you’ll need a coffee fix, and thankfully, Union Co on the corner of George Street and Grey Street has the best coffee in town using locally roasted Common Ground beans.
Following caffeine, make the big trek across the road to The Flying Whale, home of world-famous illustrator and writer David Elliot. It’s a cute wee space to view his drawings, books and gifts and also get some informal insight into Port Chalmers’s history. Next door is Box of Birds, a bright, busy-looking place full of fun, upcycled clothing and collectables. From there, wander into the Orient at 2 Gypsies. The homewares, gifts, art and accessories have a distinct Eastern style that has floated local boats since way back. Along these main street meanderings, you’ll also notice the presence of the striking Iona Church, which had its stone laid in 1871.
Settle in for a cosy evening
17 Macandrew Rd, Careys Bay, Dunedin
What a day. Could there be a better way to finish it all off than fresh, locally caught seafood accompanied by craft beer and cosy vibes, all within a beautiful renovated Victorian pub by the water? The answer is a hard no. So settle in at Carey's Bay Hotel, your old stone home for the evening, with a bowl of creamy seafood chowder, and enjoy the friendly old-fashioned hospitality that will follow.
Coast to coast
It’s back to Union Co for breakfast and caffeine with views across to the Port Chalmers Museum and the Pacific. The cabinet baked goods and savoury fare make for hard choices, especially thanks to locally shaped Beam Me Up Bagels. Not only is the coffee roasted locally, but their milk is from Holy Cow, a local dairy farm that also calls Port Chalmers home.
Today we’re exploring Dunedin on two wheels. You’ve either brought your trusty racer, or you’ve booked a bike with port-based electric bike provider The Goat Loop . The first stop is to hit the water with Port to Port Ferry Crossing, which departs at the back beach and will zoom you to Portobello thanks to boat driver and guide Rachel. Best to book in advance too. It’s a 10-minute crossing packed with commentary and sea life, and more importantly, means you can cycle the whole inner harbour back to Port Chalmers once you hit the shore at Portobello. This can be done in under two hours for the sportster, or you can make a day of it and stop in at some of the hospitality hot spots along the way - The Duck, Glenfalloch Woodland Garden Café, OCHO and Noisy Taproom. Check out our guide to exploring the Te Aka Ōtākou here.
31 George Street, Port Chalmers, Dunedin
Back in the harbour village, we’ve saved a special spot for last. The Portsider is a sweet wee pub run by Pip and Hanz. They’re the perfect pair to run such an institution - Hanz is the chef, and his speciality is these little fried balls of amazingness called Bitterballen (a traditional Dutch bar snack with a ragout of slow-cooked beef shoulder coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried) that are all the craze amongst locals, and deservedly so, they’re amazing! Pip is a craft beer aficionado, and the selection of craft taps is one of the best in Dunedin. Make sure you investigate the “Naughty tap”, too. Plus, they offer an off-licence tap room open to 10pm, in case you want a takeaway flagon for one last nightcap.
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