The Finest Guide to Exploring Te Aka Ōtākou Otago Harbour Trail
One of the newest cycle trails to hit New Zealand Aotearoa is the Te Aka Ōtākou in Dunedin. This stunning 30+ km trail circumnavigates its way around the inner Otago Harbour from Port Chalmers to Portobello with a standout 10-minute scenic ferry service to cross the Harbour.
Words by: Johnny Gibson
Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou gifted the path the name Te Aka Ōtākou, which translates to The Otago Vine and was inspired by the winding path it carves. Thanks to its flat nature and inspiring ocean views, the trail is for all ages and abilities. For the spritely, the trail can be smashed out in a couple of hours, but we’re here to take the slow road and match it with some of the neatest stops along the way cause that’s our jam. So, pull out the day pack and the closest thing you have to spandex, and prepare to experience Te Aka Ōtākou.
21 Fryatt Street, Central Dunedin
Like all great getaways, you need boutique accommodation for the occasion, and what better place than a restored historic building with harbour views and close proximity to the city for all the necessary pre and post-trip experiences?
Welcome to The Thomas Greggs, a collection of waterfront apartments in the original Otago Steam Coffee Mills building built in 1878 by coffee trailblazer Thomas Gregg. The building has had many iterations, most impressively housing the Dunedin sound with bands like The Clean and The Chills. Nowadays, expect bespoke two-bedroom apartments with lush industrial vibes designed by Robert Morris-Nunn Architects. If you can’t get the night you’re after, there are another 13 rooms, including nine one-bedroom loft apartments, on the way soon.
Dunedin E-Bike Hire
10 Harrow Street, Dunedin
Leave the comforts of your temporary home and make the short walk to Dunedin E-Bike Hire. You’ve already booked online and have an access code to the self-service human-less kiosk open 7am to 8pm every day of the year. Inside, you’ll find your allocated weapon on two wheels full of charge that will easily power you across the whole loop. If you want to leave anything, there are lockers and wifi, too, if some last-minute reconnaissance is required.
Port Chalmers Bound
Time to hit the trail heading to Port Chalmers and get some decent km’s under the belt while taking in the stunning Otago Harbour. Within this segment, you’ll cross the newly completed and seriously impressive 600-metre boardwalk that winds the path around Blanket Bay.
Once you hit this historic and cultured port town, you’ll be in serious need of caffeine and an accompanying sweet or savoury treat. Thankfully, Union Co. makes the best coffee in town, its cabinet treats are on point, and its corner positioning offers views of the port, township and museum.
Sufficiently refuelled, have a nosy along George Street and pop your head into some of the eclectic shops that help give Port Chalmers its charm. Now, follow your way around the Harbour to Port to Port Ferry. Ideally, you’ve already booked your spot on this 10-minute ferry ride thanks to Captain Rachel. It’s not unusual to come across a sea lion, albatross, or two. Considering it’s only 10 minutes, there’s a lot packed into this short jaunt, and the change from two wheels to boat really rounds out the overall experience.
Portobello & Provisions
Upon disembarking this pleasure cruise, you’ll find yourself in Portobello. A quiet coastal community with stunning surroundings that, on a good day, feels more like the Bay of Islands than coastal Otago. From here, peddle power yourself to our top lunch spots and enjoy the grand views of the city. The Duck is a funky little café that’s bright and fun and offers excellent ocean views thanks to the large bay window and outdoor spots. It’s difficult to go past the cheeseburger here.
Post eats, wander across the road to Macandrew Bay Beach and sit in the sand for a bit of digestion and reflection before tackling the next leg. Glenfalloch Woodland Garden Café is another stand-out option, with its beautiful historic woodland garden filled with greenery, birdlife and menu delights.
Mini Taste Tour
A little more peddle power will return you to the city limits feeling like you deserve more treats from local makers. As you’re on the home straight, it’s probably a good time to start celebrating, and what better way to do that than a mini-tasting tour of distillers, chocolate makers and craft beer brewers?
First up is Dunedin Craft Distillers, the first distillery in the country to produce botanical spirits from surplus bread and bakery products. You can hear their story on the Bread to Bottle Tour, which takes around 45 minutes.
At the neighbouring OCHO Chocolate Factory, you can learn about the bean-to-bar process with their Tasting Journey, or go straight for the OCHO hot chocolate or brownie at the café. Whatever your choice, make sure there’s enough room in the bag for a bottle and block.
Lastly, you’ve got a short three to four-minute cycle to Noisy Taproom to cheer a job well done. It’s a family-owned microbrewery and taproom making waves in the scene with its bold, flavoursome brews, from porters to sours, pilsners to pale ales - the mantra is diversification.
If that pint of crafty has made you a little nervous to get on two wheels, don’t worry; the Dunedin E-Bike kiosk is only a few minutes away. Drop that sucker back and make the 10-minute walk to the apartment for a shower and short, well-deserved rest before dinner.
Hidden under the Jetty Street overpass, you will find PLATO, an eatery that is retro both inside and out. Specialising in fresh seafood and local ingredients, the friendly Plato team will talk you through their a la carte menu, or go for the set menu and cap off on a wondrous day in Ōtepoti Dunedin.
For those around the city on a Saturday morning, we’d also highly recommend checking out the Otago Farmers Market.
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