Dunedin, New Zealand was founded in 1848 by Scottish settlers who named it after the Gaelic term for “Little Edinburgh.” The Scottish influence can be seen in the beautifully preserved Victorian and Edwardian buildings, with spires, gables, and gargoyles everywhere! But the jewel in Dunedin’s architectural crown is the magnificent Dunedin Railway Station, said to be the most photographed building in New Zealand. Designed by architect George Troup in 1904, the station’s elaborate Flemish renaissance style earned Troup the nickname “Gingerbread George.” When it opened in 1906, the station was the busiest in the country. Today it has only two railway platforms, but the building and surrounding Anzac Gardens continue to attract locals and tourists alike. The station has intricate stained glass windows, ornate tile floors, and a Royal Doulton porcelain frieze that runs all the way around the balcony . Some areas of the station have been re-purposed for railway and sports museums, a cafe, and a large area that is home to the Otago Art Society, with studios and galleries featuring original work by local artists. We browsed the galleries, chatted with several artists, and even managed to purchase a souvenir or two.
Then it was time for “all aboard” the historic Taieri Gorge Railway for a delightful 5 hour journey to the magnificent gorge and historic viaducts. Along the way, knowledgeable volunteer hosts provided fascinating commentary with stories about the fascinating surroundings and the early pioneers who built the historic rail line. The Otago landscape changes pretty quickly from city to farmland, forest, and lush wilderness. After the first 13 km from Dunedin to Wingatui Junction, the historic railway continues for 64 km from North Taieri onward to Middlemarch. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the Taieri Gorge from the open platform near the rear of the train. We passed through several small towns, hand-hewn tunnels, a race horse breeding farm with its own track, and even a tiny cabin once home to railroad workers. At the halfway point, we stopped to pay our respects to Sue, a monument to all of the sheepdogs who have been working the sheep farms of the area for over 150 years. And our cordial hosts provided gracious hospitality with fresh New Zealand delicacies. For morning tea we enjoyed Dunedin’s very own iconic Bell Tea, made in Dunedin since 1894. Lunch included delicious vegetable rolls and salad, freshly baked raspberry almond friands, locally produced artisan Whitestone brie, and a choice of local wines, beers, and natural spring water. All of this made for a delightful way to experience some of the Dunedin countryside and learn more about this beautiful part of New Zealand’s South Island and its rich history.
As we sailed away from Port Chalmers, we reflected back on the last 8 days in New Zealand. Starting in the Bay of Islands, we visited Auckland and Rotorua on the North Island. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, we missed the Art Deco city of Napier and sailed on to the capital city of Wellington. Arakoa, the gateway to Christchurch, was a delightful surprise, and our last NZ port of Dunedin is described above. All that remains for our time in New Zealand is a cruise through the Doubtful Sound, but that’s a story for tomorrow. For now, all we can is that we thoroughly enjoyed New Zealand, and look forward to coming back one day.