Rob and I have been living in New Zealand for six weeks now and we've learned a few things in the meantime.
- New Zealand is CRAZY expensive, especially when coming from Asia. Forget about eating out and get ready to channel your inner Martha Stewart for three meals a day.
- Housesitting is the most amazing way to save money, get to know a place and its people, and bootstrap a new company. (This is especially the case when your house comes with a ton of fast WiFi. Once again, in case you missed it the first time, housesitting means you live for free!)
- Kiwis are definitely friendly, but with the minimum wage being so high, going out with even the poorest Kiwi is an expensive experience.
- The weather does go through four seasons in one day, but it stays on winter the longest.
- The scenery really is out of this world, and lucky for you, most of it is free.
We've based ourselves in Dunedin, the second largest city in the South Island that's slightly smaller than the TOWN I grew up in in America. (Okay, okay, so Stamford was considered a city, but it's closer to a town in my book.) But every town has its quirks. Wrong trilogy, Dunedin.
Dunedin is a college town and has a lot going for it, mostly its insanely lucky geographical position that boasts beaches, sunsets, and rare wildlife—all within a 30-minute drive from downtown. There's also an awesome farmer's market every Saturday, lots of Scottish-inspired buildings, and some pretty nice urban green space. From the tourist's perspective, you can do a beer tasting tour at Speight's, a chocolate tour at Cadbury's, and an overpriced albatross-spotting tour that gives you a chance to get up close and personal with a bird whose wingspan exceeds 3 meters. (In other words, my worst nightmare.)
Since we've been tied to our computer screens, we haven't done too much exploring, but we have gotten out to the Otago Peninsula a few times. Being budget-conscious and having access to a car (yay housesitting!) meant we struck out ourselves. Here are the highlights:
Take the coastal road from Dunedin all the way to the albatross center for a chance to see the birds for free. Even if you don't spot them, you'll have great views of the water and coast, which I find more fascinating than giant birds. (Bring binoculars or a good zoom lens.)
On the way back, veer inland to take in Allan's Beach. You may spot penguins here, but if you don't, you'll definitely see sea lions. The drive to the beach is worth doing even if you have no interest in the beach itself.
Do the hike to Lover's Leap. Amazing views, lots of sheep.
Head to Sandfly Bay to spot the yellow-eyed penguins. Arriving around 6pm will give you the best chance to see them come out of the water, but we lucked out around 8:30 and watched two little guys struggle up the hill for an hour. If the weather holds, you'll get an amazing sunset here. If it doesn't, you'll always have the sea lions for company.
One of our favorite things to do in Dunedin is head down to St. Clair beach, so if you have some extra time, we suggest you either start or end your day there. Dogs not included :o)
Want to see more of the Otago Peninsula wildlife and beaches? Check out our Otago photo tour.
Have tips for visiting New Zealand for cheap? Share them in the comments!