February 16 Otago Peninsula (Day 142)

We explored the peninsula that separates Otago Harbour from the Pacific ocean today. A beautiful sunny, slightly breezy day. We drove from the B&B on the northwest side of the harbour along the edge of Dunedin and then along the harbour edge all the way to the tip of the peninsula at the entrance to Otago Harbour!

The lighthouse at Taiaroa Head. The Royal Albatross Centre is located at the tip of the peninsula. This is the world’s only mainland albatross colony in the world! Most breed on remote islands far from human civilization! The albatross is the world’s largest seabirds. The young birds that hatch at this colony will take 8 months of care from the parents until they fledge. They will then go to sea for 3 to 8 years before they return to the same site to find a mate and breed. They can live up to 40 years! The main threat to the albatross worldwide it plastic pollution!

We didn’t see any albatross that we could identify, but there are lots of birds along the peninsula, some places even reminding us of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”! Just the other side of the tip of the peninsula from the viewing deck over the Pacific, on the protected harbour side, is the site of another bird colony, the little blue penguin colony. The penguins are out at sea during the day feeding and come into the nesting site after sunset, perhaps to avoid the sea lions that were lying around waiting! The viewing platform at this beach closes an hour before sunset, then opens for tours to view the returning penguins. We didn’t stick around all day for that, but click HERE for a great description with photos!

Looking down at the deck/observation post at Pilots Beach, Blue Penguin Pukekura.

We backtracked to about mid-peninsula and crossed a narrow to Papanui Inlet, driving through rural areas on gravel roads to reach Okia Flat where we had our picnic lunch. We then hiked between Big Pyramid and Little Pyramid to reach Victory Beach on the Pacific side of the peninsula.

The trail started as a farm road until the pyramids, then became a hiking track through sand dunes to the beach.

The Beach! Awesome, and we were the only people there! A few sealions and birds were our only neighbors!

A walk on the beach, then the hike back to the car, passing a few people hiking in, and we moved on to the next beach, driving around Papnui inlet onto Cape Saunders and down to Allans Beach.

There were a few more people at this beach, being more accessible with less of a hike! There were a few sealions here too!

We then drove around Hoopers Inlet to reach Sandymount Recreation Reserve.

A boathouse on Hoopers Inlet. These shallow inlets must be great for fishing and bird watching!

Lots of hiking in Sandymount and we took the track that lead us to the viewpoint overlooking Allans Beach where we just came from!

The beach looks so much bigger than when we were standing on it, we were, however, at the far end of it!

We continued on the track to the viewpoint at the summit after passing through a small forest with a resident all black fantail bird that serenaded us with a song. The view was great, if you climbed on top of the monument marker, the vegetation having grown up a lot it seems!

Looking south towards Sandfly Bay.

It was a great drive home from there, along the spine of the peninsula, Highcliff Road, looking down either to the Pacific Ocean on the left, or down to Otago Harbour on the right!

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