Further South – The South Island of New Zealand (Part 3)

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There are a lot of things to do and see when traveling on the South Island of New Zealand. So many, in fact, that this post is jammed with pictures from just a day or two adventuring down to the southern most part of New Zealand’s main island.

Nugget Point Lighthouse, South Island, New Zealand
Nugget Point Lighthouse, South Island, New Zealand

Su and I continued on after the Moeraki boulders in search of our next stop-over point, Dunedin. We had heard good things about this southern coastal town, but when we arrived, we found it to be even better than we had hoped.

The Dunedin Rail Station

The hotel manager told us about a few things we should go see. So we set out into the city to find the old rail station. Known as “The Grandest Gingerbread House You’ll Ever See” it didn’t disappoint. The architecture was definitely unique.

Signal Hill

Dunedin felt very familiar being that we used to live just a few hours from San Francisco. In fact, we found Dunedin to be a quieter, lovelier version of San Francisco, complete with its own hill-top radio towers and Signal Hill.

Driving up to signal hill is no small feat. The road is narrow (barely a lane), windy and steep. In fact, Dunedin residents claim to have the steepest road in the word.

The Botanical Gardens in Dunedin

As we made our way back down from Signal Hill, we happened upon a sign for the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. We decided to check it out since we had a few more hours of daylight. The gardens turned out to be spectacularly beautiful. You could spend hours winding through forested paths and manicured lawns. There were bridges and hedges, fountains and lakes, and even a glass greenhouse and aviary.

Nugget Point Lighthouse

The next day we woke to rain. That wasn’t going to stop us. We plotted a spot on the map to make our way to, Nugget Point Lighthouse. We hoped the rain would give up later in the morning and make for nice, broken clouds out a the lighthouse cliffs.

As continued traveling down the South Island of New Zealand, the rain started to let up and the sky began to open up. Right on cue, we came across our first real encounter with New Zealand’s amazingly colorful water. We just had to stop to take some pictures.

We continued farther south until we came to a dead end. As we made our way from the carpark, we could tell the wind was going to be howling out at the point. But the way the clouds broke and the sunlight came through made for amazing vistas.

Purakaunui Falls

We continued on from Nugget Point to our next stop, Purakaunui Falls. The weather was threatening rain again, but we decided to give it a go. For most of the trek, the trail was covered by dense foliage. When we finally made it to the little clearing with the waterfall, the rain had turned misty and the sun started to break through. It felt very tropical, but cold.

McClean Falls and “the Chute”

Our final stop for the day was McClean Falls. It wasn’t too much farther down the road. To get to Purakaunui Falls, we had cut off the main road and taken a dirt road to get to the carpark. McClean Falls was a short drive down another dirt road.

We found the trail head and the rain had been holding off. So we set out to find the last waterfall of the day.

McClean Falls Trail, South Island New Zealand
The trail to McClean Falls, South Island, New Zealand

It started to rain as we got close to the falls. We first came upon a second of McClean Falls known as “the Chute”.

The Chute, McClean Falls, South Island, New Zealand
“The Chute”, McClean Falls, South Island, New Zealand

It would be very easy to think that this was the main attraction and turn back, especially in the rain. But we decided to keep going, even though the rain was starting to come down harder. We were glad we did.

The upper falls was a nice cascade with plenty of water pouring down it. The rain had really picked up and was coming down in big drops. I did my best to shield my camera, but it was soaked by the time I was able to take a couple of long exposures. Thank goodness for weather sealed gear.

Exploring Tropical New Zealand

Traveling down the South Island of New Zealand can be a gamble when looking at a map. You are never quite sure if the road will be paved, gravel or just a single lane. We took a look at Google Maps and saw that the main road wasn’t too far from where we were and took a gamble that we would make up time if we continued down the gravel road rather than backtracking the way we had come. We came across some small farms and some rolling hills until we made it back to the main highway. As we were continuing to make our way over to our next stop, the highway took a corner and the view opened up.

Ocean views from on the South Island of New Zealand
The view from the highway as we were making our way to Invercargill from McClean Falls

We stood on the side of the road for a while just taking in the view. The beach below looked tropical and didn’t have a single footprint on it.

A tropical beach on the South Island of New Zealand
It looks warm and tropical, but we were in jackets with the heater on in the car.

I took a panorama of what could be called “New Zealand in a Day”. There is a warm looking, tropical beach with not a single person on it, mountains, pastures, sunshine and rain, all in the same photo.

New Zealand weather can be ever changing. Storms, sun, trees, mountains, and the beach.
New Zealand in a day.

And that’ll wrap it up for this post. Our next stop was intended to be Invercargill, but we had to be flexible and found our selves in another town. We’ll pick that up next post.

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