We strolled through downtown to the railway station this morning to catch the train from Dunedin into the Taieri Gorge. The Dunedin Railway Station was opened in 1906 and is referred to as the Gingerbread House due to its ornate embellishments.

Dunedin Railway Station

We made the four-hour roundtrip through the Taieri Gorge in 1937 wooden body passenger coach. Wood was used to keep the carriages cooler in the summer months. The passage consisted of 12 tunnels and innumerable bridges (according to the brochure). We started in an industrial section of Dunedin before moving to the rural outskirts. From there the countryside included rolling hills, horse pastures, and sheep farms before changing to forests and the deep gorge of the Taieri River. I found it amazing that a railroad line was built so long ago through such rugged terrain. Often the train trestle was high above the canyon. We hung out the windows and stood between the cars to get pictures. I had a death grip on my phone/camera

The guide said most trout in the river die of old age because the only way to get to the river for fishing is via the train

The water is whiskey colored due to the peat

Train lunch: ham, cheese and pineapple sandwich with mini bottle of Sauvignon Blanc


Sheep outside the race track

Modern house outside Dunedin

Back in Dunedin for the afternoon, we had a quick ice cream at the train station. We’ve seen “fresh fruit ice cream advertised everywhere, so we decided to give it a try. They have a cone-shaped machine that they add vanilla ice cream and the fruit of your choice to, then they lower an auger into the cone and fresh fruit soft serve comes out the bottom into your cone. Brilliant! We walked about downtown and did a bit of shopping. There is a lot of jade and bone carved jewelry and merino wool and possum fur knits. I scored a sterling silver fern-shaped pendant (the fern seems to be the national symbol for NZ). There is a local quilt exhibit going on, but sadly it has been closed both times we walked by.

We ended our day with a 90-minute tour of the Speight’s Brewery, the nation’s largest brewery. While our guide was very entertaining, he wasn’t too informative about the beer making process. One interesting story was about the coopers who made the wooden casks. They worked in pairs and were expected to make five 30-piece casks per week. Each day they were given a cooper’s cask of beer to share, that is 5 gallons of beer every day! Captain Cook brewed beer when he arrived in New Zealand to revive his crew who were suffering from scurvy.

Casks of varying sizes: copper, hogshead, barrel, butt

Captain Cook’s beer recipe

Until recently, Speight’s delivered beer to pubs via tanker truck

Weird: chicken flavored chips with a penguin on the label and made by Bluebird

After the tour, we stopped by Speight’s restaurant for dinner. We sat near a couple of women who had just dropped off their daughters for college at the University of Otago. They had just met and I’m not sure if they were celebrating or commiserating, but they were very friendly. Dinner was fabulous. I had venison with a blueberry and plum sauce over kumara (definitely sweet potato) mash topped with walnuts and a hunk of blue cheese paired with the Speight’s porter. Shawn had beef schnitzel over potato mash with peas followed by a slice of lemon meringue pie ala mode.

As we waddled back to our hotel, we saw a few more street art murals. Another great day. Dunedin and the surrounding areas are beautiful (I know I’m overusing “beautiful” but everything is so).

Tomorrow it is off to the southernmost point of New Zealand…

Daily ratings:
Taieri Gorge Railway – 5 Kiwis
Speight’s Brewery Tour – 3.5 Kiwis
Speight’s Restaurant – 5 Kiwis
Dunedin Distinction Hotel – 5 Kiwis

Ice cream flavor: fresh apricot
Steps taken = 8,088