On the road, past a big stadium, out along the Dunedin harbour side and heading to delightful Port Chalmers…There’s a sense of anticipation, waterside and alongside the Otago hills. And there’s a place of history to find when you get there.
A port history
It’s not hard to see the port activity of this place’s name. The big business around here is the port, of course, bringing in freight and cruise ship travellers. And, at the end of main street, you’ll see it, there’s the deep water port. There’s strong historical ties, to the European settlement of the Otago area.
Port Chalmers, known to Māori as Kōpūtai (full tide), is where local Ngāi Tahu sold the Otago block to the New Zealand Company in 1844. And a European town was founded here when Otago was settled back in 1848 - named after Thomas Chalmers, the Free Church of Scotland leader who died the previous year.
The port is where the first frozen meat exports from New Zealand left. That was 1882, and off went the lamb to the northern hemisphere. Trade, of course, that carries on today - watch those big trucks, passing in and out of main street.
And the port is also from where several early Antarctic expeditions left - the last port visited by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, before heading south on his final expedition to Antarctica. And a large stone monument stands above the town, dedicated to that final expedition.
Now there’s a new trade in visiting cruise ships, bringing beloved and welcome visitors to this part of our beautiful country - watch those big buses, passing in and out of main street.
An art community
But more than trade, it’s home too. Many artists and musicians call, or have called, this place home. You could say it’s an artists’ colony around here. And it’s fair to say the artists and the port have had a little bit of tension over the years.
The revered late artist Ralph Hotere had his former studio on land at the tip of Observation Point, the large bluff overlooking the container terminal. There’s more to tell there, part of the bluff is now an award-winning sculpture garden, organised a few years back by Hotere - and featuring works by him and other well-known New Zealand sculptors. So pop up Flagstaff Hill, where the bay stretches out before you, and take a stroll around the sculpture. You’ll love the look, and the view.
And a place of delicious food
It’s not hard to see why this gorgeous township is a popular trip for Dunedin locals, and travellers too. There’s a harbourside setting, hillside walks and relaxing eateries. Think delicious coffee, southern cheese rolls, gelato, and a provisions store of memories and New Zealand food treasures. Quite the combination.
And then a little further on find another bay and a historic hotel for a drink, a sit by the fire and look at the view, and something terrific to eat - there’s a menu filled with our kai moana, our special seafood. Just right for around here.
A baked spiced cheese
For more about those cheese rolls from around these parts, click here - or for another special baked cheese idea to try back at home base, with spice from that Port Chalmers provisions store, click here.
And for more…
To find more on The FoodPath NZ’s handpicked eateries and artisans, for our collection of spot on New Zealand food moments, including in Port Chalmers, Dunedin and more through Otago, download our New Zealand Food Trail Guides app here.