Day 9 – Back to Christchurch via Dunedin and departure

Our trip was coming to an end, and we had to go back to Christchurch to catch our return flight out of New Zealand. Our international flight was scheduled for early (7am) next morning. So, we had one full day to get to Christchurch. There were a few ways in which we could spend our last day; we could have either stayed in Queenstown till evening, or we could have flown back to Christchurch early in the morning and spent a full day in Christchurch, or we could have headed to Christchurch via an unseen destination. Since we like exploring new places, the last option seemed the most interesting to us.

Direct flights from Queenstown to Christchurch were really expensive when we were booking our tickets. However, flights to Christchurch from Dunedin were a lot cheaper. So, we decided to take an Intercity bus to Dunedin ($24 pp) and then fly from Dunedin to Christchurch. By doing this, we would get about 3 hours in Dunedin. We could explore the ‘Scotland of the South’ during these few hours and also get to experience the drive through Central Otago.

Early morning on Day 9, we checked out of our Queenstown motel and headed to the Athol St. parking lot, the same place from where we started our journey to Milford Sound. We boarded the 7:45 am Intercity bus to Dunedin. Our driver was a friendly Japanese man, and the bus was filled with teenagers who looked like college students (Dunedin is home to the University of Otago). Within a few minutes of leaving the parking lot, we were out of Queenstown and into the Otago countryside. It was a clear sunny day in late summer and the scenery was beautiful. The sight of green rolling plains, along with the Clutha river twisting its way through small hills was a perfect setting in which we reflected upon the incredible 8 days that we had just spent across the South Island of New Zealand. The areas near Alexandra and Roxburgh were particularly scenic.

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                               (Clutha river in Central Otago)

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                               (hilly terrain near Alexandra)

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                        (beautiful green hills of Central Otago)

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                        (Clutha river twisting its way through)

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                                              (more greenery)

After a couple of hours, we reached a small town called Lawrence, where we had a short break. Everyone on the bus headed to this small cafe called The Wild Walnut, and some people ordered snacks. This cafe sells artisan jams and jellies which are made in small batches with local produce/fruits. We were a little hungry too, having started our day very early. So, we ordered a vegetarian sandwich which turned out to be quite big in size. After about 25 mins, our break time was up, and we left to continue south east towards Dunedin. We reached our bus stop, the Dunedin Hospital, at around 12:20 pm. We got off the bus here, and then walked for about 10 minutes to our first attraction in Dunedin – The Cadbury Factory! Yes, Dunedin was the place where Cadbury made all of their chocolates for New Zealand. The official name of this place was Cadbury World.

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                               (at the break stop in Lawrence)

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                               (The Wild Walnut cafe front door)

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                        (the back side of the Wild Walnut cafe)

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                      (driving to Dunedin after the break stop)

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                                      (entering Cadbury World)

The friendly staff over there allowed us to store our luggage in their lockers, and we booked a tour of the factory. Our tour was the Short Tour, because the Full Tour is not offered on Sundays. Regardless, we still got to walk around some parts of the factory and even taste some fresh liquid chocolate. Each tour participant also received a bag full of different Cadbury chocolates. Throughout the tour, we learned some interesting facts about chocolate, the sourcing of its ingredients, and the history of Cadbury. This tour is highly recommended for anyone (especially families and chocolate lovers) visiting Dunedin. Cadbury World had a Cadbury store, where one could buy all kinds of regular and limited edition chocolate bars. There was also a Cadbury Cafe which served snacks and hot chocolate.

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                        (the entire process of making chocolate)

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                                        (vintage packaging)

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                               (Cadbury’s first few products)

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                  (various Cadbury products through its history)

Feeling happy after the Cadbury World tour and some chocolate shopping, we collected our luggage from the lockers and walked for another 10 mins to reach to our next destination, the Dunedin Railway Station. This beautiful early 20th century building was the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere, after the Sydney Opera House. We clicked some pictures at the station and on the platform, all of which were immaculately maintained.

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     (Dunedin Railway Station is so wide, it could not fit in one frame)

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                               (beautiful front side of the station)

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                                   (Dunedin Railway Station)

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                       (lovely atmosphere outside the station)

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                                  (immaculately maintained)

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                                        (inside the station)

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                               (on the platform of Dunedin station)

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                       (the floor of the entrance hall of the station)

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                                 (the famous silver fern of NZ)

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                     (storage silos of the Cadbury World factory)

We walked out of the station to explore the buildings in surrounding area, all of which had lovely Scottish/British architecture. We walked towards an area called the Octagon, which was a central area in the heart of Dunedin. The Octagon was surrounded by restaurants, shops and historical buildings all along an octagon-shaped road. On reaching the Octagon, we still had about 45 mins before SupperShuttle would pick us up to head to Dunedin airport. SupperShuttle – for those who are not familiar, is like a shared taxi/van, which transports you (and your luggage) between the airport and your desired destination in a city. It is convenient and economical. With little time on our hands, we decided to hang around the Town Hall and explore the area. Through someone’s recommendation on tripadvisor, we walked down a small lane next to the Town Hall called the Municipal Lane (next to red phone boxes) and found a luggage storage place. This place allowed you store your bags/suitcases at a nominal charge. Though we did not use this facility, it could be quite handy for someone looking to store some stuff in the town center for a few hours.

After a few minutes, the SuperShuttle van showed up, and we left Dunedin to go to the airport. Though we did not spend a lot of time in Dunedin, there is quite a lot that one can see/visit. If we had more time, then we would definitely have gone to see penguins on an Elm Wildlife Tour, we might have also done the Good Company City Tour, which included Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. If we had a rental car, then we would also have driven along the Otago peninsula. All of these things were highly rated by other travelers who had visited Dunedin. There were also things like museums and a cathedral which we could have visited.

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                        (surrounding buildings outside the station)

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                          (it truly felt like we were in Scotland)

As we were driving towards the airport, it initially felt as if we were going on somebody’s farm in the countryside. Dunedin airport was situated in a quiet distant area, and it did not look like an airport at all. It was one of the smallest airport I had ever been to. There was literally only one short runway and a small terminal building on a patch of land surrounded by beautiful hilly landscape. Check-in took us less than 10 minutes and we were at the gate in no time. We waited for an hour or so, before boarding our flight to Christchurch. After a short 1 hour flight, we were at Christchurch airport, right where it all began! We chose to stay the night at Sudima Hotel next to Christchurch Airport. While not that great in terms of quality, the Sudima Hotel was best for its location. It was literally a short 10 minute walk through the airport parking lot, which meant that we did not have to take a taxi or shuttle to get there from the airport. The food there was expensive but ok (good enough for one or two meals with very limited vegetarian options). Choosing this hotel turned out to be a good decision, because we did not have to wake up in the middle of the night the next day in order to get to the airport.

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                                             (Dunedin airport)

Early on the morning of departure date, as we were checking out, we found out that the hotel had a free shuttle running from the hotel to the airport. We took it as we were feeling a little tired to walk to the terminal. The airport was quite crowded and busy even at 5 am, because of the early morning flights leaving for Australia. We finished our check-in after waiting in a long queue, and it was time to wave New Zealand goodbye. We met some of the most friendly people along the way, and witnessed some of the most spectacular and breathtaking scenery. 9 days was really short time, and there were some places which we would have loved to visit had we stayed longer. So, that gives us all the more reason to visit this wonderful country again.

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