Taiaroa Head and Harrington Point, Dunedin
Dunedin’s most famous winged residents, the royal albatross, call Taiaroa Head home. You might see them flying around this windswept spot at the end of the Otago Peninsula, but to get up close you’ll want to book a short tour. There are also some nice views around Taiaroa Head and it’s close to some of other great places on the peninsula.
Seeing Albatross at Taiaroa Head
We’ve been to Taiaroa Head a few times over the last three years but had never opted for an albatross tour. We figured it was finally the time, so on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon we decided to do it. It had nothing to do with the fact they were offering cheap “express tours”. OK, it may have played a part – I do love a good deal. The tour started with a short video about albatross and from there it was a short, steep walk up to a little viewing room. The views are great along this short walk (it was a shame the weather was so bad!).
Once in the viewing room we immediately saw four small albatross sitting in the grass. They were almost completely still – some of our tour mates even thought one of them was dead. These young albatross basically hang out here most of the time while waiting for their parents to come home and feed them. It sounds like a boring way to spend your time, although I guess it’s better than flying out in freezing temperatures for days looking for food. They won’t have much time to relax when they are fully grown so I guess they’re making the most of it.
We stayed for around 20 minutes, looking at the young ones and hoping some older ones would fly around in front of us. Nature doesn’t tend to work like that though, but we were happy with what we saw. The view from the little room is awesome too – you can right out over Aramoana and the coastline north of Dunedin. We were pleased with the express albatross tour – it was over very quickly and there wasn’t endless information from the guide (he said he talks way more on the longer tours).
This tiny beach below the Albatross Centre is cool to see at any time but go there around sunset and you should see lots of little blue penguins. You may also see them at other times of day – I saw one sitting under one of the wooden steps one afternoon. This area obviously looks a lot better on a sunny day!
There’s a viewpoint just above the car park at Taiaroa Head where you can see the dramatic coastal scenery as well as a lighthouse. You can also get good views of the lighthouse from Aramoana Beach / the Heyward Point Track.
Just before Taiaroa Head you’ll find Harrington Point. There are a few places worth stopping, and first up is Wellers Rock. This is the spot where some old whaler (Mr Weller I’m guessing) arrived in Dunedin almost 200 years ago. The rock isn’t up to much but there’s a nice little beach and it’s literally right next to the road.
From there you can check out Harrington Point Beach. There are a couple of sections (it may be all connected at low-tide) and it’s great place for a stroll. Harrington Point is also the start point for the Monarch Wildlife Cruise — if you’re willing to splash out and want to see some of Dunedin’s best wildlife I’d recommend doing it.
Getting to Taiaroa Head and Harrington Point
The roads of the Otago Peninsula are some of the most scenic coastal roads in New Zealand. You can drive the low road, which takes you through small settlements and calm bays (Macandrew Bay, Broad Bay and Portobello are highlights) or you can take the high road and stop off at rugged beaches like Sandfly Bay and Allans Beach. It’s probably best to do both – you could spend days in this area if you wanted!
Are you planning a trip to Dunedin? Check out my other posts!