If you've learned anything about us from perusing the blog, it's probably that you wonder why you bother with this shit, because we never really go anywhere or do anything. Everyone's doing it for the Gram, except us. We don't drive, are loath to fly and sort of hate travelling with other people.
What are tragic homebodies to do at the end of a summer in a port town filled with other, more itinerant arseholes all coming and going from some sort of watercraft? We got on a boat. For about half an hour.
Groundbreaking. Courageous. Inexpensive.
The boat is neat, stable and boarding from the low jetty in Port shouldn't pose any challenges if you have half-decent bipedal motility. You don't have to wear lifejackets but they have all the requisite safety shit on board; I checked.
The return trip cost $50 for two adults and one poodle slash child. Even ridiculous penny pinchers such as we thought this was perfectly reasonable. I effed up the online booking but the Port to Port people were very helpful via email and various tour/trip options are available. We liked the service, so we'll probably do some in future. I think they rejig their pricing and timetables over winter so check that out if you're keen to go.
It really is strange to see a place you've swarmed over for 25 years from such a different perspective.
Doing touristy things in your own region forces you to reconsider your lazy-arse complacency about stuff that is, in fact, an astonishing privilege to experience on a daily basis. Otago Harbour's ancient podocarp forests may be largely denuded (you're seeing second growth and plantation pine here) but it is still such a generous landscape and is - for the moment- free of the very worst human cruftage. There's no millionaire marinas or canal mansion wank or salmon cages. No militia flotillas or visible body parts. Yet.
There's talk of some ratchet architectural jizzings (Acres of glass! Plagarised parabolic silhouettes! Looks like someone got their dick caught in a giant bivalve!) being installed around the Dunedin waterfront in a near and more terrible future, but we won't be able to see it from our house, so whatever.
At least it's not steampunk.
The central islands are larger than they appear from the Port side of things, looking exactly like the stubborn, crusty survivors from right up the arse of the ancient, once-massive shield volcano that they are. Boutique land chunks. Bijoux continents.
A Victorian quarantine dormitory remains on the largest, along with the graves of those unfortunate enough to have survived the half-year sea voyage from the northern hemisphere, only to drown coming ashore or succumb to disease just as their new home was sighted.
Quarantine Island-Kamau Taurua is open to the public and you can stay there short-term, helping the bush recover with weed control programmes etc. This would normally be right up our alley, but I am sort of secretly disinclined to step onto the place in case the remnant juju is... inclement.
I have reservations when I view this isle at night sometimes. It seems to focus and absorb the great, indifferent black energy of the ocean in a way its smaller neighbour does not. Sometimes that dark flow is sticky. It could just be me.
The Otago Peninsula forms the long south-eastern arm of the Harbour, lying about 8 kms distant across from Port Chalmers. We considered settling there upon arriving in Dunedin, we really did. That dream lasted about as long as it took to settle in to one of its little bays and feel the thud of our tits slapping into our eyebrows, courtesy of a wind that never, ever stops. I mean, Port gets it from the south and the north, but it is episodic, rather than the spirit-crushing, mono-directional air-hounding that afflicted our Peninsula domicile. The bus ride into town and back sucks arse too. (Life advice: always find a way to test drive an area before buying or signing a lease. Always.)
Portobello is a picturesque wee settlement and probably the tourist hub for the area, but we didn't bother getting off the boat for the brief time it was moored there to pick up some wildlife tour punters. We find Portobello sort of... desultory, and have had one too many shitty experiences in its various cafés.
Otago University has a marine study facility > on an adjacent headland. You used to be able to visit the aquarium but it's only open to educational-type groups these days ie. children, goddamit.
I was told off there back in the day by some emotionally unregulated juvenile for touching a starfish, even though a sign encouraged visitors to do so. The starfish didn't give a shit and it's not like I was visibly getting some sort of sick gratification from distressing an echinoderm.
Our one small gripe was the lack of commentary volume once we picked up speed in the rear half of the vessel. But you know, there was plenty of room in the cabin if we'd really needed to know more, and a low key approach to audio is one thousand times better than being fucked in the ears by some rote-droning halfwit, as any bus tour veteran will probably know. The experience was pleasant, affordable, low-key and irritant-free, so the Port to Port Ferry goes on our used+recommended list of local attractions.