International travel enthusiast and expat from New Zealand, currently living in Germany. https://indie-road.com
Published June 9th 2017
While visiting Dunedin you will probably be told that you should visit the Otago Peninsula which extends into the Pacific Ocean from the city itself. The Peninsula consists of a series of rolling hills, hidden sandy bays, lookout points and a plethora of wild animals, and has become popular for blue penguin watching, albatross watching, and for backpackers seeking a break from the city.
Most people who visit the Peninsula will spend the afternoon driving between the points of interest, stopping at each one to breathe in the surroundings before hopping back into the car and driving to the next spot. At the risk of sounding like an overused cliché, the destination is not all the attraction, and for those of you willing to rise to the challenge, you can throw on your cycling gear and mount your saddle.
There is no specific route that one should take, but there are a number of things worth noting. First of all, it is possible to do a loop over the highlands and back along the coastline, once you are over the bridge from the city. Cycling over the highlands offers the best views of the Dunedin skyline and the bay, and also allows you to enter places such as Sandfly Bay which are well worth a visit. The thing is, they are called "highlands" for a reason; you have to cycle up, and while it's not particularly steep or difficult, it will definitely be a test of your endurance, and possibly your sanity too.
If you struggled to reach the top of the hill, it's probably a good idea to walk back up the hill that takes you down to Sandfly Bay, as this is particularly steep.
Unless you are really motivated and really quite fit, you probably won't make it to the end of the Peninsula and back again, all in one day, but you can certainly reach the town of Portabello, stop for a coffee, and then come back along the sea road. The winds can be quite strong here which makes for a very good workout as you make the homewards push. Just be mindful of traffic, as this road is a lot busier than Highcliff Road.
My recommended route is to take Highcliff Road first to get the hard part done first, and if you're feeling up for it, to descend into Sandfly Bay. From here, you can cycle back to Highcliffe Road and follow this towards Hoopers Inlet which leads around to Alans Beach, and from there you can to Portabello and then back to Dunedin. You will be worn out at the end of the day, but you will feel your rest is well deserved and have enjoyed the roads of the Otago Peninsula in a unique and interesting way that not many visitors can claim that they have.