Travel Diary » New Zealand Road Trip: Dunedin and the Worlds Steepest Street
After driving over Arthurs Pass to Christchurch, and spending a lovely afternoon and night catching up with friends, we woke to a day of pouring rain with even more rain predicted. We were planning to head to a small town halfway between Christchurch and Dunedin for a few nights to see penguins and seals, but given the rain we decided to drive straight through to Dunedin. A tiny campervan in a small town on the beach is a lot of fun when the weather's nice. When it's pouring rain ... not so much.
Pulling into Dunedin at 5pm after several long days of back to back driving as it poured rain also made staying in the campervan for another night particularly unappealing.
Yup, we completely talked ourselves into staying in a hotel for the night! It's amazing how spacious a hotel room feels after several nights in a tiny van.
We did offset the cost of the hotel room slightly with a cheap $10 dinner. Thanks Pizza Hut! As well as being possibly the most beautiful city in New Zealand, Dunedin is a University town and University towns always equal cheap pizza.
See how we completely justified the expensive hotel room there? "Oh look at all this money we saved on dinner"
Dunedin was gorgeous. Beautiful colonial buildings, great museums, easy access to activities and nature, rolling hills, a great vibe ... there was a lot going for Dunedin. It felt like a little piece of England or Scotland. The wind and rain really helped complete that picture! The weather really was miserable enough that we could have been in Edinburgh on a wet, winter day. Dunedin was one of those cities that you drove around thinking 'Wow I'd really love to live here for a while ... just not in winter."
Since our time in Dunedin was wet and windy we skipped visiting the Otago Peninsula with it's penguin and seal colonies. But we did hit the shops (sad but true confession: I stumbled across the Australian department store K-Mart, similar to WalMart, and got stupidly excited and homesick!), visited the Cadbury Factory for a tour (more on that in another post) and drove around a lot snapping looking at all the beautiful buildings.
Baldwin Street in Dunedin holds the record for the world's steepest residential street. It is just under 350m long but in those 350m it rises 70m in elevation. So for every 2.86m you walk up the street you rise 1m higher above sea level. The first third of the street is like any regular hilly street. The next third (where this photo was taken) gets steeper. It's the last third where the real fun begins!
Visiting Baldwin Street was low on our TO DO list as we assumed the kids would be like 'Is that it? Can I get back in the car NOW? but as we headed back to Queenstown we thought it might not be a silly idea to take the kids on a run up and down that world's steepest street before subjecting them to another 3 hour drive.
Turns out our stop at Baldwin Street was a lot of fun It's funny how in travel it's often not the planned or paid expensive activities that turn out to be the highlight of your trip. It's usually some random little discovery or activity that you stumble across right when everyone is in the right mood and the universe aligns to make it the perfect outing.
By the universe aligning I mean that by complete coincidence we watched an episode of Man VS Wild the night before where he was demonstrating how to run down steep slopes in a zig zag. OK sure he was running down a scree slope into an old volcanic crater ... but in the kids mind this street was close enough. The instant the kids saw the street they were like "Hey we know how to do this. Lets go!!!"
Standing at the bottom it looks steep but not THAT steep. It is paved in concrete as on a hot summers day the slope is so great that the bitumen would actually run down the slope ... so it's steep but not like "you've got to be kidding me, I'm not walking up there" steep.
Walking up it doesn't feel that bad either. Until you get about 2/3rds of the way and your legs start to burn. And burn!
But we got to the top with minimal puffing (mostly on my part) and a couple of pretend "I'm just looking at this sign, you go on ahead" stops while breath was caught (again mostly on my part).
Then the fun part: Running down in a zig-zag! Wheee!!!
So there you have it, the world's steepest street. As with all "worlds steepest" "worlds tallest" "worlds biggest" claims, there are other claimants to the worlds steepest street. But officially it's Baldwin Street in Dunedin and we're happy to say we've run down it!