We wanted to see several things near Dunedin but didn't want to drive there. This eight-hour "Back to Nature" bus tour got us near the dock at Port Chalmers, up to the ANZAC Lookout above the town, to the bottom of very-steep Baldwin Street, to the grounds of Larnoch Castle, and to penguin, seal, and albatross areas on the Otago Peninsula. The albatrosses weren't flying while we were there (not enough wind ... not the fault of the tour), but we did see the other animals, and lots of seagulls and other birds.
Our driver and guide was perhaps new. In any case, he was not as full of information and stories as guides we've had elsewhere in New Zealand, and wasn't able to answer some of our questions. But he was personable and his driving along the winding roads inspired confidence. He didn't do a couple of things we'd have liked ... we pass along two hints:
(1) Order the hamburger. If the lunch will be at the Portobello Hotel, you'll have to order in advance without knowing the details. Our guide recommended the local fish (blue cod or something), but also mentioned the "gourmet" hamburger, chicken burger, and vegetarian selection of unknown type. Of course, with his recommendation, all but two in our group went for the fish, and I suspect most of us were disappointed. Rather than two pieces of breaded very-greasy fish, we could have had a massive, delicious-looking burger. Nobody went vegetarian, but that might well have beat the fish.
(2) Get a walking map of Larnoch Castle Gardens. The tour allows people to view the gardens only; entering the castle itself would have been an additional cost, and with less than an hour in total we figured it wasn't worthwhile. The garden was beautiful, especially in Spring, but there were not many name labels on the plants and trees. But we saw that some had numbered markers by them. We should have caught on sooner; there was a brochure (that our guide should probably have gotten for us) that told about many of the things we were looking at. It was too late by the time we saw someone else carrying the brochure.
In general, the tour felt a little rushed, in part because of a late start due to picking up some passengers from a cruise liner. Some of us would have liked enough time to walk up Baldwin Street, spend longer at lunch, see Larnoch Castle itself, etc. But in our eight hours we still got to see a lot, and we didn't have to drive.
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