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The need for a Dunedin do over

I’ve been putting off writing this story. In short, Dunedin wasn’t at all what we expected and hoped it to be.

And it’s not your fault Dunedin. We loved your steep streets and your stunning historic architecture. We loved your energy and the breathtaking views over Dunedin as we wound our way around Portobello Road.

No Dunedin, this is fairly, squarely, 100% on us. We totally screwed this one up.

We promise we’ll be back for a do over but in the mean time, here’s the screw up.

It started so well. We’d been looking forward to Dunedin as we wound our way through the Catlins.

We stopped for a play at the epic playground in Waihola (and no, we weren’t game enough to swim out in early October) and then ordered burgers for dinner from the car.

It’s about here it started going wrong…

The burger place (who shall remain nameless because this is not a review site) ran out of the chicken we’d ordered for the kids. But they threw in heaps of soft drinks for free. And everyone knows kids, a confined camper van space and sugar are an excellent mix.

Regardless the night panned out okay.

We give the kids a city each to plan and Dunedin was Kiki’s city. Which was auspicious as when we were looking for more dinner we found the very aptly named Kiki Beware in the heart of Dunedin.

The camping ground had a pool and we sat outside and had a wine while the kids swam. Just a glitch we thought. Little did we know…

The next morning we were up bright and early.

Kiki had planned a big day for us. She wanted to visit Larnach Castle and then play the Getting Lost Game as a way to explore Dunedin.

We were also going to visit Frank in Mosgiel who has been following us on Getting Lost for a while and was keen to introduce us to his cows.

We set out up the Portobello Road and it was an absolutely stunning day. The water glistened, the sky was blue and the city laid stretched out in front of us as we climbed the heights to Larnach Castle.


But along the way the kids got restless. Even now I’m not sure why but they just got scratchy and fighty. Any of you with kids, especially close in age, will know exactly what I mean.

We’d all been living together in the camper for 5 days without a break now. We’d had the wedding and we’d had my Grandma pass away the week before. It really was bound to happen and Larnach Castle was the spot it happened in.

We walked up to Lanarch Castle. On the way Bella was discretely trying to kick and trip up Kiki. Me and James were getting increasingly fed up. And Soph was busy taking pictures.

We got up to the top and Bella went in for a kick. James blocked her. But Bella (now on one leg) was off balance and went sprawling.

Gasps from the onlookers as one child went down. I was furious. Alternating between Bella and James with “this is not okay”.

Swiftly back to the camper with all 5 of us and I totally lost it. I don’t know at this point who I was more mad at. James for intervening in a kids fight or Bella for being a maddening tween and starting the fight.

Soph meanwhile had dissolved into tears and declared she wanted to go home. And poor Kiki was wondering when she’d ever get her day in Dunedin.

I try to be pretty honest about parenting on this blog and the challenges we face. I know sometimes the Facebook life can come across as being perfect and worry free so I hope this fairly puts that to rest and shows that we’re very normal, just like you. And this was a very bad day.

Fast forward an hour and I’d finally figured out how to adult again and got control of the crew. Apologies were made and peace was restored.

So we ventured up to Larnach Castle. You can read about that over here. It was actually awesome. But this isn’t a story about what went right. It’s a story about what went wrong in Dunedin…

Larnach Castle

As we stood on top of Larnach Castle we literally watched the storm roll in. It blanketed the once clear skies and turned everything a bleak grey before our eyes.

By this stage we were over an hour late for our visit with Frank.

We let him know we were running late and on our way. “No worries said Frank, “Just head around the circular driveway.”

So we did.

And as we went around the circular driveway in our very high camper van we drove straight into his overhead power line and took out the power to Frank’s house and his neighbours.

Not even joking. We couldn’t make this stuff up!

We had a lovely visit with Frank despite the lack of power (who we’d like to say a massive thanks to for his lovely Southern hospitality). He’d made scones which he heated over the fire and we got our visit with the cows and a ride around the block in his car. We stayed for a couple of hours then headed off, desperately hoping he’d get his power back soon.

The plan had been to head up to Moeraki for the night and see the boulders before heading to Queenstown the next day. But with the weather setting in and snow on the way we weren’t so sure.

James and I had sat whispering in the front of the camper. Much quicker to go through Milton and up the State Highway 8 to Queenstown and get a jump on the weather.

The problem was that we’d promised Kiki we’d play the Getting Lost Game to explore Dunedin.

So we started playing the game. ‘Head North’, ‘Turn Right’ and then our luck changed. ‘Head to a town starting with the same letter as the youngest person in the car’.

It’s M for Mophie. “Milton!” I mouth to James and we quickly head off.

Half an hour later the kids ask “are you sure this is the closest town starting with M”. Absolutely.

Next card ‘follow a blue car’. I spot a blue truck. Surely headed up the main trunk line and jump in behind. An hour or so later the kids ask “Are we still following that truck?” Absolutely.

We drove for most of the afternoon through Central Otago in the rain, the temperature dipping to just 2 degrees.

It is probably some of the most exquisite scenery you can ever see in the rain. The mist clung to the mountain tops and gave it even more beauty and mystique as we trundled along in companionable silence.

About 2 hours in and one of the kids asked if we’d left Dunedin yet so we had to fill them in that we were almost in Cromwell.

So for those of you looking for advice on what to do in Dunedin you have come to the wrong place.

We promise we’ll try harder next time…

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