Baldwin St



David Whitley limbers up for another of New Zealand’s unique adventures – climbing the world’s steepest street in Dunedin.


I’m approximately two-thirds of the way up, when a horrific thought strikes me. Imagine actually living here, and not having a car? The buses only go past the bottom end of the street, and having to surmount Mt Baldwin every day would probably send you into nervous breakdown territory. Baldwin Street isn’t really a mountain, although crampons and an ice axe probably wouldn’t go amiss in the depths of winter. Amongst New Zealand’s cavalcade of adventure sports, getting to the top of this suburban street doesn’t exactly rank high on the scale, but it has become one of Dunedin’s most popular tourist attractions.


Baldwin Street is – according to Guinness World Records – the steepest street in the world. Only drivers with the utmost faith in their brakes would consider parking on the upper stretches, while for joggers it offers a new level in masochism. It’s in an otherwise non-descript suburban location, yet throughout the day people can be found trudging to the top and shelling out $2 for a certificate and the supremely tacky shop at the bottom.


Every year, during the Dunedin Festival, the Baldwin Street Gutbuster race takes place. The theory is simple, even if the execution isn’t – the quickest to race up to the top and back wins. I pity the fools. While the first stretch is surprisingly gentle, the rest is pretty sweaty work. The street is only 161.2m long, but climbs a vertical height of 47.22m. That’s an average gradient of 1 in 3.41 and the steepest stretch boasts a gradient of 1 in 2.86. During this section, the sloping pavement is mercifully converted into steps. Many less-than-hardy adventurers seem to take this as a cue to have a nice sit down. Not me, however. Oh no – I’m made of sterner, sweatier stuff than that – and I painstakingly trudge onwards like an old donkey about to be melted down for glue.


And it’s from the very top – where a bench and water fountain have been thoughtfully provided – that you realise just how steep Baldwin Street is. From the bottom, the slope looks deceptively unintimidating. From the top, it’s like looking down from the highest point of a rollercoaster, just before you hurtle downwards. The views of hills and patches of woodland on the horizon contrast with the little ant-like cars at the bottom.


I make my way down on the opposite side of the road, and just at the bottom of the steps is a delightful splattering of vomit. Baldwin Street has clearly busted yet another gut... 


Lots more photos here


Indoor Auckland



David Whitley investigates warm winter activities in New Zealand’s biggest city 


Auckland is well known as an outdoorsy city, and you can still go sailing, visit the harbour islands and clamber up volcanic craters in winter if you wish. However, if you fear that the elements may get the better of you for such activities during the cooler months, then never fear – there’s plenty to do indoors.


Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World


While it’s never going to win any awards for snappy titles, this hugely popular attraction is a great place for a rainy day.


The Antarctic Encounter gives a glimpse of what it’s like where it’s properly cold – visitors can go inside a Snowcat and mosey around a life size replica of the Antarctic hut set up by South Pole explorer captain Robert Scott.


The highlight for those with easily melted hearts, however, is a colony of sub-Antarctic penguins, for which fresh snow is created every day.


On the slightly less icy side is Underwater World, which is a giant aquarium complex. Everyone has their own favourites, whether the sea horses, piranhas or crayfish, but it’s hard not to be mesmerised by the bronze whaler sharks and the huge stingray. The latter has a two meter wing span...


More information:


The Sky Tower


You see that big thing jutting out of Auckland’s CBD? Yes, the pointy building that utterly dwarfs the rest of the skyline. Well, that’s the Sky Tower, and it’s higher than Sydney’s version (and indeed, the Eiffel Tower in Paris).


It’s also home to Sky City, a large entertainment and gambling complex. There are a few bars and restaurants on offer, but it’s the casinos that prove the major draw card for the punters.


If the weather’s holding up OK, there are also a couple of adventure activities on offer that involve the tower. The first is the Sky Walk – the opportunity to walk around the building on a narrow ledge with no railings or balcony at 192m high. Only a harness will save you if you stumble...


The second insane endeavour is jumping off the viewing platform attached to a wire and slowed down by a big fan. Scary stuff.


More information:


Auckland Museum


Over half a million tourists visit New Zealand’s oldest (and Auckland’s biggest) museum every year. Parked on a hill in the Auckland Domain, the museum dates back to 1852, although it’s only been at the present site since 1929 when the building was created as a memorial to the city’s war dead.


Over a million objects are divided over three floors of permanent exhibitions. The first concentrates on the Maori and the people of the Pacific. A whole range of topics is covered, from traditional arts and music to ancient civilisations and boat-building.


The second floor is where the big beasties hang out – it’s the natural history segment. This is home to two Discovery Centres that are focused on child learning and the impressively interactive permanent exhibition on volcanoes.


Last but not least comes New Zealand War Stories. As is fitting for a building designed to honour the troops, this covers conflicts that have involved the New Zealand Military over the years from the Boer War to modern day conflicts via the two World Wars.


There’s an armoury full of weapons for the more bloodthirsty, and warplanes for those harbouring romantic visions of flying one.


More information:


National Maritime Museum


Another excellent museum is the National Maritime Museum, and it’s only fitting that it should be hosted by the City of Sails. The museum explores the country’s history at sea, from Polynesian canoes and to modern commercial shipping.


On the way it explores seafaring industries that (thankfully) no longer exist, such as whaling and sealing, as well at looking at traditional maritime arts and crafts.


Naturally, boats and canoes are among the exhibits, while there’s a fascinating section on the coastguard service and lifeboat workers.


The National Maritime Museum can be found on Hobson Wharf, right on Viaduct Harbour.


More information: www.nzmaritime.or


Hanging out in Ponsonby


Ponsonby, to the west of the city centre, is generally regarded as the city’s coolest area to go for a few drinks in. This is where the café culture has seeped up from Melbourne, a lot of young people tend to live and many of the best bars are.


There are also a few good eateries too for those wanting to anchor the later alcohol content. Among the most popular are Logos, Estasi and Prego, but it’s really a case of taking your pick. The range of options runs from classy Italian to burger bar to stylish modern Asian.


Brewery tour


Of course the serious drinker may be more inclined to go straight to the source, and that’s where Lionzone comes in.


Now this claims to be not just an ordinary brewery tour, but let’s face it, most of them work along the same lines. Still, as brewery tours go, it’s fairly impressive, taking in the history of brewing, the ingredients and machines used to make the good stuff and all manner of high-tech wizardry.


Naturally, it also focuses on the Lion Brewery’s brands, including Lion Red and the altogether more palatable Steinlager.


And yes, there is some free sampling included.


More information:


Stardome Observatory


In the One Tree Hill Domain, this is where you can go exploring further afield. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays it’s possible to go and have a look through the centre’s ginormous telescope, but it’s really the Planetarium show that captures the imagination. This features spectacular projections of the night sky (including 3,500 stars) in a 360 degree theatre.


More information:


You can get New Zealand included as a stopover on a Globehopper RTW or a Navigator RTW or on our New Zealand via Australia deal




by David Whitley