Words on Wednesday: Port Chalmers

As I sat down to map out blog posts on our recent holiday, I struggled to think how to structure them and what to do in what order. It has taken a bit of work but I have decided to do three more posts after today: one on the Royal Albatross Centre, one on ‘things to do indoors’ and one on street art. Hope you will come along for the journey. Catch up on Part 1 here.

So for part 2 of the holiday blog, we head over to Port Chalmers, a small town and the main port of the city of Dunedin. It lies some 15 kilometres northeast of Dunedin’s city centre. Cruise ships, when they used to visit in pre-Covid times, called in here, and you get a real sense these days that small, local businesses are really missing the footfall of tourists. We parked next to this railway tunnel, part of the cargo link to Dunedin.

The day we went it was a little misty with a touch of drizzle, so I am afraid only grey skies in the pictures. The town was founded in 1848 and named after Thomas Chalmers, a Free Church of Scotland leader. A fun fact: in 1882, the first frozen meat shipped from New Zealand to the northern hemisphere left from here. Port Chalmers became the lower South Island’s deep-water container port in 1977.

Housed in what was the first post office in the town, The Port Chalmers Museum is well worth a visit (especially if like us you make a point of visiting small, regional museums), covering the history of the town and its port and people. Upstairs, is an excellent viewing platform giving a view over the working port. We sat there for quite a while, watching the containers being offloaded which was quite fascinating. Below you can see the entry to the port, a picture taken from the museum window (hence the reflection) and a sign commemorating a strike in 1951 outside the museum.

The town was named after Thomas Chalmers, a Free Church of Scotland and founded in 1844. A fun fact: in 1882, the first frozen meat shipped from New Zealand to the northern hemisphere left from here. More recently, Port Chalmers became the lower South Island’s deep-water container port in 1977. Below you can see the first Presbyterian church and the rather curious building, Chick’s Hotel. The building was constructed in 1876 for Henry Dench, a former Port mayor. Three years later, local carrier George and his wife Ellen Chick purchased the building and renamed it, and the name stuck. The building was used as a music venue until 2016, and I believe is now a recording studio.

A short drive from the town centre sits the Flagstaff hill and lookout point. It is the site of a large, historic flagstaff (see below). I am absolutely certain that it is beautiful on a sunny day, but you can get an impression at least of the view.

The Hotere Sculpture Garden is also found at the top of the hill. This particular sculpture, Garden Brick Column by Russell Moses, caught my eye. It is nice place to walk around, perhaps stroll down to the end of the path to have a picnic if the weather is good.

Footnote: we are allowed to travel around New Zealand. At the time of writing, there is no lockdown in the country.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com


  1. Thanks for the tour. We, too, like regional museums. Always something to be learned. Also, wonderful there is no lock-down and you can move about freely. In Maine, we are not under official lock-down the way other places are, but the cases of Covid-19 have risen to the point were home is mostly where we stay. Good thing we are homebodies. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are lucky – but of course there is every chance of the virus ‘escaping’ from the managed isolation facilities. However, the government is changing the rules so before you even get on a plane to NZ from most countries you have to have a Covid test.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the tour! Like Laurie on the east coast, there is no movement restriction where I am on the west coast, though with Covid rates rising, we only go out for supplies and medical.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is quite frightening to watch what is going on in the rest of the world, and like I said to Laurie, there is every chance of the virus moving to the community from the managed isolation facilities.In the meantime, we can enjoy some movement and the summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m loving the 4 square mural on the side of the building. There’s something about our ports here in NZ that I find interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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