Originally named Koputai by Kai Tahu, Port Chalmers became an important trading port for sealers and whalers in the early 19th century. By 1863 it was the third largest port in Australasia, fuelled by the Otago gold rush.
It went on to farewell the first cargo of refrigerated meat in 1882, and the likes of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton as they embarked on their Antarctic expeditions. The wealth of the port, and the role it played in shaping early New Zealand, is reflected in its fine collection of bluestone buildings and rich maritime history.
By car, on foot or by horseback, Port Chalmers and the surrounding bays offer dramatic views of Otago’s harbour and coastal landscape. The natural deepwater port is a prime salmon fishing spot, and the harbour’s sheltered bays are perfect for kayaking and rowing.
Just fifteen minutes drive to the south or north, and you’ll find isolated white sand beaches sweeping around the Pacific coastline. Or you can head up the steep hill road above Port and visit the fenced native wildlife sanctuary of Orokonui.
Closer to the town, there are numerous native bushwalks rich with birdsong, and winding streets full of old cottages and villas, which offer an insight into how the Otago harbourside once was.
Port Chalmers was put on the New Zealand art map by its most famous resident, artist Ralph Hotere. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover a vibrant range of art and culture from potters and sculptors to musicians, jewellers and fashion designers.
Supporting this creative community is an eclectic mix of galleries, design boutiques, antique stores, cafes and restaurants, many of which are housed in the port’s original historic buildings.
This new event was held in 2011 and was a great day out for locals and tourists. It will take place again in 2013. Visit the Seafood Festival’s mini site.