A flotilla of 100 icebergs is less than 200 kilometers from the South Island. In 70 years they’ve never been so close.

We spent a couple days in Dunedin and declared it our favorite city so far. It’s not big, at least it doesn’t seem big, but with 130,000 people it’s big enough to be the South Island’s second city. And its charms are many.

Public transit: Check. Good, timely buses. Location: Good. Near countless outdoors activities, and a couple hours drive from Christchurch. Nightlife: Excellent. We saw a couple good bands and had our pick of a terrific slate of bars and restaurants. Plus it’s a handsome city, with good stout Scots architecture and a sprawling Botanic Gardens.

We spent the better part of a morning – and could have spent considerably more – wandering around the gardens on a sunny day. Rhododendron Dell, a 4-hectare spread of incredible color and variety, was especially impressive. Meditative. Tranquil.

We also took a tour of Speight’s Brewery. Tip for the curious: In the U.S. Speight’s can be found at some Trader Joe’s stores. Look for it.

Leaving Dunedin, we stopped at God’s Marbles (in the local vernacular), officially known as the Moeraki Boulders, odd round rocks that look as if they were swept onto the beach by a tsunami. Most are half-submerged in the sand. Some are broken open in a manner that suggests they were once occupied by aliens with explosive powers, or dinosaurs.

Science has been confounded by these boulders: but the theory goes that they were not brought ashore by big waves but exposed by erosion of the nearby mudstone cliffs. But it’s all speculation – guesswork. Their otherworldly aspect is not easily dismissed.

On to Christchurch. If we’d been smart we would have flown there directly from Fiji: cars cost significantly less in Christchurch than in Auckland: we could have bought in the south and sold in the north and perhaps made a profit. Let our mistake be your guide, future travelers.