Situated on the Otago Peninsula, Portobello is the principal settlement for the Peninsula’s farms. The village takes its name from that of early settler Walter Christie’s house and his birthplace. In the late 19C many Dunedin people had holiday homes in both Broad Bay and Portobello. They reached these by taking a ferry from Port Chalmers.
Through the summer months the home owners and day trippers would catch the ferry, the SS Edina, taking an early train from Dunedin. The ferry called at both Portobello and Broad Bay and special arrangements could be made for picnic parties and calling at Quarantine Island when needed. The ferry continued to run for the first 30 years of the 20th century.
The building that houses the 1908 Café was built in 1901 and opened as the Wainui Tea Rooms in 1908. After the ferries stopped, the building served variously as a care centre for sick sailors, a mortuary and more recently, as the local post office.
It is now possible to take a step back in time, catch a ferry from Port Chalmers and dine at the 1908 Café Restaurant and Bar just as they did in the early 1900s. Port To Port Cruises & Wildlife Tours (www.porttoport.co.nz) operates ferry transfers across the Otago Harbour between Portobello, Port Chalmers, Carey’s Bay, Quarantine Island and beyond.
No passenger train service links Dunedin to Port Chalmers any more, but if you don’t want to drive there’s a regular Dunedin-Port Chalmers bus service.
Similarly for the Peninsula there’s a regular Dunedin-Portobello bus service to get you to the 1908 Cafe and back.
The Otago Peninsula is only a half hour drive from Dunedin and has a broad collection of historic sites, unspoilt landscapes, beautiful walking trails and wildlife.
And if you’re driving out to Portobello, the 1908 Café is always there to provide you with much needed sustenance after you’ve spent time exploring the various attractions and beaches. Give us a call and come as you are – there’s no formality and no rules.