Dunedin in New Zealand is the second-largest city in the South Island facing the southeast coast whilst situated in the Otago Region. Derived from the Scottish Gaelic name Dùn Èideann, it represents the name Edinburgh. The city is considered one of the main four centres in New Zealand due to its cultural, historical and geographical significance. Dunedin is home to a harbour – the Otago Harbour and an extinct volcano. A city full of cultural vibrance, unique wildlife and stunning landscapes, here are some of the best things to do in Dunedin while on a vacation.
Table of Contents
- 1 Tour around the Otago Peninsula
- 2 Explore the Otago Museum
- 3 Visit Larnach Castle
- 4 Witness the Dunedin Railway Station – the Gingerbread House
- 5 Head over to the Tunnel Beach
- 6 Witness the Royal Albatross Colony at the Taiaroa Head
- 7 Take a walk down Baldwin Street
- 8 Join a beer tour at the Speights Brewery
- 9 Visit the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
- 10 Surf at St. Clair Beach
- 11 Spend quality time exploring the local wildlife
- 12 Explore the historic Port Chalmers
- 13 Stroll through the Dunedin Street Art Trail
- 14 Visit the Fishing Village of Moeraki
- 15 Relax at the Dunedin Botanic Garden
Tour around the Otago Peninsula
The Otago Peninsula, which is volcanic in origin, overlooks the eastern part where it forms the Otago Harbour through its eroded valley. It extends from suburban Dunedin to Taiaroa Head, which is home to the famous Northern Royal Albatross. Due to the nature of the location and being just 32 kilometres away from the Urban City, the Otago Peninsula has become a renowned cycling and mountain biking destination. Whichever age the visitors maybe, anyone is welcome to ride their own bike and spend time with their loved ones.
Explore the Otago Museum
Since its inception in 1868 until today, the museum of Otago has been a landmark and one of the largest museums in New Zealand. Recognized as a category one historic site, the museum stands tall displaying over 1.5 million artefacts and objects. The museum includes natural science specimens and human artefacts, as well as an interactive science centre exhibiting an immersive tropical butterfly rainforest environment. If you enjoy learning about natural science, visiting the Otago Museum is a top experience.
Visit Larnach Castle
The Larnach Castle is a must-visit destination if you are looking for relaxing recreation in Dunedin. Being the only castle in New Zealand, the Larnach castle stands out as one unique place in Dunedin, celebrating 150 years since its establishment. The Larnach Castle is open to the public any time of the year, while it preserves its Victorian grandeur even in the modern day. The tower of the castle offers stunning views of the Otago Peninsula whilst the famous high tea is hosted at 3 pm every day in its 3000 square foot ballroom.
Witness the Dunedin Railway Station – the Gingerbread House
Located in the South Island, the Dunedin Railway Station is the fourth station of the city. Designed by George Troup – also known as – “Gingerbread George”, this is undoubtedly the biggest Gingerbread House in the world. A bustling station, which once hosted 100 trains daily, the lavish premise of Dunedin Railway Station is now used for minimal passenger transportation. It’s a touring hub for commercial activities.
Head over to the Tunnel Beach
Located not too far from the city centre of Dunedin, Tunnel Beach of St. Clair is a destination of bliss. It’s called Tunnel Beach due to its archway that leads to the beach. The tunnel is carved amidst the sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves. It would roughly take around 70 steps to reach the beach through the passageway. The tunnel is dimly lit, so travelling during the daytime is always advised. If you’re visiting Otago and its coasts during this holiday, ensure to head over to Tunnel Beach. It’s one of the best things to do in Dunedin.
Witness the Royal Albatross Colony at the Taiaroa Head
The Taiaroa Head at the Otago Peninsula is the end of the peninsula, home to the Royal Albatross Center – the only area designated as a Royal Albatross Colony in an inhabited mainland. The largest flying seabird with a wingspan of around 3 meters, the Royal Albatross species can be spotted here any time of the season. In addition, Seals, Sea Lions as well as Little Blue Penguin are often seen along with the Royal Albatross in the Pilot’s Beach area. Travellers are advised to watch and enjoy the view from a distance without bothering these creatures in their natural habitat.
Take a walk down Baldwin Street
Holding the world record for the steepest street, Baldwin Street is just 3.5 kilometres off Dunedin. Having a steep slope of about 19 Degrees at a 70-meter height difference between the lowest and highest point, this short street spans 350 meters in length. It means that the elevation changes one meter if a person travels approximately 2.86 meters in this street. Any person willing to witness the challenge posed by this extraordinary phenomenon may try to ascend this path.
Join a beer tour at the Speights Brewery
One of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Speights Brewery is certainly one of the proud products of Dunedin. Established in 1876, the historic Speights Brewery is famous for its locally-brewed beers, ales, lagers and even cider. Known as an award-winning brand, Speights Brewery gives a once-in-a-lifetime tour for its visitors, where they can learn the history, ingredients, methods along with a tailored beer tasting experience at the brewery. For those looking to take a souvenir home, the gift shop is the ideal place.
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Visit the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
One of New Zealand’s oldest museums, the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, was founded in 1898. Through various physical and structural changes of the building and management, the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum has now come a long way from its days of establishment. This museum tells the story of Dunedin from its inception with natives, pre-European times and the Otago Goldrush through interactive displays, replica models and activities for children. It is a wonderful experience for the kids and adults alike who love to learn the region’s glory.
Surf at St. Clair Beach
Earning its reputation as a top surfing spot, the St. Clair beach has been the regular host of the National and South Surf Competition. In addition to housing the St. Clair Surf Life Saving Club and the popular summer vacation spot, St. Clair beach has become a favourite of the locals as well. On top of that, the hot saltwater pool adjacent to the beach is famously adored for its ‘midwinter plunge’. Travellers would come across countless cafes, restaurants and clubs adding some diversity to the environment.
Spend quality time exploring the local wildlife
The Royal Albatross, Little Blue Penguin, Fur Seals, Sea Lions and Yellow-eyed Penguins are some of the exotic and rare wild animals you can find on the coast of Dunedin. This diverse local wildlife can be seen at Dunedin at different times of day – during different seasons and in different water bodies. The inland wildlife flourishes about 20 kilometres north of Dunedin, housing Tuatara Lizards, Otago Skinks, Kiwis and many other birds. There are up to 17 native birds found in the Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary in Dunedin, so If you love the wilderness, here lies your next escapade.
Explore the historic Port Chalmers
Among the many historic attractions in Dunedin, Port Chalmers occupies a special spot. A mix of cultural attractions, galleries and cafes alike give life to this serene village. The concept of having its own art and heritage was encouraged by the creative community of the town, such as potters, sculptors, musicians, jewellers and painters who live up to its vibrance. Port Chalmers is a tourist-favourite destination, inviting hip artists and travellers from across the world.
Stroll through the Dunedin Street Art Trail
The match made in heaven, art and history blended in the magnificent streets of Dunedin is a place of awe. The colourful streets are the very definition of the city’s creative interpretation. An abundance of mystical mosaics and street art amidst monumental buildings are some unique sights that you’ll get to witness here in Dunedin. Most of these arts belong to ROA, Phlegm, Dal East, Pixel Pancho, Natalie Rak, and more. If you happen to be roaming around the city of Dunedin, make sure to take a stroll through the art trail.
Visit the Fishing Village of Moeraki
Once a Whaling Station, Moeraki is now a fishing village on the East Coast of the South Island. Located one hour of a drive from Dunedin, Moeraki and its favourite feature – the Moeraki Beach are the must-visits. The famous mysterious spherical boulders are seen scattered across the beach, and the site is often occupied by Little Blue Penguin during nighttime. These boulders are known to be calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. According to the Māori Legend states, these boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru.
Relax at the Dunedin Botanic Garden
Located close to the University of Otago and Signal Hill, Dunedin Botanic Garden is the oldest Botanic Garden in New Zealand. Encompassing 30 hectares of land space, the garden is home to over 6,800 species of plants and wilderness species such as wood pigeons, native bellbirds and more. In addition, the park has a separate Edwardian Wintergarden Glasshouse and a Japanese Bamboo Grove. Locals visit this place during the height of summer to spend time with family, have a picnic or admire the exotic blooms of nature.