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Art & Heritage

Dunedin an underrated heritage town, what to see and best things to do

Historic Railway Station @davidwallphoto

Why go to Dunedin, rather the question is, ‘Don’t skip town without spending time exploring Dunedin’s massive architectural legacy. Dunedin is a world class destination for heritage and history buffs. The industrialised world of Europe and its reimagined creation in the colony of New Zealand is a fascinating story writ large in Oamuru stone.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Heritage buildings – convenient and easily accessible
  • The Octagon
  • Legasy buildings church of Otago & university clocktower
  • Contemporary on point museums
Baldwin Street in the Dunedin of New Zealand Baldwin Street in the Dunedin

Dunedin is awash with quirky facts:

  • The first refrigerated cargo of meat left from Dunedin in 1876-1882 — riveting stuff for an economist.
  • The only place in New Zealand with a lived in castle
  • The steepest street in the world (Baldwin Street)
  • The world’s smallest penguin
  • The first daily newspaper in New Zealand and it’s still going strong
  • The most photographed gloriously elaborate building in New Zealand (Dunedin Railway Station)
Dunedin Railways Historic Building in a Cloudy Day, New Zealand Dunedin Railways Historic Building in a Cloudy Day

HIT TOWN AND THE OCTAGON

In fact you might not ever leave. The place is awash with heritage buildings, buildings reimagined into boutique shops and galleries, buildings designed by age and function and the octagon is gloriously eight sided. Dunedin does not do ordinary things like a square. You are in an ordered maze of eight options where to go. It’s sheer delight.

Octagon, central meeting point, Dunedin, New Zealand Octagon, central meeting point

OCTAGON HIGHLIGHTS

  • Dunedin Public Art Gallery
  • St Pauls Cathedral
  • Regent Theatre
  • Bars and restaurants
Dunedin art museum, New Zealand @dunedin.art.museum Dunedin art museum @dunedin.art.museum

THE UNIVERSITY

The clocktower building is a sturdy Victorian statement of the worth of academic excellence. The Gothic revival building is the heart of the University of Otago campus. Majestic stone buildings which ooze academic rigour. The University of Otago, founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council, is New Zealand’s oldest university. The new University was given 100,000 acres of pastoral land as an endowment and authorised to grant degrees in Arts, Medicine, Law and Music. Students continue to contribute to the sense of community, the literary scene, culture and theatre. Cafes and bars are experimental with food choices and entertainment. The ambiance of Dunedin is youthful, questioning and about enjoyment.

Highlights

  • Perhaps the best place in NZ to find an interesting book
  • Entertainment that is quirky and original and usually not expensive
  • Food choices from vegan to hearty meat dishes where budget is a serious influence
University of Otago, New Zealand @Health Central University of Otago @Health Central

LEGACY BUILDINGS

Ornate, elaborate and majestic with the nineteenth century skyscrapers dominating the streetscape. Dunedin provides visitors a snapshot of how the nineteenth century urban world looked. The city is a superb museum of Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.

Highlights

  • Larnach Castle & gardens
  • Dunedin Railway Station
  • Heritage homes of wealthy 19th century merchants such as Olveston House
  • Heritage public buildings from First Church of Otago, Old Bank of New Zealand & Dunedin Prison

NOTE

We know students can be badly behaved. Dunedin has the dubious reputation of students burning the landlords sofa to keep warm while indulging in a drunken party. The students definitely are fodder for sensational headlines. Ignore the headlines.

Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand Larnach Castle, Dunedin

MUSEUMS

Imaginative storytelling, diverse in collections and worthy of their international status as dynamic, on point exhibits. The Settlers Museum and Otago Museum celebrate the town’s varied past and where the town is now. The past and contemporary happily sit side by side creating a visual feast for visitors to explore at their own pace.

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, New Zealand @Toitu Otago Settlers Museum Toitu Otago Settlers Museum @Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
Southland Museum & Art Gallery, New Zealand @Otago images, Otago daily times Southland Museum & Art Gallery @Otago images, Otago daily times

HERITAGE BUILDINGS – CONVENIENT AND EASILY ACCESSIBLE

There is nothing worse for a tourist / visitor than it takes ages to get to view the iconic building, it’s inconvenient and there is nothing to really look at or see nearby. Dunedin answers this question with sheer density. Block by block of distinguished buildings is a visual delight. Neighbours jostle for attention as the nineteenth century stone buildings stand solidly in place. The city centre is a tribute to a time and place. Nineteenth century heritage buffs will experience sensory overload, it’s magnificent.

Albert Hall, a monumental late Victorian style public building in Launceston, Dunedin, New Zealand Albert Hall, a monumental late Victorian style public building in Launceston, Dunedin

Unique journeys, personal adventures.

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