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Art & Heritage

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

  • 3 minutes

Otago, South Island

Why go to Dunedin? Rather the question should be, ‘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 Oamaru stone.

Baldwin Street in the Dunedin, Otago of New Zealand
Baldwin Street in the Dunedin

Dunedin highlights

  • Heritage buildings – convenient and easily accessible
  • The Octagon
  • Legacy buildings church of Otago & university clocktower
  • Contemporary on-point museums
  • Larnach Castle & Olveston House – unmissable heritage highlights

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)
Historical Railway Station of Dunedin, New Zealand
Historical Railway Station of Dunedin
Octagon, central meeting point, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Octagon, central meeting point


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.


  • Dunedin Public Art Gallery
  • St Pauls Cathedral
  • Regent Theatre
  • Bars and restaurants
Dunedin art museum, New Zealand
Dunedin art museum
University of Otago Clocktower, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
University of Otago Clocktower, Dunedin, Otago


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.


  • 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, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago


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.

Larnach Castle in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Larnach Castle, Dunedin


  • Dunedin historic Prison
  • 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

Enjoy the day strolling Dunedin Heritage Walk 1 and, if traveling with kids, check out 6 Dunedin heritage places to visit with kids.


Got family members interested in unique selfie locations, check out 8 glorious monuments to visit in Dunedin for a memorable attraction specific to your Dunedin holiday.


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.


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.


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
Larnach Castle entrance night views, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Larnach Castle entrance night views


New Zealand does have a castle, complete with Victorian turrets, a grand dining room and 19th century splendid sitting rooms. There are stories of step-mothers and sons illicit love story and tragic death. There are spectacular views from the formal gardens for your photo moments…. Read more


It’s an extraordinary glimpse into the life of a wealthy early twentieth century Dunedin inhabitants as you step into their living room. The house is unchanged since 1906 and evokes an era long gone… Read more

Olveston Historic Home in Dunedin, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Olveston Historic Home in Dunedin


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