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Travel Guide

Dunedin travel guide — what to see & do

In this Article

Heritage, culture and a dose of wildlife makes Dunedin a great place to explore Otago, South Island

Why should I go to Dunedin, isn’t it boring? Let’s sort out that image right now.

Dunedin is barely a blip on the Queenstown glitz and glamour of the New Zealand tourism poster. However Dunedin is an underrated gem for New Zealanders and Australians with its small town grace. The town played a significant role in the emergence of modern New Zealand, grand nineteenth century wealth is carved into the distinctive combination of dark basalt and Oamaru stone Dunedin Railway building.

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

Once the economic hub of New Zealand the town retains a pride in its place in the history books.

Yet you would not be visiting a museum but a vibrant, contemporary city that is looking forward rather than harking back to faded glory.  Dunedin will become one of your favourite places to visit.

Dunedin’s vibrant heart is The Octagon, central Dunedin. Framed with al fresco cafes and bars, the area is a natural meeting point.

The visitor information centre is part of this buzz making it easy for tourists to pop into the information centre to check for the latest happenings.

Part of the Octagon’s charm is architectural showpieces of former merchant houses, a heritage court house and 19th government buildings reflecting Dunedin’s story as a significant gold mining city.  Basalt, limestone and granite buildings are in contrast to contemporary Christchurch or Wellington’s wooden homes.

Best time to visit

Year round.

  • Winter is chilly, spend time indoors in the numerous museums and cafes or simply indulge in brisk
  • Summer is the time to enjoy the outdoors, the Otago Peninsula and the nearby natural attractions of Central Otago.
  • Spring is magnificent with gardens in full bloom
  • Autumn is a glorious blaze of leaf gold and bronze

Weather

Dunedin Weather Forecast and Observations

Baldwin Street in the Dunedin of New Zealand
Baldwin Street in Dunedin
Dunedin Railway Station Museum, New Zealand
Dunedin Railway Station Museum

Highlights:

  • Architecture in all its stately glory, solid stone buildings reflecting the glory days of Dunedin’s gold mining heritage
  • Wildlife, especially viewing royal albatross & blue penguin
  • Heritage museums & buildings including Olveston House
  • Quirky museums only found in Dunedin and nowhere else
  • Vibrant contemporary art culture expressed on its city streets and galleries
  • Railway enthusiasts heritage day trips
  • City of hills and valleys, Signal Hill viewpoint
  • Extraordinary beaches with tunnels and boulders worthy of any fantasy

What to see and do in Dunedin

Dunedin spoils the visitor with plenty of things to do. The city attractions are based around heritage, wildlife & the outdoors and culture, a combination encouraging visitors to return.

Heritage buildings and monuments

WALKING TOURS OF HISTORIC DUNEDIN

Downtown Architectural Heritage Walk: This is an excellent place to start your exploration of historic Dunedin.

Street art painted by ROA from Belgium which is located in Dunedin, New Zealand Street art painted by ROA from Belgium which is located in Dunedin
Dunedin street art Dunedin street art

Gardens

Craft Beers

Home – Speight’s – Knowing what matters since 1876.  Dunedin is home to two craft beers, Speight’s Ale known as “the pride of the south” and Emerson’s microbrewery. It is possible to tour the Speight’s brewery, so join the ninety minute tour that tracks the timeline of Speight’s ale from 1876 to the mammoth copper vessels of today’s brew house, before finishing with a complimentary ale.

Wildlife

Guided tours with Elim Wildlife

Encounters inc Royal Albatross Centre Tour. Is recommended for visitors who wish for logistics as well as tour details to be fully managed. Elim offers access to private land that is not accessible for casual visitors. The tours are well known for their sustainable practices.

Royal Albatross landing, New Zealand
Royal Albatross landing+

HARBOUR

Harbour cruises Photo moments on your harbour cruise Monarch Wildlife Cruises & Tours, you’ll travel out through the Otago Harbour to the world’s only mainland colony of royal albatross. Have your camera ready as these huge birds soar in from sea, flying past a historic lighthouse. Our cruises also frequently spot blue penguins, sea lions and occasionally dolphins! The crew will provide a full commentary during your cruise about the local history, scenery and wildlife spotted along the way. Don’t be put off by cool & windy weather. These are often the best conditions for wildlife viewing. Especially when it comes to albatross, they love a brisk southerly wind. Binoculars and warm jackets are provided during your cruise.

Length of time: one hour.

Dunedin harbour view
Dunedin harbour @pawopa3336

FUN THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

Apart from castles, parks and street art there is plenty to amuse kids and great things to do.

  • Private museum of natural history, Royal Dunedin Museum > Home Is quirky and fascinating for older kids and teenagers. The historic city villa is home to skulls, bones, biological oddities, ethnological art and unusual cultural artifacts. The Museum stocks a small collection of books and t-shirts as well as art and sculptures for sale.
Otago Museum, New Zealand @khyau18
Otago Museum @khyau18
  • The Otago Museum has its very own rat King lurking in the Animal Attic (Victorian era museum glory). The crowning jewel for kids is the newly opened science discovery centre Tuhura holds hours of entertainment. The area has a multi-level tropical forest frequentated by fluttering butterflies. A perfect foil on a chilly day with its warm humid temperature controlled climate. Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is part of the Six Dunedin heritage places to visit with kids.
  • Booklovers head for the University of Otago bookshop and with kids in tow you’ve got the Childrens The Children’s Room & Book Shop  tucked in back of the premises. Retail book therapy just got a lot easier.
  • Take the kids for a day trip to Middlemarch and find a salt lake, extraordinary rock landscapes, gold mining history and ice creams in sleepy rural towns. For further details check out Dunedin day trip to Middlemarch
  • Kids Corner at DFAC, The Dunedin Fine Art Center is proud to offer the unique and exciting combination of art and educational experiences just for children and teens. Here, children and teens alike can explore their artistic abilities in a variety of ways. Visit David L. Mason Children’s Museum
  • Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. Can the kids beat the parents up to the top? The gift shop at the bottom of the street is where you can acquire the newest fridge magnet.
Middlemarch, New Zealand
Middlemarch
St Clair Salt Water Pool, New Zealand @kaitawa_farm_nz
St Clair Salt Water Pool @kaitawa_farm_nz

WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS – PLAYGROUNDS

  • Marlow Park in St Kilda has been an iconic destination for generations and the colourful dinosaurs are fun. St Clair is home to the St Clair Salt Water Pool, open to the elements and for the summer season from October
  • Andersons Bay Inlet is home to BAYFIELD PARK PLAYGROUND with its glorious views is a great location for a summer impromptu picnic. The up to date playground has a rocktopus, climbing frames, tunnels, monkey bars, spiderweb net, see-saws, and swings with spacious open grassy spaces to jump, hop and skip between equipment.

FESTIVALS AND MARKETS

Annual ID Fashion Week when the country’s fashionistas line the sides of the long railway catwalk.

Otago Farmers Market is every Saturday morning. It is located next to the historic railway station. On average there are over 76 stalls.

Beaches & Coastal Walks

DAY TRIPS FROM DUNEDIN

  • Day road trip to Port Chalmers (OR) use public transport (bus). Port Chalmers is primarily known as a cruise ship port. Yet Port Chalmers is a port settlement that is a charming mix of heritage attractions, cafés and galleries. “The harbourside setting, intriguing galleries and relaxing eateries are all within easy walking distance of each other. For six months of the year, from October to mid-April, Port Chalmers is a busy cruise port, with ships arriving early in the morning and departing early evening. Several early Antarctic expeditions left from Port Chalmers, and up on the hill above the township is a memorial to Captain Scott, whose 1901 and 1910 expeditions departed from here. This is also a great vantage point to see the harbour and the workings of the port on a busy day.
The downtown of Port Chalmers, the suburb of Dunedin city (New Zealand).
The downtown of Port Chalmers
Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
Otago Peninsula

NEARBY DUNEDIN – OTAGO PENINSULA

Highlights

  • Wildlife viewing Katiki Point
  • Quaint country town Portobello
  • Royal Albatross Centre
  • Blue penguin dusk viewing

Railway Enthusiasts must do journey

Getting around

The central city is very walkable with most attractions within 2 -3 kms of the Otagon. The city is very hilly providing visitors with a workout.

The public Dunedin buses – Public Transport is a studen favourite. There is a handy PDF map of the timetable on the website together with the latest fares.

Cycling in Dunedin is for the fit with many steep streets and crisp autumn / winter season a deterrent to cycling. For visitors wishing to cycle the Otago Rail Trail there are a number of bike hire tour operators available in the small towns dotting the trail.

There is no public train service in Dunedin

Visitors generally arrive in Dunedin by air or road.

  • You have arrived on a cruise ship, either your cruise trip manager will arrange guided tours or you can independently manage this process. For an independent day trip, including pick up from your cruise ship, check out your choices before deciding what to see.
  • The historic precinct is compact and walkable. This includes The Octagon, notable buildings such as The Courthouse, Merchant Buildings, historic Post Office building, original Railway Station,  University buildings and the Cathedral.
Dunedin Court House, New Zealand @Mattinbgn
Dunedin Court House @Mattinbgn

Getting there

Dunedin Airport is over 28km from the city centre

For visitors there are two choices, a shuttle bus service which is very reasonably priced however you will need to be patient as passengers are dropped off at various locations or a personalised more expensive taxi service.

The rental car companies have depots at the airport.

Travel pack information

The journey is worth it.

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