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Dunedin travel guide
Dunedin travel guide
Dunedin travel guide

Dunedin travel guide — what to do & see, free activities

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.  

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.  

Dunedin, New Zealand @OTAGO IMAGES, OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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 walk.

Weather

Dunedin Weather Forecast and Observations

Getting there

There is a bus service between Dunedin and Port Chalmers.

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
  • 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

Heritage buildings and monuments

Larnach Castle

145 Camp Road, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

31 Queens Gardens, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

Portobello Otago Peninsula Museum

17 Harington Point Road, Portobello, Dunedin 9014, New Zealand

Waikouaiti Heritage Centre

200 Main Road, Waikouaiti 9510, New Zealand

Dunedin Gasworks Museum

20 Braemar Street, South Dunedin, Dunedin 9012, New Zealand

Olveston House

42 Royal Terrace, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame

Railway Station Anzac Avenue, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

Dunedin art museum

30 The Octagon, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

Otago Peninsula Trust

430 Portobello Road, Macandrew Bay, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

Royal Albatross Centre

1260 Harington Point Road, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

Fletcher House

727 Portobello Road, Broad Bay, Dunedin 9014, New Zealand

Glenfalloch Garden & Restaurant

430 Portobello Road, Macandrew Bay, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

Historic Lime Kilns

55 Sandymount Road, Sandymount 9077, New Zealand

Walking tours of historic Dunedin

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

TIP: Look out for Dunedin’s street art. For self-guided tours, check out our travel pack information for details.

Gardens

Dunedin Botanic Garden

Cnr &, Great King Street, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

Larnach Castle gardens

145 Camp Road, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

Craft Beers

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.

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.

Festivals and Markets

Seasonal: 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

Tunnel Beach

Otago 9076, New Zealand

St Kilda beach

Otago 9013, New Zealand

Sandfly Bay

Otago 9077, New Zealand

Aramoana Beach & saltmarsh walk

Aramoana 9082, New Zealand

The Pyramids at Victory Beach

Okia Flat 9077, New Zealand

Allans Beach track

Allans Beach Road, Portobello, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand

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.
  • Port Chalmers’ Regional Maritime Museum is housed in the original 1877 stone post office building. It has a maritime collection and a settlers’ collection, telling the stories of early pioneers and many port characters who have lived here over the years.” NZ tourism

Day road trip north of Dunedin

Katiki Point

Katiki Point, Portobello, a coastal day trip winding through bays and valleys of the Otago Peninsula.

Highlights:

  • Wildlife viewing Katiki Point
  • Quaint country town Portobello
  • Royal Albatross Centre dusk viewing
  • Avoid the temptation of Moeraki boulders

About an hour’s drive north of Dunedin is Katiki Point, a spectacular headland known for its wildlife viewing. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the parking lot along the rugged coastline.

Countless seals and seal lions are lounging on rocks and beaches.  If you are lucky you will observe the local penguins. Remember to respect the animals by keeping at least four metres away from animals. We are guests in their home.

 

Portobello

A seaside village, between Dunedin and Taiaroa Heads is the closest settlement to the Royal Albatross Centre. A highlight of Portobello is the Happy Hens shop, with its hand-painted ceramics and wooden chickens.

 

Moeraki Boulders

From Katiki Point, iconic instagram stars, the famous Moeraki Boulders are  a 10 minute drive from Katiki Point. From the car park, a short walk leads you directly to the beach, where you can admire the famous spherical rocks. While the rocks are now instagram stars as well as sunrise or sunset images you could be one less person on the beach and simply check out numerous instagram photos instead. The boulders are magnificent however over tourism could mar your personal moment on the beach.

This area is a tourist hot spot, especially with the large coach tours resulting in surges of people on the beach.

Railway Enthusiasts must do journey: Taieri Gorge Heritage Railway

For heritage train lovers the Taieri Gorge rail journey is a must. Book for your trip to ensure you have a place on this popular day trip from Dunedin. The train traverses winding gorges, ten tunnels and Wingatui Viaduct, the second largest wrought iron structure in operation.

Facts:

  • Duration of train journey between 4.5 hours to 5 hours.
  • Train journey has a commentary.
  • Mobile service is sometimes patchy. Ensure you have cash for the buffet carriage.
  • Open air platform for photo moments.

 

Journey to the seaside: seaside day trip for train enthusiasts

“Departing from the magnificent Dunedin Railway Station, the Seasider travels along the edge of the picturesque Otago Harbour, before climbing the gentle slopes above Port Chalmers, a pretty port-side town. At the top of the hill, the train emerges to look over the dazzling Blueskin Bay, revealing breathtaking views over bays, inlets and beaches”

Facts:

  • Duration 3 hours.
  • Train journey has a commentary.
  • Photo moments, announcements that train will slow down for all keen photographers.
  • Departure from Dunedin Railway Station. Returning to Station, the journey is a loop.

Getting around

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.

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