Visiting Dunedin creates the odd sense of déjà vu of being halfway across the world in Scotland. Fun fact, the name Dunedin comes from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh: Dùn Èideann. Many of the town’s Victorian and Edwardian buildings are similar to ones found in Edinburgh. Beautiful Dunedin is situated on the head of Otago Harbor on New Zealand’s South Island and offers some of the most beautiful sights.
For nature lovers, the Otago Peninsula has a spectacular landscape and opportunities to see the Taiaroa Head albatross colony, Penguin Palace yellow-eyed penguin conservation area, and a fur seal colony. So, if you fancy some amazing scenery and nature, rent a car and drive up the Otago Peninsula.
Due to Otago University and many other colleges there, Dunedin has a high student population and a really chill vibe. Naturally, with so many young residents the local entertainment scene is lively with tons of hip cafés, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and lots of street art.
Dunedin has some great attractions and is a popular cruise port. Whether you’re arriving by cruise ship in Port Chalmers, in which case shuttles will take you into Dunedin, or you’re planning to stay in Dunedin for a few days, don’t miss these fun things to do.
Historic Larnach Castle dates back to 1871 and is New Zealand’s only castle. With its rich, interesting history and gorgeous gardens, it’s open daily and is well worth a visit. Have High Tea in the garden or ballroom, with proper tea sandwiches, scones, cakes and a pot of tea. However, be sure to make a reservation 24 hours in advance for tea. To reach Larnach Castle, you will need to either rent a car or join a tour from town.
With almost 70 acres of gardens, the Dunedin Botanical Gardens are a haven for any garden enthusiast. In addition to the wonderful native forest and floral displays, you will find a rose garden, a rock garden and a 9-acre Rhododendron Dell. Take a bus from the Octagon downtown to reach the gardens.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Right smack in the middle of town at the Octagon, lies this imposing early 20th century cathedral. Be sure to go inside and view the amazing stained glass windows.
Probably the most famous building in Dunedin, and the most photographed building in New Zealand, is the Railway Station. Take some pictures of the gingerbread façade constructed of dark basalt and Oamaru Limestone. Walk inside to see the original ticket booths and view the mosaic tile floor from the balcony above.
In its heyday, this historical railway station was the country’s busiest, with up to 100 trains a day. Unfortunately, it is no longer in use except for daily sightseeing trains up the Otago coast and to Taieri Gorge. Those train rides are wonderful excursions if you have the time.
First Church of Otago
Just as the name suggests, this is Dunedin’s first church built in 1873. The gothic architecture and 185 foot spire are truly amazing. However, the inside with its hand crafted wood ceiling and beams, original wooden pews, and stained glass windows are really impressive. There’s a small museum with historical pictures and artifacts. Be sure to check it out.
Unlike twisty turny Lombard Street in San Francisco, this one is a straight shot uphill. According to Kiwis, Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world. Take a hike up the street, there are ramps and stairs to help you and a drinking fountain at the top. Check out the houses built into the hill, and if you angle your camera just right they look crooked! There are several annual events held at this street, including the Baldwin Street Gutbuster race to the top and back.
After that strenuous hike up Baldwin Street, you’ll be in need of a thirst quencher. Stop by Speight’s Brewery, Dunedin’s finest, and take a tour. Tours are 90 minutes and finish with a well deserved tasting of some of their brews. There’s also a restaurant attached, Speight’s Ale House, with great food (including yummy New Zealand lamb shanks).
Of course, what would any visit be without shopping. You’ll find Dunedin’s main shopping area around George and Princes Streets, with lots of fun boutiques to browse in. Buy some New Zealand Merino wool sweaters, some Manuka Honey products like cough drops, or cosmetics made with honey or lanolin.
Whether you stop in Dunedin for a few days, or spend the day there on a cruise, you’ll have a fantastic time, it is a fun town! For further information on New Zealand read Top 7 Places in Auckland and Best Things To Do In Wellington. Leave a comment or any question below and remember to keep traveling!