Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island, with a population of around 130,000 people. This stunning coastal city has phenomenal views and is popular with surfers who are known to visit St Clair and St Kilda’s beaches which are a short drive from town. If you fancy a surf, make sure you bring your wetsuit and booties as the Dunedin has been called the cold water Bali! Dunedin is also a great spot for land lovers, who can take a stroll around the many heritage buildings in the area, such as the Dunedin Railway Station.
There are frequent domestic flights to Dunedin. If you fly from Auckland it will take one hour 50 minutes, Wellington to Dunedin is one hour 20 minutes, and Christchurch to Dunedin is 65 minutes. The airport is quite a distance from town and a taxi into town can cost around $100 so our tip is to book one of the airport shuttles for around $15 before you fly! If you would prefer to drive, Dunedin is about 5 hours away from Christchurch (362 km) and 4 hours 30 from Queenstown (283 km).
Image Credit: Nathan Hughes Hamilton, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A Uni town through and through, Dunedin’s University of Otago is the oldest educational institution in NZ, having been established in 1869. Students have ruled the roost in the city for many years now, and the city provides for a great mix of international students making the trip from overseas and Kiwi kids making the trip to the South Island from the North. Dunedin also has a range of primary and secondary school options, and private training establishments.
Art lovers will enjoy the vibrant street art on display across the city. We recommend walking around and seeing the many sites on the city’s Street Art Trail. Many of the buildings and spaces around the city have been painted by local and international artists, so keep your eyes peeled as you wonder around.
You could easily spend all day in the Otago Museum as there is so much to see. With over 1.5 million items in their collection, there truly is something for everyone. The attic area houses a natural history collection of amazing animals, there are Egyptian artefacts and mummies, maritime treasures and much more. Most of the museum exhibits are free. We do recommend paying extra for admittance to the Tūhura Science Centre which has fun interactive exhibits and a surprising forest area where you can see tropical butterflies.
Dunedin was known as the Edinburgh of the South by its early settlers. While not as large as Edinburgh Castle, Larnach Castle holds the unique honour of being New Zealand’s only castle. Built in 1871 and carefully restored in more recent times, the castle is home to many treasures and gorgeous gardens with stunning views over the Otago Peninsula.
Image Credit: Grutness, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum
Located next door to the famous railway station, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is a treat. If you are interested in transport, it has trains, trams, carriages, cars and more. If you have family members from the area, you can visit the archives and research your family genealogy. If you like social and cultural history, you might enjoy their collection of 20th century treasures or the replica boat exhibit which gives you a feel for what the journey from Britain to Otago might have been like in the 1800s. There is so much to see in this museum and all for free!
There is an abundance of wildlife on Dunedin’s doorstep. You can find Little Blue Penguins, Yellow-eyed penguins, seals and the only mainland breeding colony of albatross in the world. The Northern Royal Albatross has a wingspan of over 3 meters making it the largest seabird. You can watch the albatross year round on the Department of Conservation’s live stream – Royal Cam. We recommend taking a tour when you are in the area. Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours can take you around the peninsula in a fishing trawler boat.
Fashion lovers flock to Dunedin to visit its range of boutiques. There is something to suit every price range. Higher end New Zealand made boutiques include KILT and NOM*D, and Dunedin has its very own Fashion Week each year (coming up soon – from 18 June 2021). More thrifty shoppers will love exploring the range of secondhand shops or ‘op shops’ as Kiwis call them. Toffs Secondhand Clothing on Princes Street is popular with uni students for its mix of both designer goods and $2 finds. You can’t mention Dunedin fashion without a nod to Swaandri, the iconic Kiwi tartan wool brand affectionally know as ‘swannis’. You’ll see plenty of locals casually sporting Swanndri’s in the winter, including Otago’s Highlanders rugby union team who are sponsored by them, and you can visit their shop in town too.
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