Best things to do in Dunedin
Find out more about those top places in Dunedin
Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, is the country’s capital of all things alternative. Famed around the world as the home of Flying Nun Records, which is still going strong until now, Dunedin is a hidden gem bursting with creative energy. With over 25 000 students in the city it is little surprise that Dunedin is buzzing with grungy dive bars and hip art centers displaying the cutting-edge of New Zealand’s creative industries. Beyond Dunedin’s painfully cool image, the city is well-known for its links with Scotland and has a dazzling array of Victorian and Georgian architecture. What is more, the city makes an ideal base for exploring the spectacular Otago Peninsula, which is unrivaled in its diversity of flora and fauna.
For a glimpse inside the lives led by New Zealand’s rich and famous during the roaring twenties, take a guided tour of Dunedin’s gilded Olveston mansion house. Until 1966 the wealthy Theomin family owned the mansion and many of their original period furnishings, including a treasure trove of Japanese art, have been maintained. Surrounding this jaw-dropping house are a series of small botanical gardens that can be freely explored.
Directly east of Dunedin is the spectacular Otago Peninsula, which is peppered with unrivaled beaches, jaw-dropping wildlife and gently rolling hills. To best experience this pastoral landscape, head to Nature Wonder’s Naturally, a vast sheep farm that has left the landscape completely undeveloped. The estate is best explored through guided 4×4 tours that take you to penguin and fur seal colonies, remote beaches and natural swimming pools.
Located at the rugged tip of the Otago Peninsula is the Royal Albatross Center, which is the only mainland colony of these gigantic seabirds anywhere in the world. Access to the reserve is by fascinating guided tours that take you from the abandoned Fort Taiaroa to the viewing platforms where you can get up close to albatrosses and the charming penguin colony at Pilot Beach.
A must visit attraction for anyone interested in the colonization of New Zealand, the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum details the history of human civilization on the island from the first Maori tribes to the mass-migration of the Victorian era.
Undoubtedly New Zealand’s most famous higher education institute, the University of Otago is also what gives the South Island city much of its alternative character. To soak up the student atmosphere, take a guided campus tour that will lead you from the university’s historic core, located around Leith Street, to its magnificent riverside bluestone main building.
Starting out at Dunedin’s spectacular neo-Gothic train station (which claims to be New Zealand’s most photographed building), tours of the Taieri Gorge take place in specially designed observation trains. The gorge itself is one of the country’s most spectacular with plunging ravines formed through thousands of years of erosion.
Overlooking the Otago Peninsula is Larnach Castle, one of New Zealand’s most iconic buildings. Constructed in the Scottish Baronial style in the late-19th century, the castle is filled with exquisite period furnishings that transport you to the rugged Scottish Highlands. After exploring the picture-perfect interiors, head to the immaculate gardens.
The new state-of-the-art Emerson’s Brewery building opened in 2016 and offers insightful behind the scenes tours of the process that makes New Zealand’s favorite beer. Of course, the tour ends with a refreshing tasting where you can sample different brews.