Dunedin is a New Zealand city full of contrasts and character. It’s an underrated gem on the South Island’s Otago region that all travellers should explore at least once in their lifetimes. Need more convincing? Then look no further than these 12 reasons for visiting.
The Beautiful Architecture
Dunedin is home to a trove of Edwardian- and Victorian-era buildings. A walk downtown is all it takes to get up close and personal to these impressive architectural wonders, which include New Zealand’s only castle, as well as the iconic Dunedin Railway Station, one of the most photographed landmarks—an impressive feat in such a picturesque country.
Dunedin is home to the world’s only mainland-breeding albatross colony, the Royal Albatross Centre, where you’ll also find sea lions, fur seals and rare penguins. All these critters reside in the Otago Peninsula and are the reason Dunedin is aptly hailed as New Zealand’s Wildlife Capital. Eco-tourism is well accounted for on the city’s shores—so much so that renowned environmentalist Sir David Bellamy has been quoted as saying that Dunedin is the finest example of eco-friendliness in the world.
Dunedin’s Public Art Gallery is home to some of the country’s finest collections, showcasing pieces from New Zealand, Britain, Europe and more. A world of modern creativity also awaits outside the expansive exhibition walls. Recently, Dunedin began embracing street art, calling on local and international mural artists to colour the blank-walled canvases in their vicinity—a walk around town is guaranteed to unearth some cool artistic treasures.
Here’s a fun historic fact: The name “Dunedin” comes from the Gaelic word for “Edinburgh,” which is why Dunedin is commonly called the “Edinburgh of the South.” This in itself should give an indication of the loud and proud Scottish identity found here. True to the heritage, Dunedin’s whisky production is renowned as some of the best in the world.
Forsyth Barr Stadium is New Zealand’s largest indoor events arena, affectionately known as “the glasshouse” because of the transparent arched roof, which allows plenty of sunlight to seep in while still shielding visitors from less-than-ideal weather conditions. Rugby is the arena’s mainstay, and some of the games at the 2011 Rugby World Cup were played here. The stadium also doubles-up as a music venue and has received a number of international superstars since its inauguration.
A chocolate jaffa race on the world’s steepest street, performances from the city’s competitive Highland Pipe Band, the Midwinter Carnival—Dunedin’s events calendar has something for everyone, from quirky attractions to cool artistic showcases and plenty of cheerful community spirit.
Walk across Dunedin’s downtown Octagon and Esplanade, and you’ll be welcomed by the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans. Enter some of the city’s hidden alleyways, and you’ll stumble across an eclectic range of restaurants and cuisines. Whether you’re on the prowl for vegan dishes or you’re looking for something with a contemporary New Zealand flair, Dunedin’s café and restaurant scene is sure to satisfy all taste buds and cravings.
Beer lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Dunedin’s Speights Brewery. This iconic fixture was established by James Speight, Charles Greenslade and William Dawson in 1876 and is still in operation today. Visitors can take 90-minute guided tours, which cover the history of the local brewing industry and a sampling session. There’s an ale house next door for those who worked up an appetite during the expedition.
Renowned as one of the busiest farmers’ markets in Australasia, the Otago Farmers Market livens up the Dunedin Railway Station every Saturday, rain or shine. Fresh produce, locally produced honey and cheese, preserves, homemade baked goods, and takeaway food stalls with just about every kind of cuisine imaginable attract the droves to this awesome community event. The market runs year-round from 8am-12:30pm.
On a cold, clear night, Dunedin’s skies will let you in on a very bright secret. The Southern Lights, also known as aurora australis, are only visible around some places in Antarctica and, as luck would have it, in certain corners of the South Island. To catch a glimpse of this incredible phenomenon, head to a south-facing beach in Dunedin, such as St Clair beach, Sandfly Bay and Hoopers Inlet.
The Otago Museum is filled with interesting finds, many of which are perfect for those travelling with children. The Nature Gallery has a remarkable collection of butterflies and is quite a popular attraction for all ages. Other highlights include a Perpetual Garden Planetarium, the laser-activated Beautiful Science exhibition, and the weird and wonderful creatures that lie in the Animal Attic displays.
Head to the edge of North East Valley for peace, quiet and plenty of greenery. Discover the horticultural treasures hiding in Dunedin Botanic Garden, including the beautiful rhododendron trees, luscious herb garden, an aviary and a winter garden. There are also hidden picnic spots scattered throughout and an on-site café.