Whether you’ve got a soft spot for street art, an affinity for heritage architecture or a love for nature and wildlife, picturesque Dunedin is set to embellish your Instagram feed. Here are 10 local gems all shutter-happy New Zealand travellers should set their lenses onto.
Famously New Zealand’s most photographed landmark, the ornate details of Dunedin Railway Station has stood the test of time. At its prime, the train station was the nation’s busiest – Dunedin was the main commercial centre by the time it was inaugurated in 1906. While the station is no longer in use, visitors can freely explore this well-preserved architectural marvel and the surrounding gardens that further embellish it.
The Octagon is an eight-sided plaza that’s right at the heart of Dunedin’s central city operations. The area is predominantly pedestrianised, lined with grassed and paved sections, and is home to a number of al fresco bars and restaurants. Several of Dunedin’s most significant landmarks and buildings adjoin The Octagon and a statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns proudly sits in the upper end of plaza.
The University of Otago Registry Building is the most prominent element of the university’s Clocktower complex and currently houses the institution’s administrative centre. Because the University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest tertiary institution, the premises also hold strong heritage value. But for avid photographers, it’s the stunning architectural composition that is most impressive: the Victorian Gothic Revival building was designed and re-conceived between the 1870s and 1920s by Maxwell Bury and Edmund Ascombe – the latter architect is to thank for the building’s asymmetrical aesthetics.
Located 7.5 kilometres (4.66 miles) southwest of central Dunedin, Tunnel Beach is rocky, sheltered and naturally quite scenic. The short walk leading into its famous man-made tunnel is easy enough for a child to handle, making this picturesque spot ideal for a family outing. Tunnel Beach is best explored at low tide when the sandstone sea arch and fossil-filled cliffs come into full view.
St Clair Beach is one of Dunedin’s most popular summer destinations. Its close proximity to the city centre is part of its appeal. But people are mainly drawn to this pretty white-sand beach because of its fantastic surfing conditions, the cool cafes and eateries that line its photogenic esplanade, and its all-round beautiful coastal setting.
The historic Larnach Castle used to be the only building of its kind in New Zealand until quite recently. Local banker and politician William Larnach famously designed this lavish manor for his first wife Eliza in 1871. The exterior took 200 builders to construct over a period of three years; a further expansion of the original design took another 12 years to complete. The castle has had quite a colourful past – it was even used as a lunatic asylum at one point – but it has since been restored as a tourist attraction, accommodation and events venue.
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is more than 150 years old and was the first botanic garden in New Zealand. There are plenty of photo ops to behold: the garden boasts an area of 30.4 hectares that features more than 6000 plant species. Native birds like the tui are also known to flock to this location – you’ll likely be able to listen to some soothing birdsong as you’re getting a close-up of the exquisite blooms all around you.
Here’s something for the Instagram-loving foodies among us. Make your way over to the northern carpark of the Dunedin Railway Station on any given Saturday to sink your teeth into a variety of ready-to-eat treats that are as pretty to photograph as they’re tasty. If you need to stock up on some essential supplies, the market is known for hosting an array of stalls that sell local produce, cheeses, homemade preserves, fish and meat to name a few. Live performances from local buskers also add to the dynamic appeal of this year-round market.
Dunedin’s Baldwin Street is famous for holding the Guinness World Record for the world’s steepest residential street. But its mass photographic appeal in recent times comes from a compelling optical illusion: if you angle your lens ever so slightly the surrounding houses will look like they’re sinking to the ground. Others are just happy to snap their attempts at conquering the incline, or simply trying to race down to the bottom.
The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum underwent a major revamp in 2011 and 2012 that added a fresh sense of modernity to its much-loved historical exhibits. This is the oldest and most comprehensive history museum in New Zealand, and its focus is primarily on the wider Otago region. The museum originally opened its doors in 1908, and is spread around three distinct locations: its original Edwardian galleries, the former New Zealand Rail Road Transport Building and the newest gallery where you’ll find the main entrance foyer.