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What to do in Dunedin

what to do in Dunedin

Dunedin is a historical city nicknamed “the Edinburgh of New Zealand”. A mix of young and old runs within the city. The historical elements are woven through the city in its buildings, street names and yet Dunedin is a University city, making it young and vibrant. Dunedin is on the Otago Peninsula and the beautiful surrounds make Dunedin the perfect place to visit for the young, old, family or solo traveller. Dunedin is host to amazing museums on the historical side. Stunning Edwardian and Victorian architecture will take you back to historical Europe. The cafes and live music scenes are will keep you busy.. The street art, burning the walls at every turn. The crowd is young and hip and always welcoming. 

Dunedin being on the Otago Peninsula is in New Zealand's South Island and is the seventh-largest city in New Zealand. When you have had enough of the city, there is plenty to do around. Having a car to explore Dunedin and the surrounds is helpful. There are plenty of wildlife and amazing beaches surrounding that you may not want to miss out on (depending on when you visit of course).

I would recommend staying 4-5 days if you really want to explore the city and surrounds, but 2-3 days is also okay. To help you decide how long you want to stay in Dunedin, here is a list of what to do in Dunedin.

Museums and Galleries

Travelling on a budget? Not to worry! All of Dunedin’s museums are free! They are also, all of great quality. New Zealand isn’t known for its sunny weather so if you need to get out of the rain/cold, perhaps the museums are a great start. Here are some of the best you’ll find. 

Otago museum

Located near the University, the Otago Museum is New Zealand's largest museum so take your time. This is a great thing to see with children or just for a curious traveller. Historical and scientific artefacts from around the globe can be found here. Don’t miss the tropical butterfly sanctuary. There is a Maori, Polynesian and collection and the great Otago natural history section. The museum is host to many ever-changing exhibitions and exploring this museum can take all day. So plan what you want to see and enjoy.

Toi Itu Otago Settlers Museum

Trace the lives of the indigenous, the settlers, the early Chinese and the migrants. Learn about their innovations with art, design, technology and how the area you are standing on has been transformed over time. The building itself is a stunning original Edwardian gallery. If you are going to see one gallery during your time, let it be this one. Learn about what makes this area of New Zealand so special. 

Toi Itu Otago Settlers MuseumDunedin Public Art Gallery

If art, rather than artefacts is your thing, check out the Dunedin public art gallery. Hosting some of the country’s best art collections. Paintings and sculptures from New Zealand and abroad. Also with ever-changing exhibitions so it's worth planning what you want to see. Located in the city centre, its one of those perfect things to do when exploring by foot and on budget.

Street Art

Dunedin is one “cool and hip” city. More than 30 artworks adorn the cities walls. Get yourself a map of Dunedin's street art and walk around snapping photos of the great talent. This makes for a great way to see the city on a budget and get arty!

Eating local produce and working it off

Otago Farmers’ Market

Every Saturday is the Oragos Farmers’ Market. Showcasing some of the best produce the region has to offer. This is hosted at the Dunedin Railway station, knocking the next thing to do off your Dunedin bucket list as well. Why not grab some tasty goodies to take on a picnic with a view….

Picnic with a view at Unity Park Lookout

A beautiful place to stop and admire the views. The views go on for miles and miles. The park has lush green grass, making this the best spot for a picnic or to watch the sunset.

Dunedin from lookout

Every Picnic need to end in chocolate - Ocho chocolate

Dunedin is home to OCHO (Otago Chocolate Company) This handcrafted local sweetness is a must try whilst you are in Dunedin. Ethincally grown cacao beans in the pacific so you can eat chocolate guilt free. Check out their Vogel street and see the magic in action.

Climb the world’s steepest street

Baldwin Street, Dunedin is officially the world’s steepest street! It holds the world record. Steeper than anything Lisbon has to offer. Go on, conquer walking up this street. Or perhaps just laugh at those who are trying. I challenge you to get a cycle and cycle up it! 

Baldwinstreet-Dunedin

Cafes and live music

Speights

A trip to Dunedin wouldn’t be complete without stoping by the Speights Brewery. A landmark since its birth. The tour's finale is a 25 minute beer tasting. With over 185 years of brewing history. Not too mention a great way to spend time if it’s cold and rainy outside. Have a laugh and a beverage with the fun tour guides and learn all about beer.

Fortune Theatre

Housed in a converted stone church the Fortune Theatre is a small tired theatre that really creates a sense of involvement in the shows. A great night out!

Live music

With venues like The Cook, Craft Bar, Craic, The crown,  Dog with two tails and more there are plenty of live music venues around Dunedin. Said to be NZ version of Manchester, Detroit and Nashville the unique cultural environment and amazing talent of the Cities musicians, along with the university culture, live music is a must when visiting Dunedin.

Dunedin’s architectural greatness

If you are currently in Dunedin, then you are in the city renowned for the best architecture in New Zealand. You see, New Zealand is much more known for its nature (with good reason). Dunedin was founded in 1848 by the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland. It still keeps its Scottish charms. This can be seen in both the architecture of the city, the orientation and the street signs. Magnificent Victorian and Edwardian buildings still remain and are really a sight to be seen.

Simply walking around the city you will find many impressive buildings; The Town hall, the Otago Boys High School, St Pauls Cathedral (you really could be mistaken and think you're in Europe). Don't forget the law courts, the prison and more.

Dunedin Railway Station

The iconic Dunedin Railway Station is a ornate and unique. It's shear size, along with the details are certainly something to marvel at. No defined architecture style it is believed to be described as Flemish Baroque-inspired, Gothic, Edwardian and Victorian. Believe it or not, the train station is one of the most photographed buildings in South New Zealand and we can see why.

You can also take many scenic rail journeys from Dunedin and with such a beautiful train station, what a way to start! You can take the Waitati Seaside, a beautiful coastal railway journey from Dunedin to Oamaru. The Taieri George Railway - one of the worlds great train trips from Dunedin into the Taieri Gorge. And the Seasider which will offer amazing views of the Otago Harbour and coastline. 

Dunedin railway station

Don't forget to check out the University, Famous for its clock tour and stunning structure. Built-in 1879. The Octagon, The Octagon is in the city centre and its unique feature is in its shape - shaped like an Octagon. Being the city centre it is surrounded by many businesses, retail options and so on. It's certainly a cool sight from up above. The First Church of Otago, This prominent Gothic-style church, built-in 1875. Larnach Castle and gardens. New Zealand's only castle, impressive victorian style design with 14-hectare gardens make for a nice visit in the summer and springtime.

Beaches in Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Dunedin has a variety of beaches close by. From surfing to wildlife to untouched natural beauty, there is something for everyone. Walk along the esplanade, take in the beaches and the vibe around. Whilst the closest beaches are alone the esplanade, St Clair and St Kilda, more amazing beaches can be found all around Dunedin

Tunnel Beach

Perhaps the most anticipated beach due to its picturesque passageway. Known as the most romantic spot in Dunedin. Fill your Instagram feed with this stunning beach but be careful before deciding to swim as its known for its strong rip and can be dangerous. Visit Tunnel Beach at low tide for its most picturesque times.

Long Beach

A tranquil beach is known for its rock climbing, caves and wildlife. Don't miss visiting long beach! 30-minute drive from Dunedin with plenty to see along the way, from Port, Aramoana and the Orokonui Ecosantucary, Long beach makes for an easy and pleasant day trip.

Dunedin beaches - St Kilda, St Clair & Salt water pool

If you can't get out to some of the Otago Pennisula beaches, that is fine. Dunedin city has it's own worth-while beaches. Cafe-lined promendates, an easy to get to location and plenty of surf to watch make these beaches a great go-to. St Clair is known for it's surfing and if you have never tried it before, the Esplanade surf school is close by to help. The promedande makes for a wonderful stroll early in the morning or even late in the evening. The St Clair hot salt water pool is great for those who want to feel like they are in the beach but without the cold water. It's a hot water public swimming pool

Dunedin beach St Kilda

Other amazing beaches to watch out for include Victory beach, home to sea lions, fur seal and yellow-eyed penguins, don't forget to stop by the Pyramids, AKA dune dountry. Sandfly Bay, with large dunes popular for the sea lions. Brighton Beach, Blueskin Bay and Aramoana Beach.

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