Dunedin Travel Guide
“The holiday ran very smoothly, was well organised & we very much liked our travelling companions. Graham our tour host was a gem!” – Mr & Mrs P Radcliffe (UK)
A vibrant, architecturally splendid city framed by a magnificent harbour, Dunedin is the nature and heritage centre of New Zealand and gateway to an arresting hinterland. Located on the east coast of the South Island, it is much more than a one night stay.
Otago Peninsula, is renowned for the world’s only mainland albatross breeding colony at Taiaroa Head and various other ocean bird, seal and penguin species, including one of the world’s rarest, the yellow eyed penguin.
Dunedin is widely regarded as the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian heritage city in the southern hemisphere. It is also home to some of New Zealand’s top fashion designers and vibrant cafes and bars. The Clock Tower at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest and most pre-eminent University, tolls the hours for the lively students who make up almost a fifth of the city’s population.
The rugged but welcoming hinterland can be accessed via the Taieri Gorge Railwaywhich enables a link to Middlemarch and the Otago Central Rail Trail. Alternatively it scales the cliff tops to provide spectacular views of Port Chalmers and the Pacific Ocean coastline on its Seasider route.
Dunedin Quick Facts
- Location: South Island, New Zealand
- Known Locally For: World’s only mainland albatross breeding colony at Taiaroa Head, Yellow eyed penguin, Victorian and Edwardian heritage, The Clock Tower, University of Otago, Taieri Gorge Railway.
- Climate: There is no ‘rainy season’ in Dunedin. Summer temperatures average around 20 degrees Celsius but can reach up to around 30 degrees. In the Winter months, there are occasional snowfalls and frosts but these usually clear during the day, making way for clear, fine, sunny weather conditions. Visit our weather information page for more information.
Dunedin Short Break Holidays & Sightseeing Day Tours
Dunedin ‘the Edinburgh of the South’ and the region of Otago offer lucky vistors the opportunity to experience a mixture of wildlife, food & wine, cycling tours, art & culture & heritage sites briming with Gothic & Georgian architecture. Or those that fancy a few rounds of golf we have a holiday for you too!
If you are looking for things to do in Dunedin or arriving briefly from a cruise liner, discover the Otago region, tour the local Albatross & Penguin colonies or visit NZ’s only castle; or better yet experience a mixture of them all in a day!
Few cities anywhere on earth have such a richly diverse coastal wildlife population, including many Antarctic species that prefer Dunedin’s kinder climes. Taiaroa Head is the world’s only mainland albatross breeding colony, amazingly within sight of the city’s skyscape.
Visit the Royal Albatross Centre for an insight into these majestic ocean wanderers. There is a large colony of Shags perched on the cliffs below. Visit the home of the world’s rarest penguin, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin and peer in on the shy Little Blue Penguin. Pilots Beach and Otago Peninsula have New Zealand Fur Seals, and sometimes young pups perform aquabatics in the tidal pools.
Cruise the picturesque Otago Harbour and experience the magnificence of some of the world’s most unique marine and wildlife encounters. Visit the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre at Portobello. Dunedin’s tidal estuaries have an abundance of wading bird species. And further down the coast is Moturata Island at Taieri Mouth, an unusual tombolo and wildlife reserve which can often be accessed at low tide. It is little wonder Dunedin is known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand.
One of Dunedin’s great strengths is the way it lives with and values its heritage. Rather than turning its fine Victorian and Edwardian buildings into museum pieces, the city cherishes and uses them.
The Railway Station, New Zealand’s most photographed building, still performs its original function and houses new ventures, such as the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. Speights Brewery, a Dunedin icon which dates back to the 1800s, is a piece of living, working heritage. There are many other examples such as the stately homes Larnach Castle and Olveston.
Dunedin’s Scottish heritage is still very much alive and well. A statue of the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns presides over the city that boasts fine pipe bands and highland dancers, and still delights in traditions such as the haggis ceremony. It is all part of the mix that makes Dunedin a city of living heritage.
Arts and Culture
Dunedin’s cultural heritage runs deep, especially for a city which is young by world standards.
Dunedin is New Zealand’s centre of learning, arts and culture. The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university and together with Otago Polytechnic and the Dunedin College of Education, contributes to a vibrant student culture.
Dunedin Public Art Gallery is breathtaking with both classic and contemporary works, and Otago Museum is one of New Zealand’s finest, with a magnificent collection of treasures from around the world. For an insight into Otago’s beginnings, visit the Otago Settlers Museum.
New Zealand’s proud sporting achievements are celebrated at the NZ Sports Hall of Fame. Dunedin has a professional theatre, the Fortune, and two first class auditoriums in the Dunedin Town Hall and Regent Theatre. There are several excellent libraries. Dunedin has its own sinfonia and, for the more contemporary, the city has eked out its own rock culture – “the Dunedin sound”.
Tours are a great way to see a lot when your time is limited and Dunedin has a diverse range of tours to choose from. Catch a train up the spectacular Taieri Gorge or choose from one of the many bus, van and car tours that take in the city sights and the peninsula. For something with that special Dunedin flavour you can see the sights in style in a classic Jaguar. Harbour cruises are a popular option by either motorboat or under sail and you can take to the air with a range of flightseeing tours.
If your tastes are more chocolate or beer then try one or both of the city’s factory tours at Cadbury’s or the Speights Brewery.
Did You Know…
- Taiaroa Head, on the Otago Peninsula, is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross, large majestic seabirds with a wingspan of 3 metres.
- Dunedin is home to the world’s rarest penguin, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin or ‘Hoiho’.
- Dunedin Botanic Garden is New Zealand’s first botanic garden.
- Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world.
- Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle.
- University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university and the first in New Zealand to admit women to all their classes.
- Otago Girls High School is the longest established girls’ high school in the Southern Hemisphere and said to be the sixth oldest in the world.
- New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame is, in effect, New Zealand’s national sports museum, the only one of its kind in the country representing New Zealand’s greatest sporting achievements.
- Dunedin Railway Station is arguably the most photographed building in New Zealand.
- Lake Sutton in Middlemarch is New Zealand’s only inland saltlake.
- The City of Dunedin is geographically the largest city in New Zealand at 3350 square kilometres.
Travelling to and from Dunedin
Air New Zealand and Freedom Air operate trans-tasman and domestic air services into and out of Dunedin. Mainland Air and Alpine Air operate chartered flights and ‘flightseeing’ options from Dunedin Airport.
Facilities at Dunedin Airport include: licensed cafés, retail outlets, Avis, Budget, Hertz and Thrifty rental cars, automated banking facility, foreign exchange and duty free services for international flights, Air New Zealand Koru Club lounge, and taxis and shuttle services to the city centre.
Travelling times to/from Dunedin by road are as follows (time allows for comfort stops but not sightseeing):
- Dunedin to Christchurch – 5 hours
- Dunedin to Oamaru – 1.5 hours
- Dunedin to the Catlins – 1.5 hours
- Dunedin to Te Anau – 4 hours
- Dunedin to Queenstown – 4 hours