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Dunedin, New Zealand

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Dunedin is home to the world’s rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, or hoiho.
  • Baldwin Street is described as the steepest street in the world.
  • Larnach Castle in Dunedin is New Zealand’s only castle.
  • The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university (1869).
  • Dunedin was the Scottish Gaelic name of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.

Gold rush town

Dunedin, located on the southeast coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is about as far away from home as a North American can travel and still enjoy the comforts of modern living. It is farther south than South Africa (though the tip of South America is more southerly), but the island is as far south as one can go and still hear the English language.

It’s a long trip, in other words, to visit a destination that is highly rated, particularly among the more venturesome travelers.

This city of around 125,000 combines elements of its Scottish heritage with the aura of New Zealand’s pioneer days. It is, in a most fortuitous way, a place where the clock has stopped — or at least slowed down a lot. We refer to the city’s architectural heritage. An 1860s gold rush brought prospectors and the money which funded construction of elaborate homes, churches and public buildings. Economic growth slowed in the last century, and so the rich collections of Edwardian and Victorian buildings were left unthreatened by further development.

For the active traveler, however, Dunedin is most attractive, not just as a charming city with cozy pubs for evening diversions, but for its access to turf and waters suitable for outdoor activities, plus some very impressive wildlife.

Dunedin, a city of dramatic hills, sits at the end of the long, narrow Otago Harbor — comparable to a fjord. The harbor’s northwestern shoreline is on the New Zealand mainland, but the opposite shore is one side of a long sliver of land, the Otago Peninsula.

Much of the wildlife for which Dunedin is known — penguins, albatrosses, sea lions and seals, among others — congregate in or around this peninsula. They are popular with people of all personality types, but active travelers can combine cycling or kayaking with wildlife viewing. Other options, for abseiling, rafting and the like, take outdoorsmen and women farther afield on the mainland beyond Dunedin.

The city is located in the only part of New Zealand with four seasons, and for those who want to escape northern winters, its summers are well timed: December to February.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a daylong cycling journey as one way to take in the sights of the Otago Peninsula. Or, go for a four-day cycling journey on the Central Otago Rail Trail.
  • Spend a night or more as a guest on a working farm.
  • Plan a trip around special events, such as the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival which includes, besides chocolate, a nude rugby international match and a race of 30,000 hard candy balls down the world’s steepest street.
  • Or, compete in the annual Gutbuster Challenge in which participants race to the top and back down the world’s steepest street. It’s harder going down.
  • See the area’s wildlife from a sea kayak.
  • Go rafting or jetboating on the Taieri River. There are other options for the active, too, including abseiling and archery.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Tour Speight’s Brewery and, of course, taste the wares. Take advantage of the opportunity to bottle your own Speight’s beer.
  • Focus on the family life of the albatross at the Royal Albatross Centre. This is the world’s only mainland breeding colony for these huge birds.
  • Stroke a spiny starfish in the touch pools at the New Zealand Marine Studies Center and Aquarium.
  • Order a traditional meal in one of Dunedin’s cozy pubs.
  • Take a workshop in wildlife photography and filmmaking, which includes plenty of practice with local critters.
  • Sample some other options for fun like horseback riding or a harbor cruise.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Devote time to the Otago Settlers Museum to learn more about all Dunedin’s settlers, including the Maori, Scottish pioneers and Chinese gold miners.
  • Pursue a love of flowers at the Larnach Castle gardens and at Dunedin’s Botanic Gardens. Make that an October visit and attend the Rhododendron Festival.
  • Take a tour of Cadbury’s candy factory.
  • Join any of a number of available wildlife tours that offer the possibility of seeing yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, the royal albatross, sea lions and fur seals. These packages can be land-based or may include a cruise.
  • Hook up with a guided walking tour of Dunedin. This could be a heritage tour, or it could focus on the scenery.
  • Take a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway into the rugged mountain interior of central Otago and back.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Enterprise Dunedin at www.dunedinnz.com