Dunedin Travel Guide. | New Zealand
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand (after Christchurch). Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
Captain James Cook first stepped ashore in Dunedin in early 1770, and named Cape Saunders on the Otago Peninsula and Saddle Hill.
Between 1855 and 1900 many thousands of Scots emigrated to the incorporated city. Dunedin became wealthy during the Central Otago Gold Rush, beginning in the 1860s. In the mid-1860s, and between 1878 and 1881, it was New Zealand's largest urban area.
Dunedin Botanic Garden
The first thing when arriving - find a free parking spot. Most of them you can find further from the center. We don’t like to pay for a parking or be restricted by time limits. So we left our car closer to the Botanical Gardens.
That’s one thing we wanted to check out anyway, so it was a perfect location to leave our car and start to explore the city.
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is the oldest botanical garden in New Zealand, and was established in 1863. It has two parts Lower garden (which includes Winter Garden, a heated Edwardian glass house, rose and herb gardens, a duck pond, playground and Japanese garden) and Upper garden (features a geographic plant collection, a small aviary (with a talking parrot), native plant collection and rhododendron dell).
It felt spacious and beautiful. Filled with flowers, different type of trees and other plants. Like every garden we have seen in New Zealand this also was well maintained and we saw a lot of gardeners while walking around.
Another garden you can visit is Chinese Garden. You can relax, and go for a picnic there. The admission fee for adult is 9,50NZD, you can learn more information HERE.
The city heart and center is called Octagon which is an eight-sided plaza.
This city feels really lively and spacious comparing to others. Streets were full of young people and cafes, parks and libraries buzzed from conversations. Dunedin is a place to go if you want to enjoy Cinema, shopping or just choose from many restaurants and cafes in town.
You can tell right away that this city is so much different than many others in New Zealand. You can see many historic buildings and arhitecture is much closer to European.
You can see a lot off street art as well.
University Of Otago
We heard a lot of people referring to Dunedin as a student town. Something like mini Harward or something. It really is, because of the University of Otago which is the oldest University in the country. It was founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council. It scores highly for average research quality, and there are a lot of A-rated academic researchers that teach here. Otago was also the first university in Australasia to permit women to take a law degree.
The day we were there we saw graduation, so we didn't take many pictures. But the building is very beautiful and gives the city it's charm.
Dunedin Railway station
As we walked towards the famous Train Station I could already see that this is a grand building. Dunedin Railway Station is the most photographed building in New Zealand and I can see why. It is truly amazing and a major landmark. Also called a 'Gingerbread House' it has a lot of embellishments and decors.
In its early days the station was the country's busiest, handling up to 100 trains a day. The station is open to the public to marvel at the ornate interiors. The booking hall has a beautiful mosaic floor of almost 750,000 Minton tiles. A frieze of Royal Doulton porcelain runs around the balcony above it from which the floor's design, featuring a locomotive and related symbols, can be seen.
The main platform is the country's longest, extending for about 500 metres. From here you can take any of tours with spectacular landscapes of Dunedin and the surrounding Otago region. The line travels along the banks of the Taieri River, through numerous tunnels and climbing along the Taieri Gorge to the Strath Taieri. It crosses a dozen viaducts, including the southern hemisphere's largest wrought iron structure, and passes through ten tunnels. You can book the tours HERE.
A large restaurant takes up the much of the ground floor and the upper floor houses an art gallery and a sports hall of fame. A farmers market runs in Anzac Square just outside the station every Saturday morning.
Another thing this city is very proud of is Baldwin street. It is not just a street. It is the world’s steepest residential street. And let me tell you… it is damn steep! By 1987 the street was officially recognised in the records books, and the rest is history.
Unfortunatelly Baldwin Street lost its status as the world's steepest street last (2019) year when the Welsh town of Harlech was officially anounced to be the home of the world's steepest street. The streets residents feel a relief as the tourist crowds affects their daily life. Even in the middle of the tourism off-season, Baldwin St is full of selfie-taking tourists and tour groups taking up the whole width of the street. I think It will stil remain a must see while exploring Dunedin, because it is still the steepest residential street in New Zealand.
There are even stairs on the sidewalk for pedestrians. It seemed insane how can cars get up there, but we saw some driving like it’s nothing. I can understand how the residents of the street feels when tourist groups arrive and walk up and down the street all the time.
Signal Hill Lookout
Another thing what we did was Signal Hill lookout. It is located close to the head of the Otago Harbour and reaches an elevation of 393 m. You can drive up with a car or hike for about 1,5 hours on a 5,5 km long trail. It starts on a Butts Road.
It’s good to go up there only in a clear day, because this place tends to be up in the clouds and then you can’t see anything. In a clear day views are beautiful.
Larnach Castle located on the Otago Peninsula is New Zealand’s only castle. Tehnically it is not even a real castle, but a house. It is one of a few houses of this scale in New Zealand. The house was built by the prominent entrepreneur and politician, William Larnach. The building, which Larnach himself simply called "The Camp", was called a "castle" by local press on 8 December 1874. After a series of personal and financial setbacks he died by suicide in New Zealand's Parliament Buildings in October 1898. Following bitter legal battles over Larnach's will, the Larnach Family sold the house in 1906. Since 1967, the castle has been privately owned by the Barker family, and opened as a tourist attraction, as "New Zealand's only castle".
Entrance is minimum 34 NZD for an adult, so we decided to skip it.
You can get more information about the tickets HERE.
One wonderful place to visit totally for free (exept some exhibitions) is Otago Museum. It is located in the city centre and adjacent to the University of Otago campus. It is one of the city's leading attractions and has one of the largest museum collections in New Zealand. Natural science specimens and humanities artefacts from Otago, New Zealand and the world form the basis for long-term gallery displays. It was very interesting for us, although it can take a lot of time to walk through all of the exhibitions. Get more information HERE.
We also saw the original Museum building on the Great King Street site which is much much smaller than the current one.
First Church of Otago
It is very obvious that historic and beautiful buildings are easily found in Dunedin. The First Church of Otago is one of them.
The current church stands on the stump of Bell Hill, a major promontory which initially divided the heart of Dunedin in two. In the city's early years, gold was discovered inland, resulting in rapid growth in the city. The hill became a massive obstacle to the development of Dunedin, and a decision was made by the Otago Provincial Council to make a substantial excavation into the hill. This resulted as a reduction of the height of Bell Hill by some 12 metres.
Unique wildlife around Dunedin
Dunedin is indeed a wonderful city where you can find a ton of things to do. Not only that, but there are a lot of unique wildlife here as well. Dunedin, and its surrounds, is home to some interesting locals, including the world’s rarest penguin - the yellow-eyed penguin, the world’s rarest sea lion - the New Zealand sea lion, New Zealand fur seals and little blue penguins. The only mainland breeding colony of the Northern Royal Albatross, large majestic seabirds with a wingspan of 3 metres, is living at the Otago Peninsula.
You can book your penguin viewing and other tours HERE.
Although there are many places you can see those penguins for free. I suggest to get a Wikicamps App on your phone to check those places. Download it HERE.
We only saw the ones in the city, this time. :D But Hey, at least we got a selfie…