Dunedin Travel Guide
Introduction to Dunedin
Dunedin is a place that embraces its Scottish roots. The Gaelic word for Edinburgh, Dunedin is filled with reminders from the mother country, from its Victorian-era train station to a statue of famed poet, Robbie Burns.
The people even resemble their ancestors in subtle ways, with a slight Scottish accent being noted in many people. Taken together with some of the best old architecture in New Zealand and being home to one of its most prolific penguin colonies, do not miss Dunedin in your South Island travels.
Cultural Attractions in Dunedin
Learn about the human history of the Dunedin area by exploring the exhibits of the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. This modern attraction has interactive displays which tell the story of the Maori people who lived here first, and of the Europeans who made this region their home centuries later.
This place doesn’t just focus on origin stories, though – it covers events and items of cultural interest which occurred through the ages straight through to the 21st century. From Dunedin’s gold rush days to full-scale models which show how the average home looked in the mid-20th century, there’s plenty here to keep you busy for hours.
Dunedin is home to more than its fair share of amazing architecture, with many considering the Olveston Historic Home to be one of this city’s finest structures. This building was the home of David Theomin and family, who were leading citizens in Dunedin in the 19th century.
A guide will show you through the rooms of the house, which is furnished with period pieces that are originals – don’t miss the grand piano. Once you are done inside, check out the garden, as it remains in the same immaculate condition it was in during its heyday.
Olveston House isn’t the only outstanding historic property within Dunedin city limits, as Larnach Castle & Gardens is another century-old mansion worth checking out. Built to resemble a castle, this attraction was the home of prominent entrepreneur William Larnach, who made his fortune through a timber business and real estate dealings in the Dunedin area.
While the rooms of this opulent home will impress those who love fine things, it is this property’s garden that steals the show. Recognized as a Garden of International Significance, it contains many plants endemic to New Zealand, as well as other plants native to the Southern Hemisphere.
Set against the dramatic scenery of the Otago Peninsula, visiting this attraction may very well be the highlight of your visit to Dunedin.
Other Attractions in Dunedin
After taking in the extravagance of Larnach Castle, spend the rest of your way taking in the Otago Peninsula. A series of eroded volcanic hills long since gone extinct, it is home to colonies of seabirds, sea lions, and most notably, penguins.
Don’t expect to be able to visit these beloved animals without a guide, though. You’ll be accompanied by conservationists, who help protect the wildness of the penguins while providing you with facts, information, and commentary that will allow you to leave this place knowing more about them than when you first arrived.
Back in town, be sure to drop by the Dunedin Railway Station. Yet another building in this city boasting impressive architecture, this starting point for sightseeing trains is affectionately known as the Gingerbread House by locals. With stained glass windows, mosaics, and an impressive exterior, there are plenty of photo ops available here.
There is more to do here than take pictures and travel, though, as there are a number of attractions located within. Upstairs, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame will fill you in on this nation’s sports heroes, while an art gallery offers local crafts and paintings for sale on the ground floor.
A local farmer’s market also sets up here on Saturdays, so if you are in Dunedin on the weekend, head to the train station to check it out.
The hilly nature of Dunedin means it has some seriously steep streets. However, Baldwin Street is in a class of its own, as this vertigo-inducing strip of asphalt will put your rental car’s parking brake to the test.
With a peak grade of 35%, it has been certified as the steepest street in the world. Despite only being 350 metres long, it can take as long as ten minutes to climb this 70-metre ascent. Don’t push it, unless you want to develop a nasty case of the shin splits.