Things to do in Dunedin – New Zealand

Dunedin is a city which is often unfairly overlooked by tourists travelling to New Zealand. Time-sensitive itineraries combined with Dunedin’s location on the South-Eastern coast of the South Island means it is often forgotten by popular coach tours of the country. Despite this, Dunedin is one of the few cities which provides it all, promising its visitors an exciting city break and astounding natural scenery. Also known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin was founded by Scottish settlers in the 19th century. The gorgeous Edwardian Baroque style architecture is present throughout the city and is reminiscent of the old buildings of Scotland. Home to New Zealand’s oldest university, The University of Otago, Dunedin is a student town. Approximately a fifth of its population are students, which helps make this city affordable, fun and vibrant. Boasting unique activities, excellent dining and spectacular hikes, Dunedin has something to offer everyone.

Must do:

One of the best things to do in Dunedin is to visit the Royal Albatross Centre, offering its visitors an experience you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

The Royal Albatross Centre is unique as it is the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony; meaning it is the only place globally where you can see albatross nest on a mainland. The Royal Albatross Centre also offers its visitors the experience to observe Little Blue Penguins in the wild as they make their way back to their burrows at night.

The Royal Albatross Centre offers several tours, starting at $25 per adult. However, for the more thrifty travellers, you can often see the Albatross’ in-flight on windy days near the Royal Albatross Centre. Additionally, the visitor centre is free to enter and often has footage of the birds nesting.

Even if you are not an avid birdwatcher, I would strongly recommend visiting the Albatross colony as the drive alone provides stunning views of the Otago Harbour and its surrounding rolling green hills.

What do you like best about your city?

Although Dunedin has a lot to offer, the best thing is the people. Everyone is welcoming, cheerful and helpful. Its strong student population keeps a relatively old city feeling young and lively. The city fosters this energy by hosting many events throughout the year to keep you entertained such as the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival, the Otago Festival of the Arts, and rugby matches for the local Highlanders rugby union team.

Best Walk

You are spoiled for choice for wonderful walks in Dunedin, so much so that the Dunedin City Council has a website specifically dedicated to walking tracks around the city. As someone who has completed all the walks, my favourite would have to be the popular Pineapple Track. It is a relatively short walk which is suited to hikers of all abilities. It starts off following unused maintenance roads before turning into thick New Zealand bush. After walking steadily uphill through the undergrowth you will emerge above the treeline and will continue to climb to the hill’s peak where you will be rewarded with a phenomenal view of the city and ocean. Once you are at the top, you have the option to return or continue walking and link up with several other walks available along the ridge of the surrounding hills.

Best Restaurants

There are so many excellent and affordable food options in Dunedin, fuelled by the large student population. I would recommend Number 7, Balmac, offset from the hubbub of the city No. 7 is on a hill at the top of Dunedin and offers wonderful food. Closer to town is Prohibition Smokehouse, which specialises in smoked and barbecued meats. The menu is designed to be shared with others, which is something to consider before visiting. Lastly, Vault 21 is another excellent option which offers delicious Asian fusion cuisine. However, I will say that you can’t go wrong with food in Dunedin, even cheaper options such as ReBurger will provide you with the best food the city has to offer.

Best Music/Festivals

Dunedin attracts a large range of artists and performers from all over the world. Orientation week and Re-Orientation week sees the University host several celebrated acts at Forsyth Barr Stadium as the students are welcomed back for the semester. However, other notable acts who have performed at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium include Fleetwood Mac, Shania Twain, P!nk, Kendrick Lamar and Phil Collins.

Best Nightlife

If there is one thing Dunedin students are famous for it is partying. The heart of nightlife in Dunedin is The Octagon, located in the middle of town directly above Dunedin’s iconic Railway Station. The Octagon holds a number of bars, pubs and nightclubs so there is always something for everyone. Saturday nights in Dunedin are always particularly busy. What are pubs during the week transform into nightclubs on the weekends and given everything’s close proximity you can jump from one to another over the course of the evening.

Best Day Trip Out of The City

As New Zealand is a relatively small country, there are always a lot of options available for day trips and Dunedin is no different. Dunedin is well-situated to take advantage of the best on offer in the South Island.

For those seeking adventure, Queenstown is the obvious choice. Queenstown is a 3.5 hour drive from Dunedin, which will take you through some of the most striking landscapes New Zealand has to offer. The town is known as ‘the adventure capital of the world’ and with options such as sky-diving, bungy jumping, jet boating, and whitewater rafting available, it is no surprise why it has this reputation. Queenstown is nestled between the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu, meaning you will have a beautiful backdrop for any activities you choose to do. As Queenstown is Alpine, activities are often seasonal-the summer offers hiking while the winter provides visitors with skiing and snowboarding.

Queenstown can be quite expensive, however, there are still good low-cost and free options available. Walking around Queenstown is fun, and it is nice to see the cute shops. If you’re feeling brave, you can take a dip in the glacial lake or hike up Queenstown Hill. Make sure you stop off at FergBurger and FergBakery before you leave for some of the best food – it is so popular that it is not uncommon to find a queue stretching around the block!

Something many travellers would not know about Dunedin

Signal Hill is a popular stop on the tourist trail for Dunedin. It provides spectacular views of the city and surrounding harbour, looking out across to the Southern Ocean. However, Dunedin’s best-kept secret has to be Mount Cargill. This may be because it is accessible only by unkempt gravel roads or a gruelling hike. However, if you make it to the top of Mount Cargill, underneath a large radio tower, you will find the best views of Dunedin. The view is unparalleled, offering you 360 degrees panoramic views of Dunedin and the surrounding areas. It is phenomenal any time, day or night.