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How could such a relatively small city offer so much in the way of visitor experience? Yet it’s true. Confirm any doubts you may harbour and come see for yourself. Dunedin is a destination worth its weight in gold... and then some.
An historic, university town, Dunedin spreads around the arms of a sheltered harbour, the same stretch of waters the city’s Scottish founders first sailed up from the sea some 160 years ago.
To the city’s eastern limits spread white sand, ocean beaches. To the west, hills cloaked in forest and farmland roll away towards the drier slopes of Central Otago.
A rich valley of verdant green farmland stretches southwards. Such is the promised land those pioneers chose as the place to settle.
Instead of skyscrapers, Dunedin’s cityscape is punctuated by the Victorian and Edwardian spires and towers of notable, neo-Gothic buildings in grey stone, and stately homes now open for public viewing.
The city centre is compact, making for an easy stroll between facilities such as shops and tour pick-up points, while a surprising array of kerbside cafes, each one humming with its own distinctive ambience, offer a wide range of edibles at a reasonable price.
Being a student town and one rich in the heritage of educational and cultural founders, Dunedin offers unexpected cultural delights, from the world’s southernmost professional theatre and orchestra to high quality local craft, art, jewellery and fashion design outlets.
Here art is something to be valued, as the placement of the excellent public art gallery and the “Writers’ Walk’ in the heart of the town reflects.
But it’s not just a haven for culture buffs. The city is renowned for its proximity to incredible wildlife.
A visit to a colony of the world’s rarest penguins, the only mainland breeding colony of the royal albatross and rare New Zealand sea lions are all possible within a brief drive from the city centre.
Yet the magnificent Otago Peninsula, home to many of these precious Dunedin residents, warrants more than a fleeting visit. Here Larnach Castle — a Victorian architectural masterpiece complete with look-out turret — sits high above the harbour, offering stunning 360° views of city, sea and surrounds.
You can walk along the shining sands of any of a dozen beaches — sharing them with only the seagulls and the seabreeze. Or wander out to take a sharp intake of breath at the dramatic cliffs near Lover’s Leap.
This is a landscape of striking intensity, where the tang of seaspray on the air mingles with the traditional Scottish flavour of the city to create an irresistible mix that’s hard to beat.
A world of recreational opportunities — surfing, golfing, harbour cruises, salmon fishing, mountain-biking – awaits the active at heart, while an award-winning vintage rail trail journeys into the dramatic landscape of the region’s pioneering past, to be enjoyed by young and old alike.
Accommodation options range from quality hotels to boutique bed and breakfasts in some of the city’s most significant homesteads.
But wherever you stay, you’ll experience the southern hospitality that is unique to Dunedin. Here, the locals say, it never really rains, for every day in Dunedin is a fine day. You simply have to discover that secret for yourself.
City file: Dunedin
- 120,000 people – and 20% of them are students
- Average summer daytime temperature 19°C (66.2°F) – mild summers with low humidity.
- Average winter daytime temperature 10°C (49.8°) – morning frosts and clear days.
- Four defined seasons, with autumn often the most settled time of year.
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