Discover the spectacular landscapes, wildlife and local history of Dunedin. Make sure you tick off these top 8 experiences when you visit.
Dunedin's compact city layout and flat runs make it a great place for cycle touring, while the surrounding countryside offers five mountain bike trail networks. Signal Hill, just 40 minutes' ride from the city centre, has the best downhill track in the country. About an hour's drive from Dunedin, Middlemarch forms the start of the famous Otago Central Rail Trail. This 150km trail takes in historic gold mining sites, country pubs, and peaceful, golden-hued landscapes.
If you're interested in discovering New Zealand’s unique story, Dunedin has history to spare. The Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, awarded TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice Award, shares the stories of Dunedin's European pioneers. Olveston Historic Home gives a glimpse into the life of one family from the early 1900s, the Theomins. At the Otago Museum you can see a huge range of artifacts and artworks, including displays on Dunedin's natural environment and native wildlife.
Escape to one of Dunedin's fantastic beaches, only a few minutes’ drive from the city centre. St Claire is a popular surf beach, but other beaches have good breaks too - including Aramoana, Murdering Bay and Karitane. If you just want to swim, Brighton Beach is a beauiful choice, just 20 minutes' drive from Dunedin. Long Beach is good for rock climbing and has huge caves to explore, while Tunnel Beach features a spectacular sandstone sea arch, which is best visited at low tide.
Experience 25 vibrant, whimsical artworks from international and local artists, painted on giant, blank-wall canvases. The artworks are commissioned by passionate local volunteers, who fundraise for them through crowd sourcing, sponsorships and grants. The walk takes around 90 minutes, and you can pick up a copy of the trail map at the Dunedin i-SITE visitor centre.
Dunedin is a UNESCO designated City of Literature, and it shows. The town's central Octagon proudly displays a statue of Robert Burns, and has its own Writers’ Walk - a series of plaques featuring entertaining and informative quotes about Dunedin and its heritage. Bibliophiles should visit the rare manuscript collections at the Reed and de Beer Galleries, or head to Dutybound Book Bindery to see old binding techniques in action. For some serious browsing, swing by Hard to Find Bookshop, Stafford 6 Books or the University Book Shop.
Departing from the historic Dunedin Railway Station, the Taieri Gorge Railway takes passengers on a picturesque journey through the Central Otago hinterland. Travel across the Taieri Plains and into the deep and narrow Taieri Gorge. Ride over the Wingatui Viaduct, the largest wrought iron structure in the world, and if the sun is out, stretch your legs by crossing one of the bridges on foot (the train will wait for you). The Taieri Gorge train departs daily to Pukerangi (four hours return), and weekly to Middlemarch (6 hours return).
New Zealand's only castle is an important and much loved piece of Dunedin history. Built in 1871 by William Larnach, a merchant and politician born of Scottish parents, Larnach Castle has been carefully restored to its original Victorian grandeur, and its beautiful rooms and ma, gardens are open to the public 365 days a year. The castle boasts a 3,000 square foot ballroom, which hosts high tea at 3pm every day, and a tower commanding sweeping views of the Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle is located 20 minutes' drive from downtown Dunedin.
Dunedin is home to magnificent wildlife, including the world's only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross. Visit Orokonui Eco Sanctuary, 20 km north of Dunedin, to see tuatara lizards and 17 species of native birds, including kiwi. On the coast of the Otago Peninsula you can spot little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions.