Dunedin is a fascinating place with much to explore amongst the charming city streets, forested hills and hidden coves. It also makes an excellent base for day-tripping, with a number of outstanding sights within a few hours’ drive. As the gateway to the Otago Peninsula, it boasts a wealth of wildlife experiences, from penguins to albatross to seals. Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Dunedin.
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Built in 1871, New Zealand’s only castle offers an insight into Victorian living. Beautifully restored, the gothic architecture and antiques make it a must-see for any Dunedin visitor. Enjoy high tea against a backdrop of sweeping city and harbour views, learn about the family’s scandalous history, then stroll the grounds – rated as a Garden of International Significance.
Along the windswept Waitaki coast, you’ll find these mysterious natural phenomena. These huge spherical boulders are millions of years old and easily accessible from the beach. According to Maori legend, these rocks are gourds washed ashore from the wreck of a canoe. A visitors centre and café is a good spot for lunch with sea views, otherwise head to the Moeraki township and enjoy the famed food at Fleurs Place on the wharf-side. Along the way you can stop in at small beachside settlements such as Karitane for a slice of real kiwi lifestyle, and enjoy an ice-cream or a walk on the Huriawa Peninsula.
Southland’s Welcome Rock Trails in Garston is a single cross country track where you can walk or cycle, hand build on one of New Zealand's longest water races, and discover rarely seen landscapes. Set aside a full day to enjoy the endless views of classic high country New Zealand or stay overnight in back country huts to watch the sun retreat along the hills, soak in the outdoor bath and take it all in.
On the doorstep of the city is the Otago Peninsula, one of the finest examples of eco-tourism in the world according to Sir David Bellamy. Extending out along the Otago Harbour, a day on the peninsula will lead you past quaint villages and colourful boat sheds, around giant sand dunes and rugged sea-cliffs to the far reaches, where rare wildlife species have made their home. Make your acquaintance with Albatross, Yellow-Eyed Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, Sea Lions and Fur Seals before heading back via New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle.
Just over an hour south of Dunedin you can enter a world of lush native forest, coastal splendour and iconic landmarks. From the lighthouse sitting as a lone sentinel at Nugget Point to the cast sea-carved cavern of Cathedral Caves or Curio Bay’s 180-million-year-old Jurassic Forest, it’s a great place to spend a day exploring before heading back to the comforts of the city.