Top 10 things to do in Dunedin

Discover the spectacular landscapes, wildlife and local history of Dunedin.

From edgy urban street art to adorable penguins, Dunedin is a region full of surprises. Make sure you tick off these top 10 activities and attractions in Dunedin next time you're in town. 

1. Meet local wildlife

Dunedin is home to rare wildlife. On the Otago Peninsula, you can spot little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions.

You can also visit the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross. View the Albatross with a guided tour at the Royal Albatross Centre(opens in new window).

Elm Wildlife Tours visits the far reaches of the peninsula for close encounters with the wild inhabitants. To get a different perspective, join a Monarch Wildlife Cruise(opens in new window) for a unique view via sea.

A visit to Orokonui Eco Sanctuary(opens in new window), 20 kilometres north of Dunedin will be rewarded with Tuatara lizards, Otago Skinks and 17 species of native birds, including kiwi.

2. Visit Larnach Castle

Sightseeing in Dunedin isn't complete without a visit to Larnach Castle.

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 to Scottish parents, Larnach Castle has been carefully restored to its original Victorian grandeur, and its beautiful rooms and gardens are open to the public 365 days a year. The castle boasts a 3,000 square foot ballroom, which hosts high tea at 3 pm every day, and a tower commanding sweeping views of the Otago Peninsula.

Larnach Castle is located 20 minutes drive from downtown Dunedin.

3. Enjoy a locally-brewed beer

After a day of sightseeing, one of the best things to do in Dunedin is to get cosy in one of the city's many pubs and enjoy a local beer. To go one step further, indulge in a tour and tasting at Emerson's craft brewery(opens in new window) or the historic Speights Brewery(opens in new window).

4. Visit Port Chalmers

A short drive from Dunedin, historic Port Chalmers is truly charming. The village offers an interesting mix of heritage attractions, cafés and galleries. The creative community in this small town mean it's full of vibrant art and culture, from potters and sculptors to painters, musicians and jewellers. 

Port Chalmers is a popular weekend destination from Dunedin and one of the locals' favourite things to do. 

5. Dunedin Street Art Trail

Explore the ever-growing collection of vibrant, whimsical artworks from international and local artists which are dotted throughout the central city, around corners, down alleyways and boldly painted upon the sides of buildings. The walk takes around 90 minutes, and you can pick up a copy of the trail map at the Dunedin i-SITE Visitor Information Centre.

6. Explore Dunedin’s stunning beaches

Escape to one of Dunedin's fantastic beaches, only a few minutes drive from the city centre.

St Clair 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 beautiful 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.  

7. Travel through time at Otago Museum or Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

Otago Museum has shared world-class collections for 150 years. With over 1.5 million objects, the museum tells stories of nature, culture, and science. Home to the biggest science centre in New Zealand and the only bicultural science centre in the world, there is a three-story slide, a bike-riding skeleton, and best of all an indoor Tropical Forest where you can walk amongst a thousand rain forest butterflies. 

The Toitu Otago Settlers Museum(opens in new window) has created a wonderfully immersive experience that shares the story of Dunedin’s past, from the early Māori inhabitants and European settlers, through to more modern history complete with trolley-buses, vintage cars, and retro homewares. The interactive displays, replica models, and activities for children bring local history to life in a refreshing and engaging way, making it a great activity to do with kids.

8. Enjoy cycling and mountain biking

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(opens in new window). This 150km trail takes in historic gold mining sites, country pubs, and peaceful, golden-hued landscapes.

9. Discover a city of Literature

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.

10. Marvel at Dunedin's grand architecture and heritage

Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere with gorgeous heritage buildings everywhere you look. Nowadays, these are filled with quirky cafes, boutiques and other attractions that will fill days of exploration.

Spend a few hours admiring the valuable collections at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery or many independent galleries where local artwork is on sale. Visit the exquisitely preserved Olveston Historic Home for a peek at the home-life of a Dunedin family during Edwardian times. Or visit the Dunedin Botanic Gardens to explore the Edwardian Winter Garden or the glorious Rhondendron Dell.

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