With a combination of historic architecture and nature experiences, it is easy to consider that Dunedin is a unique city. This city is full of activities, both in the city with its treasure of museums and also outside the city with the Otago Peninsula is a wildlife haven.
Here are the top 7 things you must do in Dunedin
1. Check Out Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach is one of New Zealand’s most stunning natural coastal places, which is just a short drive of public bus journey away from Dunedin city center. You can watch here arches carved by waves and see the beach at low tide via a man-made tunnel from the cliffs. You will find plenty of picture opportunities for waterfalls!
For centuries the Southern Ocean and its salt-laden wind have sculpted the sandstone coastline south of Dunedin. The outcome is a line of magnificent high cliffs, arches and headlands that provide endless vantage points for breathtaking views.
Follow the fenced track downhill to the spectacular, rocky coastline. At the end of the track you will find the handcarved rock tunnel that gives Tunnel Beach it’s name. Built in the 1870s, the passage allows access to a secluded and sheltered beach at the base of the cliffs.
Be sure to examine the rock along the way, where you may discover shell fragments and possibly a fossil, such as a brachiopod shell or echinoderm (sea urchin), or even bones of an extinct whale.
2. Explore the Mountain Bike Trails
Dunedin is a mountain biking paradise from easy rides on the Otago Peninsula or in the surrounding hills to downhill mountain biking trails. There are bike trails in Dunedin to suit all abilities. Take the train from Dunedin to Middlemarch is a great way to start the famous Otago Central Rail Trail a 151km multi-day trip through the Otago region.
Most of these rides are ideal for mountain bikes with 21 speed gears or more. Some of the gravel road rides you can enjoy touring bikes. They give you an interesting day out with a touring feel. All these routes have been tried and tested by the AOK Social Riders and members of Mountain Biking Otago Inc.
The rides are easy, average or hard. Each ride starts and ends at the same point, though larger rides can break into smaller circuits. Rides range in distance from 15 to 75 kilometres and often have big hills to ascend and descend.
3. Go on a Wildlife Tour
Dunedin is a great place to see New Zealand wildlife. There are many options to get a closer view of beautiful fascinating birds and marine mammals. Head to Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Penguin Place, and The Royal Albatross Centre, or can also join Elm Wildlife Tours for penguin, seal, and sea lion spotting!
A visit to the Royal Albatross Centre should be on everyone’s bucket list to view these majestic seabirds and take a visit through Fort Taiaroa and its rich culture and history. The Royal Albatross Centre provides wildlife and cultural tours of Taiaroa Head where you can visit the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross and historic Fort Taiaroa.
People come from all over the world to enjoy the spectacular views on the Otago Peninsula and together with its 20 km long harbour, is the home of an abundance of magnificent world famous wildlife. The Otago Peninsula tours provided by the Royal Albatross Centre give you up close viewing interactions with all manner of seabirds and mammals.
4. Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
Toitu Otago Settlers Museum is yet another amazing museum to visit. Here you will go on the journey through the history of Dunedin’s first human arrivals to present-day locals. Above all, this museum is packed with several interesting exhibitions. Besides, you get to see the old Maori villages, inside emigration vessels, and also Dunedin’s old public buses in this museum.
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is a museum of social history that tells the story of the people of Dunedin and the surrounding area, whose character, culture, technology, art, fashion and transport shaped New Zealand’s first great city.
Its fourteen themed galleries feature interactive displays and powerful narratives tracing the human history of the area, from the earliest settlers to the most recent arrivals.
Captivating exhibitions are complemented by onsite shops, a café and a research centre and archive for those interested in genealogy and other aspects of local history.
5. Board the Taieri Gorge Railway
Dunedin is popular for its iconic building and the Dunedin Railway Station is the first thing to start your journey through the isolated farming communities of the Taieri Gorge Railway. You get to watch amazing views of the river gorge on this historic journey taking you through from one tunnel to another tunnel and viaduct after the viaduct.
The train trip begins at the Dunedin railway station – a distinctive stone building with a touch of grandeur and history. Once upon a time you could catch a train from here on the southern line between Invercargill and Christchurch, as I did in 1995. Before then you could also catch a train inland to Clyde. Sadly those services closed down, which makes a trip up the Taieri Gorge all the more special.
6. Go on a Cruise
You can go here sailing or wildlife cruising from the Dunedin Harbour. The wildlife cruises will take you alongside the Otago Peninsula to watch seabirds, seals, and sea lions, while dolphin cruises will take you out in search of the ocean’s most playful marine mammals.
This dramatic South Island coastal town offers a mix of unique natural beauty and fascinating history. Rare, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and the Royal Albatross all call Dunedin home. Above all, equally impressive is the Victorian and Edwardian architecture that dates from its days as a gold rush town. New Zealand’s only castle sits high above the city and offers sweeping views from its famous gardens. Shop for a locally made souvenir, with crafts, artwork, wool and leather items being popular.
7. Taste Some Beer on a Brewery Tour
Dunedin is also known as New Zealand’s most popular beer brand, Speights. Set out to visit these breweries where tastings are compulsory. Since 1876 the brewery has been proudly producing Speight’s legendary ales from the same site in Rattray St and continues to produce kegs of the good stuff to this day. The Speight’s Brewery Tour is an award winning interactive and informative guided tour through our historic working brewery.
Above all, if you like beer, you’ll love this tour. But it’s just as rewarding for history buffs or those seeking to discover a few secrets from our brewers.