Dunedin Tourism Information
Dunedin is the 7th largest city in New Zealand by population, located at the head of Otago Harbour. Dunedin is best known for its picturesque harbour setting, lively student population and Scottish heritage. It's considered one of the country's four main centres for its colonial history and it's home to some rare flora and fauna like the Royal Albatross breeding grounds and Yellow-Eyed & Little Blue Penguin colonies.
The Summer months are from November to April, peak season is December, February and March. This is not only because of foreign tourists but also domestic travellers who have holidays. If you visit in this season, book in advance because it’s not so easy to find accommodation.
January and February are the best times to visit Dunedin, as the climate is more pleasant. Due to the location of Dunedin, it's temperatures rarely go up from 20°C. Winters are much colder, (June to September) with temperatures below 10°C on most days but can get to as little as 1°C. Thankfully being by the ocean it prevents it reaching subzero figures.
If you visit during the Winter, take into account that day light hours are very limited, as it gets dark by 5-6 pm when most tours end and shops close.
Temperatures go down during the evening making it much colder and often can be windy. Take plenty of warm clothes, gloves, waterproof gear, hats, coats etc
Unless you are renting a car, motorhome or van, the location of Dunedin, means it's quite isolated from major towns and getting to it, requires to fly into the airport, the main getaway, specially if you are coming from the north.
The airport of Dunedin is located 30 Km away from the city and it does not have any public transportation options. Therefore we advise you to always book your private transfer online, in order to save money and time. There are a few companies which offer direct door-to-door transfer service, which is handy if you have luggage. Supershuttle, Airport Shuttle Dunedin and Kiwishuttles. Fares are around $20 NZD per person one way. (if you book directly at the airport they will be $30 NZD). Alternatively you can get a taxi, if you are sharing with many others to bring the price down.
Once in the city, Dunedin's public transport consists of entirely busses. The times are not very frequent, due to most people driving. It's advised to check the timetables before you get the bus. Specially at the weekend, busses run only every hour and stop about 6 pm on some routes. However getting to some places, might be useful taking the busses as walking can be long and up hills. There are several busses which can take you to nice locations around Dunedin. Check out the tab, "what to see and do" for more information on which busses to take around the city.
If you want to travel out of Dunedin to other cities in the South Island of New Zealand, the only option by public transport is by bus. Services are quite limited, so it's always best to check the times before you travel. The company which offer these services is Atomic Travel.
The region is famed for it's natural scenery, beauty and free wildlife. It's the ideal destination for those seeking nature, and animal lovers who want to see rare and endemic species, natural to New Zealand. The city as well is full of culture, from the beautiful Train Station and the Clock Tower to the Chinese Gardens and residential houses resembling the construction style of the early European conquers. Within the city you have free museums, gardens, parks and the main shopping street, George street, packed with shopping malls and restaurants.
✔️Tip: To make the most of your time in Dunedin, it's recommend you join some of the many tours, which operate from the city centre and take you to some of the incredible picturesque scenery and nature wonders waiting to be explored. The best idea is to head to the Dunedin i-site information centre, located at 50 The Octagon. They will provide you with plenty of information and arrange the tours. (check the next tab "tours from Dunedin" for more info)
Below are the highlights of Dunedin:
- Dunedin City Centre: The centre of Dunedin has plenty to offer after you have finished the tours or perhaps on a quiet day, explore the city on foot. The historical town has many landmarks to be seen and lots of them are free to enter like the Otago Museum (Natural Science Museum), the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum (History Museum), Dunedin Train Station, the First Church of Otago or St Paul's Cathedral.
Other sites to see are the Town Hall building, the Dunedin Law Courts building, the Otago University or the Chinese Gardens ($9 NZD). The city also has many shopping centres located within George street, ideal for souvenir shopping, and you will find plenty of eateries and cafes where to relax and chill. During the evening head to the Octagon, where you will find lots of bars and pubs, serving quality food and drink, making your evening very entertained no matter the weather.
Also near by you will find cinema venues for those seeking to watch a movie on the big screen.
- St Clair: It's a popular beach for swimming and surfing during the high season, yet a peaceful and lovely area to walk around the rest of the year. Located not far from the city centre, you can get there by local bus 8. (about 15 min ride). There are also a few cafes and eateries along the way. Nearby you also find the Saint Clair Hot Salt Water Pools. It's an outdoor hot salt water pool built on a beautiful site at the southern end of St Clair beach. The pool is heated to 28 degrees Celsius and is a mixture of salt and chlorinated water. A cafe operates year round at the facility. It is open from 9am-5pm daily. St Clair Pool opens for the summer season in October and closes end of March.
- Larnach Castle: It's New Zealand's only castle. The castle is set high above the harbour where William Larnach commissioned the construction in 1871. It is also well known for its 14 hectare garden and grounds which has been recognised as a Garden of International Significance. To get there, take bus 18, 18A from the city centre and get off at Portobello Rd, 649 and walk 2km up Camp st, where you will reach the Castle. The cost to the castle is $31 NZD. However you can also do it in a tour for about $55 NZD from the city centre.
- The world's steepest street: go and walk (if you can) down/up Baldwin Street located in north Dunedin, it's the world's steepest street, even recognised by the Guinness Book of Records. The street overlooks Otago Harbour, and is easily accessed by bus from Dunedin centre. Take bus 9 or 9A and get off at North Rd 275. Otherwise it's a 45min walk from the city centre!
- Wildlife tour, Albatross and Yellow Penguins: This tour not only takes you to see some really true and rare animals, some of them being endemic to New Zealand, but also you will travel along the coastline of the Otago Peninsula. A natural habitat for wildlife and a residential area, all living together in an utterly peaceful environment. Make sure to take photographic equipment with you, with zoom, to take good shots at the wildlife. The scenery, filled with hills and cliffs, together with farming land and the backdrop of the ocean makes for some really good views. On occasion it can get very windy, so dress up warmly and take good walking gear, as there is a lot of walking involved, thorough steep dirt trails, with mud and sand. Some of the fauna you will be able to see are the Royal Albatross, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, Yellow Penguins and many other species of birds which are pointed out to you as you go along. Binoculars are included on the tour. Prices start from $115 NZD.
- Train tour, Dunedin to Pukerangi: The train starts it's journey into some of New Zealand’s most ever-changing, spectacular and iconic scenery. The train travels through the Southern parts of Dunedin city until it arrives at Wingatui junction where it turns off onto the Taieri branch. A private rail line. From here you will begin to pass tunnels, viaducts and many bridges as the train negotiates it's way via the gorge and the rough grounds below you. However, from the comfort of your seat, you will relax and enjoy the views through the big windows and with live commentary, the tour keeps you informed, as the highlights of the trip approach. You may also stand on the open air platforms while the train moves. The train will stop or slow down at various scenic points along the way for photos where you can disembark and stretch your legs. As the train reaches Pukerangi, there's a stop where the locomotive will change direction and again you can get off to admire the beautiful scenery.
The return trip takes you back through the same rail line, yet again with live information, it's another opportunity to retake photographs and wonder at the views. The duration of this tour takes about 4 hours to complete, and returns again to the Dunedin train station, where you start the trip. There is another tour, which continues up to Middlemarch, and this takes 6 hours.
The timetables for the trains are always changing depending on the season. The Pukerangi tour costs $96 NZD and to Middlemarch its $120 NZD per adult. To book your seats and type of tour, better visit the following page for more information: Dunedinrailways
Dunedin has a large student population thanks to its University and colleges nearby, his makes it more entertaining during the evenings and nights. But note that the vibe is not as lively as in other bigger cities like Wellington or Auckland. It is important to get your days right in Dunedin. Ask your hotel for events or special gigs that might be happening, not always the weekends provide the best days for going out.
For example, a pub may be humming on a Thursday, but never on a Monday, or a bar may be the place to go on a Wednesday, but not to be seen at on a Saturday.
Dunedin specialises in intimate cocktail bars where conversations abound or noisy pubs with live music or live sports.
Dunedin's shopping is very localised around the city centre, where you will find 3 major places where to enjoy some shopping treats:
- George Street: Most shops can be found mainly on George Street with Plume as the reigning queen among the large variety of fashion shops and boutiques lining both sides of the street. Also, New Zealand is synonymous with sheepskin and Dunedin’s best sheepskin and leather goods are to be found at Hides, on George Street.
- Golden Centre Mall: The Mall offers several shopping opportunities in different branches such as fashion, books, health and beauty, food and much more. It has a smaller selection of stores than the Meridian, but boasts a more varied, and higher quality products as well as an international food court.
- Otago Farmers Market: Fresh local produce and delicatessen items are to be found in abundance at the local Farmers' Market, where much of the produce comes in the organic variety. While buying some healthy and tasty food, you'll surely get hungry, but don't worry about that because here you have the possibility to grab a bite, too.
Its located just next to the train station.
Staying in Dunedin is not as cheap as other cities in New Zealand. The location and the nature wonders nearby make it a high sought destination and this is noticed on the nightly prices. Near the city centre, Hotels can be found which resemble classic styles, yet elegant and chic. These are expensive Hotels, costing from €50-80 per night.
However, moving north on George street you will find plenty of Motels, which are a more typical accommodation type in New Zealand. They are usually self-catering and can be cheaper. Motels can cost around €40-60 per night.
If you are on a budget then there are plenty of Hostels and backpacker style places spread around the city. Also it's popular to seek private accommodation, shared and stay in local houses thanks to Airbnb.
When coming to Dunedin, there might not be as much to see at first glance, but as you begin to discover your way around, you will soon realise you might need more time.
If you coming for nature, fauna and scenery then you will be impressed and stay a little longer, up to 3 nights would be enough. The city centre can be seen easily within a day, as it's all in walking distance.
However, it's important to analyse which time of the year you're coming to visit. Winter's can make your day finish about 5 pm as shops and tours usually end at this time. Summer's are more pleasant to stay out in the evening and day light lasts longer. Staying also the weekend, is better for more activity in the city, but for tours make sure you book in advance. In total 3 to 4 nights over the weekend would be the best recommendation.
Dunedin Photo Slide 📷