Insider’s guide to Dunedin

This wildly beautiful and progressive city built on the Otago Harbour may be steeped in history, but has great plans for the future. It’s abundant with wildlife, artists, fashion designers, tech start-ups, craft beer brewers and unique dining experiences. Where else can you dine in a castle? Here are 26 reasons to visit.

Words Carolyn Enting. Artwork Lisa Lodge

A Walking the Street Art Trail is a good way to see the city. Local and visiting artists have brightened up the city in recent years with more than 28 quality murals. One of our favourites is Song Bird Pipe Organ on Manse St. Download the map at dunedinnz.com

B Enter the heat of the tropics at Otago Museum where butterflies from the Philippines flutter about you. The heated rainforest atrium is part of a rainforest conservation awareness programme and home to a protected butterfly species that is being actively managed to ensure a sustained population. The Otago Museum is also home to a state-of-the-art planetarium. otagomuseum.nz

C Chocolate is synonymous with Dunedin because of the Cadbury factory. However, there’s a new chocolate on the block called Ocho that’s bean-to-bar delicious. A hot chocolate from Ocho at 22 Vogel St is a must. Ocho can also be found at the Otago Farmers Market. 

D It’s worth popping into the Duke of Wellington (51 Queens Gardens) for a pint, even if it’s just to admire the chandeliers. It’s highly rated on TripAdvisor, too.

E Emerson’s Brewery put Dunedin on the craft beer map and after 25 years of making great beer, it has opened a tap room and restaurant (70 Anzac Ave). Here, you can sample a pint from one of its small batch brews, order an Emerson’s beer and whisky pairing (London Porter & Talisker is one we tried and liked), or settle in for a relaxed pub meal. We recommend the smokey chips with hop salt! Open seven days. emersons.co.nz

F The Friday Shop aka Highgate Bridge Bakery (300 Highgate, Roslyn) is only open on a Friday and famous locally for its French pastries. Get there early to ensure you don’t miss out. Also only open on a Friday is new brewery New New New (218 Crawford St). It’s open from 4.30pm to 9.30pm. Its newest brew at the time Good went to print was a peach and nectarine sour ale. newnewnew.nz 

G As New Zealand’s first GigCity (winning the Chorus NZ Gigatown competition), Dunedin had gigabit technology available before any other city in the country. Over the past three years Dunedin has had hundreds of thousands invested in tech start-ups and tech community projects (through the funding from Chorus won as part of the prize), including projects dedicated to educating young people in tech. And there are 13 Live Gig-enabled FREE wi-fi hotspots throughout the city and a Gig Living Hub in the central library. 

H A tour of historic home Olveston is a must for anyone with an appreciation for clever design details and beautiful things. It was home to the well-travelled Theomin family, who built New Zealand’s finest historic mansion and filled it with treasures. The home was later bequeathed to the city of Dunedin with all of its original furnishings, including priceless artwork. Guided tours only and bookings essential. olveston.co.nz 

I A highlight on the New Zealand fashion calendar, the iD Dunedin Emerging Designer Awards will be held on May 3 and 4, 2018. The awards will showcase the very latest in technology, fabrication and fashion innovation. Tickets are on sale through ticketmaster.co.nz

Clockwise: Sweetpeas from Otago Farmers Market; vintage china from Shop on Carroll; First Church, watching seals is a highlight at Nature’s Wonders; Good Good’s burger caravan

J Dunedin is a very walkable city but to get out to the Otago Peninsula or Port Chalmers you need a car. Grab a car at the airport from Jucy Rentals (jucy.co.nz) or if you love classic Jaguars, book a private tour with Classic Jaguar Limousines (classicjaguar.co.nz). The drivers know their history and all the best spots. 

K Walk from St Clair to St Kilda Beach to enjoy its white sand dunes. St Clair is a great spot for surfing or watching surfers, and the esplanade has a number of great beachside eateries. St Clair has a hot salt water pool, too.

L With a rich history dating back to 1871, there are so many reasons to visit Larnach Castle – and you can stay here too. Larnach Lodge and the adjacent stables offer accommodation within the castle grounds, plus luxury accommodation at nearby Camp Estate. Guests have the option of a three-course dinner dining experience in the castle (highly recommended). The views of the Otago Peninsula and harbour from the castle grounds and lodge accommodation are simply spectacular; it’s no surprise the grounds have received a Gardens of International Significance Award. High tea is also served in the ballroom during the day. larnachcastle.co.nz

M As markets go it’s hard to beat the Otago Farmers Market adjacent to Dunedin’s historic Railway Station (another must-see). Every Saturday from 8am local producers gather here to sell everything from freshly roasted hazelnuts (Amazelnuts) to bunches of sweetpeas, elderflower kombucha (Dragonfly), honey, pies, cheeses and locally-grown fruit and vegetables. Don’t miss the sweet treats made by Matt Cross of boutique bakery The Tart Tin and cookbook fame. otagofarmersmarket.org.nz

N Take a ride on the wild side with Nature’s Wonders on the Otago Peninsula headland. It’s a self-funded conservation effort by Perry and Tracey Reid who take a hands-off approach to nature and won’t allow anyone (including themselves) to walk on the beaches of this isolated property. Yellow-eyed penguins are breeding here in safety and can be seen from afar in daylight, which as Reid points out “is like seeing a panda in the wild”. A thriving fur seal colony also calls this place home. Choose the 8-wheel drive terrain vehicle for an exhilarating cross-country tour of the property where you get to see the seals, penguins and 360-degree views of Dunedin and the Peninsula from the top of the hill. natureswonders.co.nz

O Orokonui Ecosanctuary comprises of 229ha of Department of Conservation land managed by the Otago Natural History Trust and 78ha of Trust-owned land, and is a haven for rare native birds and tuatara. The completion of a predator-proof fence in 2007 has done a good job of keeping out rats and stoats. On our visit we saw kaka, tūi, kererū, takehe and South Island robin. Here you’ll also find podocarp forest, hiking trails and a purpose-built eco visitor’s centre and cafe that bakes its own sourdough. A 20-minute drive from Dunedin city. orokonui.nz

P Portobello is a pretty little town that you need to pass through on the way to Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula (home to the Royal Albatross Centre and Nature’s Wonders). It’s also where you turn off to Allans Beach, and the Pyramids and Victory Beach walk. On a sunny day there is nothing nicer than enjoying fish and chips, seaside, at Portobello. 

Q The monumental form of Quoin Cliff has been described as “standing proud like a great impassive sphinx”. You can hike to Quoin Cliff from Pipikaretu Rd. It’s a tough climb that rewards with great views.

R The Otago Peninsula is home to the world’s only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross. You can see these great birds flying above the carpark of the Royal Albatross Centre. Paid tours are also an option, where you walk up to
an observatory to view the colony. albatross.org.nz

S Saying it like it is, Good Good and New New New (see F for Friday) are the names of a new burger joint and brewery respectively, and you need a bit of know-how to find them. The guys at Good Good – best mates Reece Turfus and Rob Ratten – operate from a caravan parked down an alleyway off Vogel St. Table seating is provided in an airy atrium, the atmosphere is hip and most importantly, the burgers are delicious. There are just three on the menu – beef, chicken and mac ‘n’ cheese (their vegetarian option and a must for mac ‘n’ cheese lovers). 

T Tunnel Beach (see W for walks).

U Take a wander through the grounds of University of Otago to admire its heritage buildings. Nearby, Otago Polytechnic is internationally recognised as a world leader for its fashion school and innovation in food design education. 

V The month of March is Vintage Month in Dunedin and it’s when opportunity store Shop on Carroll (10 Carroll St) puts out its best vintage frocks and footwear for sale. However, this store is a treasure trove for quality second-hand finds all year round. Speaking of V, check out the visionary plan for Dunedin’s waterfront development by architect Damien van Brandenburg. Its futuristic design is truly incredible. 

W Two walks not to miss when in Dunedin are Tunnel Beach and Dunedin’s Pyramids. You’ll need a car to get the start of both tracks. Tunnel Beach provides views of dramatic coastal cliffs and access through a tunnel to the beach. The pyramids on the Otago Peninsula are sentinels of the longest beach on the Peninsula, Victory Beach. Find out more about these spectacular walks at good.net.nz/wonderful-walks

X Dunedin designer fashion has the X-factor. Places to shop include Plume (310 George St) which is the home store for Dunedin label NOM*d (founder Margi Robertson just received an ONZM for services to the fashion industry). Plume also stocks international designer labels. Mild Red (1 York Place) is destination shopping at its best. With no street front, follow the path to the back and be amazed by this stylish hideaway and what’s on the racks. Both Mild Red and NOM*d are New Zealand made, too. mild-red.com and nomdstore.com

Y Yellow-eyed penguins (see N for Nature’s Wonders).

Z A great place to base yourself as well as catch some zzz’s while in Dunedin is Distinction Hotel (6 Liverpool St). It’s right in the newly developed Vogel St precinct (home to Good Good burger and Ocho Chocolate), and is close to the Street Art Trail, Duke of Wellington and many of the city’s good opportunity shops.

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