Ask one Kiwi about the city of Dunedin and immediately hear notions of strong Scottish heritage, rough students lives and harsh winters. Ask another and notice worldly anecdotes of tech start-ups, creative inventions, and ultimate adventures. What is one to believe, I wondered? Well, one thing is for sure. Any time’s a good time to explore. So I did. A few days in, I realised Dunners might be old and small; but to call it small-minded or dull would be an offence. At its heart, feel a sense of youthful originality, and, at its doorsteps, go wild in an enormous outdoor playground.
Let’s get into it! As usual, hit the bold titles and a separate tab with the exact Google Maps directions will appear.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary Before I began to travel, I never had much interest in local flora and fauna. This is one of the places that will quickly convert the non-believers. Escape everyday life for a little and watch birds go about theirs. Reminiscing on forest parrots and spotted kiwi tracks over lunch at the cafe on-site completes an outstandingly well-rounded morning.
Port Chalmers Afternoons in New Zealand’s oldest harbour town are best spent walking its main street (there aren’t many – you won’t get lost) and getting lost in one of its wild vintage stores. Later on, picnic provisions on-hand, drive or walk up to on of many vantage points and watch Port Chalmer’s charming date with the afternoon sun.
Harbour Cone Dunedin’s great outdoors begin at the no less than spectacular Otago Peninsula. Start at the top and go from there.
The Chasm Loop Walk An easy track taking you to some of the peninsula’s most remote and rewarding viewpoints including Lovers Leap and Hoopers Inlet.
Tunnel Beach Sea carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches, and caves all just over 7km from the city centre! Bring a windproof jacket and camera (nothing new for Kiwi landscapes).
Larnach Castle New Zealand’s one and only castle won’t impress like Versailles does. Instead, it shines bright with its very own magic. Download the Larnach Castle App and travel back in time. The views atop are a definite highlight and high tea next door will perfectly round off a day of peninsula exploring.
Otago Farmers Market Simply put, the Otago Farmers Market is hands down the best food market I have come across in Aotearoa. We’re talking wonderfully fresh organic produce, divine foods from around the globe, authentic baking, and so much more I would have bought if my suitcase (and full stomach) allowed me to!
Dunedin Street Art Forget about the stereotypes of a historic town and dive into the colourful and insightful worlds of street art. Whether you take a 2h tour with the wonderful and extremely knowledgeable Victoria or grab yourself a map from the tourism office by the Octagon, pack snacks. There is more ground to cover than one would think.
Otago Museum Stay inside on a rainy day and retreat to otherworldly skies in the planetarium.
Dunedin Public Art Gallery The world of art and Dunedin have bonded long before the rest of New Zealand dared to take a trip South. Start your artistic journey at the Public Art Gallery and go from there.
Penguin Place Get up close with the fluffy, yellow-eyed locals.
The Catlins The epicurean traveller’s dream! An hour and a half south of old Dunners, The Catlins bear rugged treasures. Treasures of immense beauty, wonderful remoteness and exceptional light. Options are endless but a trip to Nugget Point and Purakaunui Falls make for a pleasant and very photogenic introduction.
Besides the world-class Central Otago Pinot Noir, local cuisine and the city cafe scene are a delight.
The Dog With Two Tails This eclectic establishment in the heart of the city is not trying to fit in. It does what it likes to do, and it does it well. You’ll want to come back.
Taste Nature The name suggests the core roots of this veggie gem. Nature done just how we like it.
Good Earth Cafe A reliable and relaxed organic eatery catering to hungry tourists, locals and students alike.
Potpourri Cafe Dunedin’s oldest vegetarian kitchen is still thriving for a reason. The price and taste go unmatched.
Morning Magpie An homage to art, excellent coffee, homemade bread and community.
The Standard Kitchen The clean eater will bounce for joy at this delightful little place.
Guild Locally designed fashion, homeware, skincare, jewellery and ceramics. Dunedinite talent at its best.
Preservation Society This one is a true hidden gem. You won’t find them online, but their exquisite curation of all things fashion and vintage will leave you lost for words.
Company of Strangers New Zealand made goodness with hints of true Dunedin subtlety, grunge and romance all at once.
Shop on Caroll Thrift shopping at it best.
iD Dunedin Fashion Week Dunedin is the South Island’s fashion power-house. Save the date (12-20 March 2017) and be ready to breathe in some much-needed forward-thinking fashion air.
New Zealand Young Writers Festival: Sept 1-4 2016 As you already know by now, the art of creating lies at the city’s heart. As one of the few UNESCO-designated Creative Cities of Literature, Dunedin will host this highly anticipated (and mostly free) event surrounding one’s love and skills with words. Register online.
The Vintage Roundup A monthly vintage heaven not to be missed.
For more, click here.
Get There and Around
Fly with Air New Zealand or Jetstar, carpool, or hop on a bus. The town itself is comfortably explored on foot while a rental car or organised tour is recommended for Port Chalmers, Otago Peninsula and The Catlins adventures.
When to Go
Winters can be wet and cold; cold for New Zealand standards that is, with the occasional possibility of snow exciting the entire district for days. On the other side, soaring up to 35 degrees in summer, the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ really does make for a great break all-year round.
The local tourism website is excellent. If needed, its Instagram page provides further inspiration (look for #dunnerstunner), while the Neat Places app/website gives great insight into new, fresh-faced places to see and eat at.
I hope you can make great use of my Quick Guide to Dunedin. Click here to see my Dunedin photo diaries.