In many ways, Dunedin, a port town, still retains many of its Scottish and Gaelic roots, while embracing the unique foliage and culture of New Zealand. A university town with a strong historical memory and an ecological haven for rare species of wildlife, Dunedin will show you a place you never imagined existed.
Dunedin Chinese Garden is a serene sanctuary in the midst of an urban center. Enjoy the traditional Chinese tea and dumplings, after having a quiet walk through the gardens.
The Speight's brewery is a Dunedin landmark. Learn the secrets of brewing beer since the time of the ancient Babylonians and finish your trip off with beer tastings.
Located at Taiaroa Head is the world's only mainland albatross nesting site. If you've been waiting to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, drive along the Otago Peninsula's west coast.
Between Port Chalmers and Waitati is this beautiful conservation area, home to New Zealand's incredible and rarely sighted wildlife. The sanctuary is committed to keeping these creatures undisturbed so observations are on a tour-basis only.
Check out the ever-popular St Clair beach, along with St Kilda, where, along with the local residents, you'll meet seals, blue penguins, and sea lions.
Southern New Zealand isn't the first place you'd expect to find a Gothic castle, but that's what Larnach is. This imposing Victorian creation was erected in the 1870s by a local business magnate, who spared no expense, bringing in stone and craftsmen from all over the globe. The result is a uniquely over-the-top mansion. Highlights at New Zealand's only castle include the cavernous ballroom as well as the sprawling (and award-winning) gardens.
Located just off Great King Street near the center of Dunedin, the city's Botanic Garden is an absolute gem. The collection of camellias is internationally famous, and visually stunning, but it's far from the only star of this botanical show. Wandering around the collections of alpine plants, tropical species in the Winter Gardens Glasshouse, the Rose Garden, and the huge collection of native varieties is both educational and relaxing. If you're at a loose end and need a dose of beauty and tranquility, there's no better place to go.
One of the largest and most prestigious artistic institutions in the whole of New Zealand, Dunedin Public Art Gallery also goes out of its way to make kids and families welcome. Situated on the Octagon, right next to St Paul's Cathedral, it's totally free of charge, and features a constantly rotating program of special showcases and themed exhibits. The permanent collection isn't too shabby either, with works by famous artists like Gainsborough, Turner, Monet, and Pissarro, among many others. If you have the time, don't miss the Curator's Tour, which really sheds a light on the current exhibitions.
Just up the coast from downtown Dunedin (10 miles to be exact), Port Chalmers is an idyllic harborside community which has become a haven for creative types like painters, sculptors and artisan food producers. Bundle in some sublime beaches and bays, and it's easy to see why it's one of the South Island's most popular tourist destinations. Aside from the galleries and general vibe, attractions include a memorial to polar explorer Captain Scott (who sailed from there in 1910), and the engaging Port Chalmers Seafaring Museum.
Dunedin's premier museum is the kind of place where it's all-too-easy to lose a day. Again, it's free to enter, so you can explore to your heart's content. When you do, you'll discover a huge array of galleries, from exhibits documenting the life and history of the Maori people, to reconstructions of dinosaurs (always a favorite with kids), enchanting butterfly collections, Egyptian mummies, and dazzling astronomical shows at the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium. Basically, there's something for everyone - and always presented in a clear, informative and entertaining way.
Dunedin experiences snowfall every couple of years and does get cold and slick in the winters. January to May is the best time to visit as the sun is mostly out and temperatures range from 44 to 60.
Travelers visiting Dunedin will land at the Dunedin International Airport (DUD), which is 19 miles west of the city center. Use a shared shuttle for between NZ$25 - NZ$35 or hail a taxi for NZ$60 - NZ$100 to get into town.
Trains to Dunedin come from around the country via the InterCity train service. Fares can be booked online; single trips start from about NZ$45.
To drive from cities like Queenstown to Dunedin, use State Highway 85 or a combination of SH6 and SH1. This particular journey is 175 miles and takes about three hours non-stop.
Book tickets from cities like Christchurch, Invercargill, Wanaka, and Queenstown from providers like InterCity or Atomic Shuttles. A trip from Christchurch to Dunedin starts at NZ$36.
Fletcher Lodge is a bed & breakfast with creature comforts galore. Guests who love economy ought to check into a suite at the Dunedin Leisure Lodge. Backpackers on a budget can't go wrong at Manor House Backpackers.
Otago Peninsula - nestled on the south and east coast is the region known as Otago Peninsula, which features cottage-style houses, boat houses, gorgeous lookout points, scenic coastline, and creatures like seals and sea lions.
The Octagon - also known as the city center of Dunedin, the Octagon is where all the action takes place, including trendy shopping, vibrant nightlife, small business offices, and restaurants.
North Dunedin - even though it's a ways away from the campus, North Dunedin is one of the most student-friendly neighborhoods, full of hidden gems when it comes to thrift stores and cheap eats.
Public transport consists of buses and shuttles. There a couple of central routes run by the Otago Regional Council, and a single, one-way fare for adults is NZ$3.
If you're getting around the city by taxi, there are plenty of local drivers available, without having to pre-book. Fares start at a flat rate of NZ$3 and it's NZ$1.74 per mile thereafter.
Companies like Avis offer daily rentals. Fares vary but start, generally, at around NZ$37.57 per day.
The Octagon and the area to its immediate north and south is where most of the Dunedin shops are clustered. Prince Street and Stuart Street also have smaller boutique stores.
A quart of milk costs NZ$1.90 in Dunedin, while a dozen eggs costs approximately NZ$3.79.
Traditional Dunedin fare is traditional English isle fare: good ol' fish 'n' chips. But Dunedinites also love their farmers markets for fresh eats. Check out "bacon butties" at the Farmers Market for NZ$6 and then head to Best Cafe for a lunch of fresh oysters and fish 'n' chips that are crispy, not too greasy, and scrumptious for around NZ$30.