Top 10 things to do in Dunedin

Built on the dreams of New Zealand's courageous Scottish settlers, the city of Dunedin has character, history and amazing eco-attractions.

A Dunedin holiday keeps you entranced with heritage and nature. In the city, historic buildings are everywhere you look - Dunedin has the largest concentration of Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the southern hemisphere. On the Otago Peninsula, which begins just minutes from the CBD, you can see penguins, albatrosses and fur seals living happily in their natural habitats.

Whether you're visiting for a couple of days or a week, our Top 10 will help you to make the most of your Dunedin sightseeing.

1. Visit Larnach Castle

Dunedin's Scottish heritage extends to a real castle, high on the hills of the Otago Peninsula. Constructed in the 1870s, Larnach Castle is a splendid example of an architectural style known as Gothic Revival. Like all great castles, it has a ghost and a colourful history. If you have a rental car, the drive to Larnach Castle is gorgeously scenic. Otherwise, get a local tour operator to take you here. There's an excellent café for lunch or high tea.


2. See some street art

Dunedin has put itself on the international street art map with a spectacular art trail around the old buildings of the Warehouse Precinct, which is located down by the harbour. You'll find works by UK's Phlegm and Belgian artist ROA, as well as masterful creations by locals. To learn about the art while you wander, see 'Dunedin Street Art' on Facebook for a self-guide map.

3. Reach for the stars

Watch the heavens unfold before you while exploring the renowned dark skies of the Otago Peninsula and wider Dunedin. Horizon Tours weave a magical experience by sharing Māori tales of the celestial bodies and waiata under the stars, as you sit snugly wrapped in blankets, plied with hot soup and garlic bread.

4. Dip into the past at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

Even if you don't usually get excited about museums, this one will have you enthralled. It's a tribute to the bravery, strength and commitment of Dunedin's early settlers. There are great interactive exhibits, such as a re-created ship's cabin and a thatch and daub cottage. In the portrait room it's all about whiskers and lace.

5. Cruise to see albatrosses and penguins

The Otago Peninsula is home to rare yellow-eyed penguins and the world's only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross. A clever way to view these wonderful creatures is on a wildlife cruise. You'll see the city from a different perspective and bring home pictures of albatrosses, penguins and fur seals. You can also view the albatrosses from land, at the Royal Albatross Centre, by driving to the end of Otago Peninsula.

6. Tootle through to Tunnel Beach

Built by John Cargill in the 1870s, the tunnel to Tunnel Beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Dunedin. Apart from the adventure of walking through the darkness and erupting onto a pretty beach, the coastline scenery is truly spectacular - a masterpiece of white sandstone cliffs, green pasture, blue sky and turquoise water. The track starts from the car park at the seaward end of Green Island Bush Road.

7. Wet your whistle at Emerson's Brewery

Whether you're a craft beer aficionado or simply like a sip from time to time, Emerson's Brewery is a great place to further your liquid education. On a guided tour you'll walk through every stage of the beer-making process, finishing with a tasting paddle of Emerson's brews. The Taproom has a yummy menu of bar snacks, sharing plates and lunch dishes. Don't rush this experience; there's a lot to see and sip here.

8. Fill your basket at Otago Farmers Market

Voted the best market of its kind in New Zealand, the Otago Farmers Market is for purists. It stays true to its principles by focusing solely on local artisans who grow or make things you can eat and drink. You can count on between 50 and 75 vendors to visit, including bakers, chocolate makers, honey producers, fishmongers, lamb farmers, vegetable and fruit growers, coffee roasters and cheese makers (just to mention a few!). The market happens every Saturday morning at the magnificent Dunedin Railway Station.

9. Visit the amazing new science centre

Dunedin's connection with science is stronger than ever with the opening of the Tūhura Otago Community Trust Science Centre. Part of the Otago Museum, the centre has more than 45 hands-on interactive exhibits, a digital 'Beautiful Science' Gallery, a planetarium and a butterfly house. Highlights include a huge spiral playground slide inspired by DNA, 'The Void' infinity room and an interactive tornado.

10. Grab a photo opportunity at Lovers Leap

Wondering what to see in Dunedin when the weather's gorgeous? The loop track from Sandymount Road to Lovers Leap and The Chasm is an easy walk and the payback is huge. Dramatic cliffs, massive coastal views and a sea arch known as Lovers Leap. Directly in front of the arch is The Chasm. Together they are a breathtaking photo opportunity.

Keep exploring Dunedin

Otago Peninsula image courtesy of Dunedin NZ