What to do in Dunedin – our Top 10 picks!

Dunedin is an amazing place to visit any time of the year. From the surfing in the summer to the beautiful colours of the gardens in the autumn to the snow-covered ground in the winter.

With a city that absolutely jam-packed with things to do, we thought we’d put together a list of our favourites, so you can select from the best when planning your next trip to the city.

Here is our list of the Top 10 things to do:

1.      Dunedin Railway Station

Famous Dunedin Railway Station was designed by George Troup and open in 1906. Dunedin
Famous Dunedin Railway Station was designed by George Troup and open in 1906. Dunedin

We just love the railway station in Dunedin. The gothic-style architecture boasts of the wealth that Dunedin experienced during the gold rush and both inside and out. Without a doubt, this is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular buildings and is said to be one of the most photographed buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.

As well as being a beautiful building, it also has a sports museum, art exhibitions and a restaurant to enjoy. It’s also a functioning train station of course, which we’ll talk more about later!

2.      Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

The spectacular Toitu Otago Settler Museum
The spectacular Toitu Otago Settler Museum, Dunedin

One of New Zealand’s best museums when it comes to discovering more about our rich culture and heritage is the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. Located close to the railway station, the museum has over 100,000 objects that highlight the character, culture, technology, art, fashion and transport of the Otago region from before the time of European settlement to today.

With great interactive displays and highlights like a penny farthing bike you can actually ride, it’s a great place to spend a few hours learning more about this fascinating part of the country. The number one rated thing to do in TripAdvisor, the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum also has FREE admission!

3.      Otago Museum

Dunedin is blessed with some fantastic museums and another great example is the Otago Museum exploring New Zealand’s natural history featuring some fantastic national pieces.

Situated next other iconic institutions of learning like the Central Library and the University of Otago, the Otago Museum has been likened to the Te Papa of the South Island with some great galleries and a comprehensive programme of exhibitions throughout the year.

Visitors love the incredible Butterfly House (which you can also do Yoga in) as well as the Discovery World and Animal Attic which are a great hit with the kids!

4.      Signal Hill Walk

Views towards the city, the Otago Harbour and the Pacific Ocean from the lookout at the Centennial Memorial on Signal Hill Dunedin Otago South Island New Zealand
The view from Dunedin’s Signal Hill

There is nothing like a good walk in beautiful surroundings and great views at the end of it. Not every city in the world can offer such opportunities but Dunedin is one of them because of the iconic Signal Hill.

The Signal Hill walk is one of Dunedin’s most popular and can be easily accessed from town. With a summit elevation of 393m, reaching the top provides you with some pretty awesome panoramic views of the city and sea.

Unquestionably the best lookout point in Dunedin, there are also a number of interesting monuments including a large stone from Edinburgh in Scotland, a tribute to the city’s heritage.

5.      Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula is simply something that has to be explored as part of a trip to Dunedin. The scenery is stunning, the wildlife plentiful and exotic and the memories created, long-lasting.

Sandfly Bay is an especially popular spot as a great beach for swimming and spotting yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions. There’s also a walking trail that crosses farmland and sand dunes as another thing to do.

The Peninsula’s only town, Portobello, is well worth a visit as well a quaint little time capsule and the Royal Albatross Centre gives you the amazing opportunity to see the only mainland breeding and nesting spot in the world for these magnificent birds.

6.      Larnach Castle

Stunning aerial shot of Larnach Castle in Dunedin

Larnach Castle is not only one of Dunedin’s most popular attractions – it’s one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand with over 120,000 visitors every year.

One of the reasons for its popularity is because of the fact that it is one of the few buildings of its type (i.e. castle) in New Zealand. It has been wonderfully restored and maintained over the years and provides a fascinating insight into the opulent lives of the most privileged at the time.

The award-winning gardens are also a big draw and are 1 of only 5 gardens in New Zealand rated as internationally significant. You should also try and include a High Tea experience in the famous Ballroom Café if you have the time!

7.      Speight’s Brewery

Whether you’re a beer lover or not, a visit to the Speight’s Brewery is like a rite of passage for visitors to Dunedin.

Speight’s is one of New Zealand’s most iconic brands and they have been brewing beer in Dunedin for the last 141 years. They have a huge range of beers from the ever popular Speight’s Gold Medal Ale to its range of craft beers like its Gold Rush and Alpine Pale Ale.

Their brewery tour is good fun and their charismatic guides will take you through the history of the brewery and label as well as their brewing techniques. Of course, you’ll also get a few samples to try for yourself.

Once you’ve finished your tour you can go to their restaurant, the Speight’s Alehouse, for a generous helping of quality Southern fare.

8.      Taieri Gorge Railway

One of the many spectacular viaducts along the Taieri Gorge Railway
One of the many spectacular viaducts along the Taieri Gorge Railway

We hinted there would be more about railways before and we’re not ones to disappoint and the Taieri Gorge Railway certainly doesn’t disappoint known as one of the great railway trips in the world.

Departing from the aforementioned Dunedin Railway Station, passing through the Gorge will give you the opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s most varied and remarkable landscape along the way.

The heritage train with outdoor viewing platforms is a joy to ride and the buffet car has some tasty treats available as well.

The route to Pukerangi is a 4-hour return journey with a few additional stops along the way. It’s a great adventure that has a bit of everything!

9.      Botanic Gardens

We couldn’t publish this blog without mentioning the beautiful Dunedin Botanic Garden, a wonderful attraction and asset to the city.

The Dunedin Botanic Garden is actually the oldest botanic garden in New Zealand having been founded in 1863. Covering 30 hectares, the garden has over 6,000 plant species which also attract a wide range of NZ native birds like wood pigeons and tui.

One of the most popular collections is the Rose Garden which is filled with beautiful aromas when in full bloom making it an especially nice spot to visit.

The Duck Pond with jetty is also a crowd-pleaser and a popular hit with the kids looking to feed them.

10. World’s steepest street

The famous Jaffa Race down the world's steepest street in Dunedin
The famous Jaffa Race down the world’s steepest street in Dunedin

According to the Guinness World Book of Records, Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the world’s steepest residential street and is one of those things that needs to be seen to be believed. The street, situated in the suburb of North East Valley, is 350m in length and has an average slope of 19°. One glance at the photos and you’ll appreciate how steep that actually is.

Baldwin Street is a great location for events and regularly hosts things like the Gutbuster Challenge (a running race, up and down) and the annual Jaffa race which sees 30,000 Cadbury Jaffas rolled down the hill in aid of charity. These events bring hundreds of people in from all around the region and are fun things to participate in if your trip dates suit.

You don’t want to be that person that goes to Dunedin and doesn’t visit Baldwin Street, so make sure that you do!

Conclusion

So, that completes our Dunedin Top Ten! We hope you’ve enjoyed the list and have checked a few of them off as must-dos for your next visit.

We also hope you’ll come to stay at our Wains Hotel Dunedin, a beautifully restored heritage hotel in the heart of the city!

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