Dunedin is the oldest city in New Zealand, and anyone interested in the history of New Zealand should visit for at least a few days. The city was originally named Edinburgh after the Scottish settled in Dunedin in 1848, and gold was discovered in nearby Gabriel's Gully in 1861. People from all around the world soon arrived in the area, hoping to make their fortune.
Dunedin has some of the oldest and most interesting architecture in New Zealand, and few other cities have the same amount of charm. While not a fast-paced city, the large student population from the University of Otago (almost a quarter of all residents) keeps Dunedin young.
What to see and do in Dunedin
Visitors to Dunedin should check out Baldwin Street, which is actually the world's steepest street. Students from Otago University have been known to push each other down the hill in garbage bins. Speaking of Otago University; this is New Zealand's oldest university, so take a walk around the grounds to view some of the historical buildings.
You can't visit Dunedin without a visit to Larnach Castle. This is a huge manor with extensive gardens and incredible views. Take a self guided tour around the castle (you won't find any velvet ropes here), and follow it with High Tea at 3pm. A popular spot for weddings, the views are worth the visit alone, and if you want to take your time exploring you can even stay a few nights.
Make sure you take a trip to Penguin Place to see the endangered yellow-eyed penguins. All funds from the tours are used for conservation, so you can do your bit to ensure the survival of one of the rarest penguin species in the world. Plus they're really cute.
A large percentage of the chocolate in New Zealand is made at the Cadbury World factory in Dunedin, and you can take a guided tour around the factory. This is a great family day out, and you'll be given heaps of chocolate to taste, while learning about how chocolate is made.
Those more interested in the cultural side of things might like to visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which is located in the Octagon in the middle of the city centre and has free admission. This is one of New Zealand's four major museums, and showcases both local and international art.
Grab your camera and head to the Dunedin Railway Station, which is still a working train station (although only for the occasional tourist train), and has been incredibly well preserved. There's a gift shop here as well which is a good opportunity to pick up some souvenirs.
Built between 1904 and 1906, Olveston is a historic home that gives you an intimate glimpse of the rich Theomin family at the turn of the century. They travelled the world extensively and brought back many irreplaceable treasures to decorate their home.
Special Events in Dunedin
The Dunedin Fringe Festival is in March each year, and features over sixty acts from New Zealand and around the world. Around 15,000 people go to the festival annually, and for good reason since the acts are both unique and incredibly entertaining, and events are held all over Dunedin.
If you're in Dunedin in July you can't miss the annual Cadbury Giant Jaffa Roll. Jaffa's are balls of chocolate covered in an orange shell, and every July 40,000 of them are rolled down Baldwin Street. Each Jaffa is numbered and sold for $1, and the first five jaffa's to pass the finish line are the winners. More than $400,000 has been raised for local charities since 2002, so head down, buy a jaffa, and meet the locals.
The Caledonian Society has its annual Highland Games in November, and it's a chance for Dunedin to celebrate its Scottish heritage. Go along and watch the dancing and traditional games, eat some haggis, and meet some of the Scottish community in Dunedin.
Shopping in Dunedin
You can't go to Dunedin without visiting the Otago Farmers Market, which has over seventy-five venders, and offers healthy local food and cooking demonstrations. Located at the Dunedin Railway Station on Saturdays from 8am until 12pm, take a couple of hours to wander around and taste some of the local produce.
The Meridian Mall on George Street is one of the largest malls in the South Island, and if you're looking for something you're bound to find it there. With over 50 stores, it will take you a while to make your way around this shopping centre.
Food in Dunedin
If you want to have a special night then head to Pier 24 Restaurant and Bar, an award-winning restaurant with a gorgeous view of the sea. Just make sure you make a reservation as this is very popular place.
Stop by Nova Café in the Octagon for a great option for breakfast or brunch. This has some of the best coffee in Dunedin, as well as delicious bakery food and a great central location.
Etrusco at the Savoy is one of the best Italian restaurants in Dunedin. Located on Moray Place, the food is reasonably priced and the portions are large. This is a good place to take the family since Etrusco is very child friendly.
Weather in Dunedin
It can get a little cold down south, and summer is definitely the best time to visit, (from November to April) when the weather will be nice enough to walk around and take in the sights. In winter you can expect to see frost on the ground, although snow is still relatively rare.
While many won't get down as far as Dunedin on their trip around New Zealand, those who do will find the city to be rich in history and culture, with friendly locals and heaps to do. The city is only five hours from Christchurch and three and a half from Queenstown, so take a few days and see all that Dunedin has to offer.
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