The Must-Dos in Dunedin
With a mix of grand historic architecture and nature experiences, it’s fair to say that Dunedin is one of the South Island’s more unique cities. There’s so much to do both in the city with its wealth of museums and literally just outside the city with the Otago Peninsula being a wildlife haven. How do you choose how to spend your time here?! Well, that’s where this awesome list of things to do in Dunedin comes in!
We’ve put together this list of must-dos in Dunedin to narrow down the offerings. However, if you do have more time, be sure to check out The Complete Guide to Dunedin with plenty more trip-planning goodness.
1. Explore the Otago Peninsula
The Otago Peninsula is a haven for wildlife, provides amazing views and is one of the best places in New Zealand to see the Southern Lights. It’s well worth taking a road trip or hiring a bike to explore the bays and inlets of the Otago Peninsula. Between wildlife experiences and tours of a castle, the Otago Peninsula has so many attractions that you’ll see it featured multiple times on this list of things to do in Dunedin!
Location: The Otago Peninsula is accessed from Dunedin via Portobello Road.
2. Check Out Tunnel Beach
One of New Zealand’s most stunning natural coastal features can be accessed just a short drive of public bus journey away from Dunedin city centre. See arches carved by waves and access the beach at low tide via a manmade tunnel through the cliffs at Tunnel Beach. What’s more, there are plenty of picture opportunities for waterfalls! See more free attractions like this in our 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin.
Location: Blackhead Road in South Dunedin, 8km (5 miles) from Dunedin city centre. Catch a local bus to Corstorphine on route 32, 33, 34, 35 or 36. From the corner of Middleton Road and Stenhope Crescent, it is approximately 30 minutes walk to the start of the track.
3. Take On the Mountain Bike Trails
Dunedin is a mountain biking mecca, from easy rides on the Otago Peninsula or in the surrounding hills to dedicated downhill mountain biking trails, there are bike trails in Dunedin to suit all abilities. What’s more, taking the train from Dunedin to Middlemarch is a fantastic way to start the famous Otago Central Rail Trail, a 151km (94-mile) multi-day excursion through the Otago region. Find out more in our guide to Mountain Biking in Dunedin.
Location: All over Dunedin – see specific locations in the link above.
4. See Amazing Wildlife
Not only a worthy road trip for its amazing scenery and the Southern Lights as discussed in point #1, but the Otago Peninsula is the habitat of New Zealand sea lions, fur seals, royal albatross, little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and wading birds. There are various tour operators taking visitors from Dunedin to the peninsula, showcasing the wildlife that inhabits the shores, each in its own unique way. Check out tours with Elm Wildlife Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Iconic Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Back to Nature Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Tourworks NZ (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Otago Peninsula – tour operators typically offer Dunedin accommodation pick-up.
5. Visit the Otago Museum
Dunedin’s museums are well worth checking out, especially the Otago Museum. Learn about the natural and social history of New Zealand, the Otago region, Dunedin and the rest of the world through fascinating displays and artefacts. They’ve even managed to squeeze in a Planetarium and a tropical butterfly garden! Either enjoy the free exhibitions or jump on a guided tour to make the most of your visit. Bookings are available on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more experiences like this in the 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids.
Location: 419 Great King Street.
6. Learn Something New at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
Another fantastic museum in Dunedin is the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. Journey through the history of Dunedin’s first human arrivals to present-day locals in this museum full of super interesting exhibitions. Step into old Maori villages, inside emigration vessels and even Dunedin’s old public buses in this interactive museum. See more activities like this in our 11 Things to Do in Dunedin on a Rainy Day.
Location: 31 Queens Gardens.
7. Wander the Gardens and Take a Tour of Larnach Castle
New Zealand’s only castle is right here in Dunedin on the Otago Peninsula. There are several ways to enjoy the grand historic building and gardens of Larnach Castle, including self-guided tours, guided tours and high tea in the Ballroom. Find out more about your options on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more experiences like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Dunedin.
Location: 13km (8 miles) from Dunedin city centre. Take Highcliff Road on the Otago Peninsula then onto Camp Road where the castle is signposted.
8. Cruise the Wildlife Mecca of Dunedin Harbour
Go sailing or wildlife cruising from the Dunedin Harbour! Wildlife cruises, such as Port to Port and Monarch Wildlife Tours, will take you alongside the Otago Peninsula to see a wealth of seabirds, seals and sea lions, while dolphin cruises will take you further out in search of the ocean’s cutest and most playful marine mammals. Find out more about cruises with Port to Port on Viator and Tripadvisor and Monarch Wildlife Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Port to Port – 39 Peninsula Beach Road, Port Chalmers, approximately 14km (8.7 miles) from Dunedin city centre. Monarch Wildlife Tours – 20 Fryatt Street, Dunedin city centre.
9. Try Iconic New Zealand Beer on a Brewery Tour
Dunedin is the home of New Zealand’s most popular beer brand, Speight’s. Discover how they brew the good stuff before the tour ends with learning how to pour the perfect pint in their tasting room. Find out more about the Speight’s Brewery Tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more like this in the 8 Things to Do in Dunedin for Foodies.
Location: 200 Rattray Street.
10. Ride The Inlander Train Journey
Dunedin’s most iconic building, the Dunedin Railway Station, is the start of your journey through the isolated farming communities of The Inlander train journey, formerly known as the Taieri Gorge Railway. See stunning views of the dramatic river gorge on this historic journey taking you through tunnel-after-tunnel and viaduct-after-viaduct. Book your train ticket on Viator or Tripadvisor. We also consider this activity one of the 8 Romantic Activities in Dunedin for Couples.
Location: The Dunedin Railway Station is just off Anzac Avenue, Dunedin city centre.
11. Explore the Dunedin Botanic Garden
Get some fresh air, some exercise and plenty of things to see at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. This free attraction within the city encompasses a few activities including walking up to an extinct volcano, checking out the birds in the aviary, finding all of the hidden sculptures and statues, seeing exotic plants in the glasshouse, and simply stretching your legs on the walking trails. What’s more, it’s the perfect place to take little ones if you’re travelling with kids. See more like this in 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids.
Location: Lovelock Avenue, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Dunedin city centre.
12. Check Out the Otago Farmers’ Market
In Dunedin on a Saturday morning? Be sure to head down to the Otago Farmers’ Market at the Dunedin Railway Station where you can browse around 65 stalls of local produce, home-baked treats and artisan goodies. The event usually includes buskers, as well as coffee and breakfast stalls for a vibrant village-like ambience. See more activities like this in the 8 Things to Do in Dunedin for Foodies.
Location: Anzac Avenue, Dunedin city centre.
13. Walk Up the World’s Steepest Street
Definitely one of Dunedin’s more ridiculous attractions, Baldwin Street holds the world record for being the steepest residential street. Climbing up to the top provides some hilarious photo opportunities, while not taking too much time away from your itinerary.
Location: Baldwin Street, approximately 4.4km (2.7 miles) from Dunedin city centre.