Family-friendly Activities in Dunedin
History, architecture, gorgeous gardens and wildlife await in the family-friendly city of Dunedin. One of the largest cities in the South Island, Dunedin offers a vast array of experiences both inside and out. What’s more, Dunedin boasts an array of educational experiences, from museums to wildlife conservation areas, to help keep brains stimulated. Find out more about the family activities in Dunedin with this list of things to do in Dunedin with kids!
1. See Penguins on the Otago Peninsula
Who wouldn’t want to see adorable penguins? There are a couple of fantastic family-friendly ways to see penguins on the Otago Peninsula, which just a short drive from Dunedin city. See the world’s rarest species of penguins, the yellow-eyed penguins, at Penguin Place. This entirely tourism-funded conservation project offers 90-minute tours of the penguin conservation area, teaching you and your family more about the threats that penguins face, as well as, of course, getting the chance to watch these beautiful seabirds. Alternatively, the Royal Albatross Centre has tours to see the world’s largest seabirds up-close, as well as little blue penguin evening tours where you’ll see rafts of penguins swimming and waddling back to their nests.
Location: Otago Peninsula
2. Explore the Dunedin Botanic Garden
Get some fresh air and some exercise at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. This free attraction is a wonderful place for kids to roam, with 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.
Location: Car park just off Cumberland Street
3. Learn Something New at the Otago Museum
A fantastic all-weather activity, the Otago Museum is a no-brainer for families. Not only are there a ton of fascinating exhibitions, from the South Pacific cultures and the local flora and fauna, but there’s an array of interactive activities for kids. The Science Centre is full of weird and wacky hands-on displays, while it’s also worth paying the small fee to check out the Planetarium or Tuhura Tropical Forest with butterflies. Otherwise, the rest of the museum is free of charge. See more activities like this in 11 Things to Do in Dunedin on a Rainy Day.
Location: 419 Great King Street
4. Pretend You’re on a Migration Ship at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
Imagine what it was like living as an early Maori or travelling to New Zealand in a cramped migration ship! The Toitu Otago Settlers Museum is a free museum telling the story of the region’s early settlers, containing a vast array of creative exhibitions to get the imaginations running. See trinkets from the days of old and see how technology has developed since people arrived in Dunedin.
Location: 31 Queens Gardens
5. Look Out for Seals, Sea Lions, Albatross and More on a Wildlife Cruise or Kayak Tour
Spend some time out on the water with one of the wildlife cruises or tours on the Dunedin Harbour. Monarch Wildlife Tours offers half-day cruises running alongside the Otago Peninsula, where it’s possible to spot albatross at sea, giant sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, dolphins, penguins and much more! Alternatively, if you have active kids, go on a kayaking trip with Wild Earth Adventures to explore the coast and its inhabitants. Double kayaks are available, should you need to become chief paddler!
Location: Dunedin Harbour
6. Explore the Castle and Gardens at Larnach Castle
Another area with spectacular gardens is Larnach Castle. Perched on a hill on the Otago Peninsula (with great views, by the way), Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle with a history dating back to 1871. Explore the gardens, which look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and the castle’s Victorian-style tower, ballroom cafe, stables and outbuildings. Family passes are available.
Location: Otago Peninsula
7. Challenge Each Other to Laser Tag, Mini-golf, Board Games and Much More at Megazone
This indoor entertainment centre is the saviour of wet-weather days. So what is there to do at Megazone? Transport yourselves to a new universe in the virtual reality simulator, play a game of mini-golf with glow-in-the-dark sections, shoot as many people in the other team as possible in laser tag, play vintage games and try hundreds of board games to find your next family game… The possibilities seem endless!
Location: 170 Frederick Street
8. Learn to Ice Skate at the Dunedin Ice Stadium
Head to where it is winter all year round at the Dunedin Ice Stadium. This indoor ice-skating complex offers ice skating lessons, which is pretty funny to watch if you have a group of young-uns. Otherwise, hire some skates and enjoy whipping around the rink for an affordable price.
Location: 101 Victoria Road
9. Walk up the World’s Steepest Street
Finally, your obligatory free activity in Dunedin that shouldn’t take too long from your itinerary is walking up the world’s steepest street! That’s right, Baldwin Street hold’s the world record for being the steepest residential street. Climbing up to the top provides some hilarious photo opportunities. See 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin for more budget-friendly ideas.
Location: Baldwin Street
10. Travel Through Stunning Landscapes on the Taieri Gorge Railway
[Update: the Taieri Gorge Railway is no longer operating]
Pretend you are a traveller of the colonial times on the Taieri Gorge Railway. This historic railway meanders through the dramatic river gorge scenery, crossing numerous viaducts and delving through countless tunnels. The journey departs and returns to the iconic Dunedin Railway Station transporting you in beautifully-restored carriages, which include an on-board cafe and open-air platforms to snap up some amazing photos. What’s more, a child goes free with every paying adult! Learn more about taking the train in Dunedin in The Two Dunedin Railways.
Location: 22 Anzac Avenue