Enjoy the City of Dunedin on a Budget
Rare wildlife, beautiful scenery, free attractions, and an ideal landscape for adventure activities make Dunedin a budgeting backpacker’s best friend. Whether you’re in Dunedin for a quick visit or spend some time here as part of your working holiday, make sure you include some of these free things to do in Dunedin!
Explore the wildlife-filled Otago Peninsula, just a short drive from Dunedin, take a hike, explore the city’s free museums and more in this list of free things to do in Dunedin. The university city is also home to lots of student bars that will allow you to party without breaking the bank. For more inspiration for your Dunedin trip, take a look at Dunedin – Guide For Backpackers.
So have an awesome time in Dunedin without breaking the bank!
1. Surf at St Clair Beach
St Clair beach provides consistent surfing with good beach breaks. Of course, it’s free if you own your own surf getup but wetsuit and board hire are reasonable at around NZ$40. Otherwise, it’s a great place to go for a stroll.
2. See Penguins, Seals, Sea Lions, Albatross, Kiwis, Parrots and More!
It seems that Dunedin is a magnet for the world’s rarest wildlife, many of which you can spot while you are walking along the beach – especially along the Otago Peninsula. Remember to give the wildlife space if you spot any – the Otago Peninsula is home to some extremely rare wildlife. It’s a free thing to do in Dunedin if you go out wildlife spotting yourself but for your best chances of spotting wildlife, we recommend taking a wildlife tour. Find some of the wildlife locations in 8 Best Places to See Penguins in New Zealand and 14 Best Places to See Seals in New Zealand.
3. Signal Hill Walk
The start of the Signal Hill walk is easily accessed from town. The summit rewards you with panoramic views of Dunedin. For more information on Signal Hill, check out Mountain Biking in Dunedin.
4. Pineapple Track Walk
There are many angles to enjoy Dunedin and here is another one. This walk can either be accessed by road or, if your feet are feeling up to the extra hike, via the Skyline walkway starting in Glenleith (Booth Road – Fulton Road). For more information, check out Dunedin – Guide For Backpackers.
5. Mountain Biking
Dunedin is host to many exciting bike trails such as Signal Hill reserve, Swampy summit circuit, and Chain Hills road track. There are plenty of places to hire a bike for the day in Dunedin for about NZ$30. Check out Mountain Biking in Dunedin for inspiration!
6. Botanic Gardens
There are a few different routes to take through the peaceful and well-kept gardens. Make sure to talk to the parrots in the aviary while you are there. Find the Botanic Garden on Opoho Road.
7. Otago Museum
The Otago Museum is free or cheap, as admission is a voluntary donation of NZ$10. It explores natural history with galleries and exhibitions, which many compare to Wellington’s Te Papa. You could really spend all day in here making it a great free thing to do in Dunedin! Find the Otago Museum on Great King Street in North Dunedin.
8. Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
A fun and free museum looking at the social history of New Zealand with a modern twist on how the narratives are told. Find the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum at the Queens Gardens nearby Dunedin Railway Station.
9. Visit the Steepest Street in the World
Baldwin Street is considered the steepest residential street in the world. It’s ridiculous! Every year there is a Jaffa race down the street at the Cadbury Chocolate Festival.
10. Walk Around Larnach Castle Gardens
Feel like a fine lady or gentleman by walking around Larnach Castle gardens. The peasant’s price of around NZ$15-$20 will give you access to Larnach Castle gardens, Ballroom Cafe and historic outbuildings and stables. That’s enough to warrant as a cheap activity in Dunedin, right?
11. Take a Photo of Dunedin Railway Station
The gothic-style architecture boasts the wealth Dunedin experienced during the gold rush. It is also said to be the most-photographed heritage building in New Zealand. Add it to your own collection of photos. For more tourist-tastic photo opportunities, visit 10 Token Tourist Photos You Have to Take in the South Island.
12. Walk to Tunnel Beach
Natural sandstone cliffs archways and pillars dominate this coastal area. Tunnel Beach is just off Blackhead Road in South Dunedin. Drive or 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.
13. Watch the Southern Lights
Did you know that Dunedin is one of the very few places in New Zealand that you can sometimes see the Southern Lights? Otherwise known as Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights are often seen from the Otago Peninsula and at Tunnel Beach when there is a surge of solar activity. Check out The Best Times and Locations to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand to better your chances of seeing them.
14. Go on a Street Art Trail
Pick up a map from an information centre and take on the Dunedin Street Art Trail. Artists from all over the world have decorated around 28 walls with colourful creations. Finding them all takes about 90 minutes.
15. Visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
If it’s raining outside, then a great alternative is to get your art fix which is also free is the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. It’s hard to miss being right in the centre of the city at The Octagon. Exhibitions are always changing so who knows what wonderful art will inspire you?
16. Grab a Coffee or Some Cheap Eats
Another indoor activity that’s affordable is grabbing some affordable bite from some of the student bars or making use of one of the many awesome cafes around the city. Relax, people watch, play a game and mingle with the locals.
17. Check Out the Historic Architecture
The architecture around Dunedin is unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. Have a walk around the city and see for yourself. Already we have suggested the Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle, but there are numerous grand churches and cathedrals around too. Some of the churches will be open to see the interior too.