How to Plan the Best Trip to Dunedin, New Zealand
A South Island city with a lot of historical charm and wildlife attractions, Dunedin is definitely worth adding to your New Zealand itinerary. While a little out of the way in the south of the Otago region, Dunedin allures travellers with its iconic gothic architecture, its wealth of museums, art galleries and breweries, and its unique wildlife habitat of the Otago Peninsula. The city also seems to strike the right balance of outdoor adventures and all-weather attractions, making it almost impossible to get bored.
So, discover why Dunedin should be on your must-visit list, no matter who you are, with this complete travel guide to Dunedin.
Common Questions About Dunedin
Let’s cut to the chase; what are the most common questions travellers have about visiting Dunedin?
Is Dunedin Worth Visiting?
Yes – if you appreciate architecture and/or marine wildlife encounters, then it’s worth visiting Dunedin. However, Dunedin is a little off the main tourist trail, so if you’re on limited time, you might want to visit another destination that has marine wildlife encounters, such as Kaikoura.
What is Dunedin Best Known For?
Dunedin is known for its gothic architecture, for having New Zealand’s oldest university, and the world’s only mainland colony of royal albatross.
Which Part of NZ is Dunedin?
On the east coast of the South Island in the Otago region of New Zealand.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Dunedin?
The daily average temperature is 10.8°C/51.44°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 775mm/30.5″. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
How Do You Get to Dunedin?
Dunedin has its own international airport. Find out more about flights to New Zealand and Dunedin in A Beginner’s Guide to Getting to New Zealand. Dunedin is also accessible by road from the more popular Christchurch or Queenstown international airports, where it’s possible to rent a car from Christchurch or Queenstown. Dunedin is on the national bus network, while it also has its own public transport system, which you can learn more about in Public Transport in Dunedin.
How Many Days Do You Need in Dunedin?
It’s possible to do a few highlights in a day. However, we recommend at least two days in Dunedin: one day in the city and one day on the Otago Peninsula. Nevertheless, there is enough to do here for 5-7 days.
What to Do in Dunedin
There are two main areas that you’ll want to explore in Dunedin: the city centre and the Otago Peninsula. In the city, you have fabulous free museums, brewery tours, chocolate factory tours and gothic architecture to admire. Guided tours or a road trip to the Otago Peninsula will bring you to amazing wildlife attractions where you’ll have the opportunity to spot penguins, seals, sea lions and royal albatross.
The Top Experiences in Dunedin
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Dunedin highlights:
- Check out the coastal arches and tunnel of Tunnel Beach
- See amazing wildlife on the Otago Peninsula either independently or with a tour such as Elm Wildlife Tours or Back to Nature Tours (more info and book tickets on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- See fascinating pieces of South Pacific history at the Otago Museum
- Learn about the early settlers of Dunedin at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
- Take a tour of Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Cruise the Dunedin Harbour and spot wildlife with Monarch Wildlife Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)…
… And the list continues over in our 15 Best Things to Do in Dunedin.
Rainy Day Activities
We wouldn’t let you wander the streets of Dunedin without a rainy day backup. Some of the all-weather attractions include:
- Watch royal albatross nesting at the Royal Albatross Centre or go on their blue penguin tour
- Taste some damn good chocolate at OCHO Chocolate
- Tour the Speight’s Brewery (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)…
… and much more which we go into detail in the 11 Things to Do in Dunedin on a Rainy Day.
Where to Stay in Dunedin
Aside from our top recommendations listed beside this complete travel guide to Dunedin (or at the bottom, if you’re reading this on mobile), we’ve compiled the best accommodations based on price, suitability for families or couples, as well as more premium offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real people; not robots! Check them out:
Dunedin for Budget Travellers
Dunedin is a budget traveller’s dream city. Not only does the city have an excellent selection of free art galleries and museums, but some of the attractions are pretty affordable too. Backpackers can also enjoy a number of walks in the area, especially on the Otago Peninsula where wildlife sightings are likely. Get more advice in Dunedin – Guide For Backpackers and The Guide to Dunedin on a Budget.
Things to Do on a Budget
- Get amazing views from Signal Hill
- Explore the Botanic Garden
- Visit the Otago Museum
- Walk up the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street
- See magnificent arches at Tunnel Beach.
For information on each activity and much more ideas, see our 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin.
Motels, lodges, backpacker hostels… Dunedin has it all! Check out our top recommendations for cheap accommodation in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Dunedin and 6 Best Backpacker Hostels in Dunedin.
Dunedin for Luxury Travellers
Amplify your visit to Dunedin by taking part in premium activities, dining at the finest restaurants, and staying in the city’s most lavish apartments. We guide you through all of that and more in The Luxury Guide to Dunedin, where you’ll discover Dunedin’s selection of private tours and ways to make your visit to the city’s most popular attractions extra special.
Luxury Tours and Experiences
- See wildlife close-up on a private conservation area with Elm Wildlife Tours or Back to Nature Tours (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Tour a 35-room mansion with 250 works of art at Olveston Historic Home (on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday)
- Learn about the southern night’s sky in a Maori stargazing experience with Horizon Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Discover the art scene on an art tour of Dunedin (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Play golf with a view at one of the Dunedin golf courses.
For more details on each experience and more, see the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Dunedin.
From international hotels to luxury city centre apartments, Dunedin hosts a range of accommodation types for luxury travellers. Check out our top picks in the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Dunedin.
Dunedin for Families
When you hit Dunedin, you’ve arrived at one of South Island’s most family-friendly cities. Dunedin provides the perfect balance of outdoor activities, educational experiences and things to do in all weathers. All in all, it’s impossible to not be entertained. Get inspiration for your family trip with The Guide to Dunedin for Families.
Tours and Activities for Families
- See penguins on the Otago Peninsula at Penguin Place
- Travel through stunning landscapes on The Inlander train journey
- Pretend you’re on a migration ship at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
- Look out for seals, sea lions, albatross and more on a wildlife cruise with Monarch Wildlife Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Challenge each other to laser tag, mini golf, board games and much more at Megazone.
Find out more about each experience in the 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids.
Whether you’re a family on a budget or want to treat yourselves, you’ll find accommodation to suit in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Dunedin.
Dunedin for Couples
Heritage, culture and nature unite in Dunedin to complete a romantic getaway to the city. Whether you’re on your honeymoon touring around New Zealand or looking for a quick couples’ getaway, Dunedin has some amazing experiences for couples to share. Check out some of our advice and recommendations in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Dunedin.
Tours and Activities for Couples
- Soften your heart with wildlife viewings on the Otago Peninsula with Back to Nature Tours (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Treat her to dinner at one of the fine dining restaurants
- Walk to the “Lovers Leap” on the Otago Peninsula
- Learn something new together at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
- Enjoy elegant high tea or wander the gorgeous grounds of Larnach Castle (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Learn about each experience, as well as inspiration for a few more activities, in the 8 Most Romantic Things to Do in Dunedin for Couples.
Couples can find a wealth of accommodation, from budget stays to cosy B&Bs with indulgent food experiences. Find out more in the 10 Best Romantic Accommodations in Dunedin.
Dunedin for Foodies
Finally, for the foodie travelling to Dunedin, be prepared for some top artisan tours, lively markets and classically-Kiwi tasting experiences. Dunedin is home to some of New Zealand’s top breweries, as well as creative chefs and artisans complementing the foodie scene. Find out more about the experiences and accommodation for food-lovers in The Food Guide to Dunedin: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Tours and Activities for Foodies
- Tour the Speight’s Brewery (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Check out the Emerson’s Brewery
- Browse the Otago Farmers’ Market
- Join a chocolate factory tour of OCHO Chocolates
- Grab some cheap eats around the city.
Learn more about these experiences in the 8 Best Foodie Experiences in Dunedin.
Where to Eat in Dunedin
- Moiety (42 Queens Gardens)
- Bracken (95 Filleul Street)
- Bacchus Wine Bar (12 The Octagon)
- The Dumpling Lady (University of Otago)
- The Fish Hook (424 George Street)
Whether you’re looking for hotels with excellent restaurants or somewhere to cook your own meals, we have listed a few ideas in the 10 Best Accommodations in Dunedin for Foodies.
More About Dunedin
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Dunedin but by no means the end of our Dunedin travel tips! Check out the following guides for more advice on what to do nearby:
- Mountain Biking in Dunedin
- The Best Day Trips from Dunedin
- The Top Cheap Eats in Dunedin
- The Complete Travel Guide to Oamaru
- The Complete Travel Guide to The Catlins
Finally, plan more of your South Island trip using the South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary. You’ll also find more advice for planning an epic NZ trip in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.