The Complete Family Guide to Dunedin
Could Dunedin be the most family-friendly city in New Zealand? With some of the country’s best museums, amazing wildlife viewings on the Otago Peninsula, all-weather entertainment centres, and plenty of gardens to get some fresh air, we definitely think Dunedin is a top contender. The coastal city is one of intrigue with majestic architecture to enjoy around every corner. So let us guide you through the top activities, as well as family-friendly places to stay, in this complete guide to Dunedin for families.
10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids
- See penguins on the Otago Peninsula
- Explore the Dunedin Botanic Garden
- Learn something new at the Otago Museum
- Travel through stunning landscapes on the Taieri Gorge Railway
- 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 or kayak tour
- Explore the castle and gardens at Larnach Castle
- Challenge each other to laser tag, mini-golf, board games and much more at Megazone
- Learn to ice skate at the Dunedin Ice Stadium
- Walk up the world’s steepest street
For more information on each activity, check out the 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids.
Outdoor Family Activities in Dunedin
Despite being one of the largest city’s on the South Island, Dunedin is actually home to some amazing outdoor adventures. From creative gardens to wildlife tours, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the fresh air in Dunedin.
Family-Friendly Wildlife Tours
What child wouldn’t want to see adorable penguins? There are a couple of fantastic family-friendly ways to see penguins on the Otago Peninsula, just a short drive from Dunedin city. See the world’s rarest species of penguins at Penguin Place. This entirely tourism-funded conservation project runs 90-minute tours of the penguin conservation area, teaching you more about the threats that penguins face, as well as, of course, getting the chance to see the gorgeous yellow-eyed penguins. What’s more, child tickets are extremely affordable (or free for under five years). Alternatively, the Royal Albatross Centre offers both tours to see the world’s largest seabirds up-close, as well as little blue penguin tours on an evening where you’ll see rafts of penguins swimming and waddling back to their nests.
Spend some time out on the water with one of the wildlife tours on the Dunedin Harbour. Monarch Wildlife Tours offers half-day cruises running alongside the Otago Peninsula, where it’s possible to see albatross at sea, giant sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, dolphins, penguins and more! Alternatively, if you have active kids, go on a kayaking trip with Wild Earth Adventures to explore the coast and its wildlife. Double kayaks are available, should you need to become chief paddler for the young’uns.
Get some fresh air at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. This free attraction is a wonderful place for kids to roam, walk up to an extinct volcano, check out the birds in the aviary, find all of the hidden sculptures and statues, see exotic plants in the glasshouse, and simply stretch your legs on the walking trails. The Dunedin Botanic Garden car park is just off Cumberland Street.
Another place with spectacular gardens, that’s sure to excite adults and kids alike, is at Larnach Castle. Perched on a hill on the Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle with a history dating back to 1872. Explore the gardens, which look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and explore the castle’s tower, ballroom cafe, stables and outbuildings. Family passes are available to this attraction.
Indoor Family Activities in Dunedin
Like most of New Zealand, the weather in Dunedin can be on and off. When it’s “off”, here are some fantastic Plan Bs to try out – or Plan As, for that matter.
Pretend you are travelling through New Zealand is the colonial times on the Taieri Gorge Railway. This historic railway meanders through the dramatic scenery of Taieri Gorge, crossing high viaducts and through countless tunnels. The journey departs and returns to the historic Dunedin Railway Station taking you in beautifully-restored carriages with 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. [Update: the Taieri Gorge Railway is no longer operating – see the 10 Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids for alternative activities].
Challenge the family to a game of mini-golf, laser tag and much more at Megazone. This indoor entertainment centre is the saviour of wet weather days, with all of their attractions being undercover. Transport yourselves to a new universe in the virtual reality simulator, play a game of mini-golf with glow-in-the-dark sections and a hole with a water feature, shoot as many people as possible in laser tag, play arcade games and find your next family board game… The possibilities seem almost endless! Find this attraction at 170 Frederick Street.
Educational Activities in Dunedin
Travelling should always be a learning experience too. While many of the activities we’ve already are pretty educational, here are a few more ideas to keep brains stimulated.
The Otago Museum is a no-brainer for families. Not only are there a ton of fascinating exhibitions about the South Pacific cultures and the local flora and fauna that are bound to captivate mum and dad, but there’s an array of interactive activities for kids. The Science Centre, in particular, is full of weird and wacky hands-on displays. There’s also the option to visit the Planetarium or Tuhura Tropical Forest with butterflies for an extra small fee. Otherwise, the rest of the museum is free.
Imagine what it was like living in an early Maori hut or travelling to New Zealand in a 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 of the little ones’ running. See trinkets from the days of old and see how technology has developed since people arrived in Dunedin and New Zealand.