How to Visit Dunedin on a Budget
The answer: pretty darn easily. Many arrive in Dunedin after exploring the wallet-squeezing destinations of Queenstown, Wanaka, etc, etc, making Dunedin a welcome relief. There’s a ton to do in the harbour city that’s either affordable or free. Even walking around to admire the striking architecture established during the Otago Gold Rush is an activity in itself. What’s more, Dunedin is home to one of New Zealand’s most revered universities, meaning the cost of street eats and hostel accommodation is kept low; we budget travellers are not complaining!
So, discover the fascinating museums, Scottish heritage and striking coastal landscapes of Dunedin, as well as find a place to stay, with this guide to Dunedin on a budget.
Budget Tips for Dunedin
- Book into the budget accommodation in Dunedin, even a hostel for the cheapest rates – they don’t just do dorms but private rooms too
- Stay in self-catering accommodation to save money on food. There are New World, Countdown and Bin Inn supermarkets in the city centre and PAK’NSAVE on the way to St Clair
- Visit in the low season (May to September) to find deals on accommodation and activities
- It’s easy and cheap to get around by bus – check out the Public Transport in Dunedin to learn more
- Be choosey on the paid activities you do – do some research using the 10 Dunedin Must-Dos
- Fill up the rest of your time with the free and cheap things to do in Dunedin.
For more budget tips, check out the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Dunedin
An easy balance of nature and culture can be experienced for free in Dunedin. Starting with the cultural side, check out some of the free museums in Dunedin like the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. Just a short walk from the iconic architecture of Dunedin Railway Station, you’re welcomed to the free museum by a striking 19th Century locomotive. From there, you have 14 exhibitions to explore, telling the social history of Dunedin and surrounding Otago region, from its early Maori to the Scottish settlers and more. Plan for at least an hour to explore everything this eclectic attraction has to offer.
Moving onto some of Dunedin’s natural wonders now, a free natural attraction worth visiting is Tunnel Beach. The dramatic white cliffs and coastal arches are one thing, but making your way down onto a sandy beach through a tunnel carved through the cliffs is pretty darn cool. It’s a short walk from the track entrance to get to Tunnel Beach, which is best visited at low tide so you can explore the beach and its caves. Either drive to the beach or catch a local bus to Corstorphine on route 32, 33, 34, 35 or 36. Another great option is Flagstaff Walk for a fantastic up-top view of the coast.
And in the true Kiwi spirit, there’s something rather tongue-in-cheek to experience in Dunedin: the world’s steepest residential street! Baldwin Street holds the Guinness World Record for being the steepest street, which makes for some bizarre photo illusions to add to your travel photos.
There are much more free things to be experienced in Dunedin, between the Botanic Gardens, walking trails and chocolate factory. Check them out in the 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin.
Cheap Activities in Dunedin
If you have a little room in your budget, then you might want to also experience some of the cheap attractions in Dunedin. For instance, how about wandering the grounds of New Zealand’s only castle?! Perched on the Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle (see Viator or Tripadvisor for more info) is cloaked in history, where you can learn about its founding family through recorded commentary on a headset as you wander the castle and check out its antiques. A highlight, however, is its gardens; a collection of native plantings across beautifully manicured grounds with excellent views across the Otago Peninsula. Admission is around NZ$35 per adult or check if the attraction is doing their early bird special if you plan to visit between 8am and 9.30am.
Another affordable thing to do in Dunedin is to learn about New Zealand’s passion for beer on the Speight’s Brewery Tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Be engrossed in the story of one of New Zealand’s most popular beer brands as you work your way from the eighth floor of the brewery down to tasting rooms, delving into its 100-year history and learning about the beer-brewing process along the way. The one-hour experience ends with a tasting of Speight’s most iconic beers and you’ll learn how to pull the perfect pint – or at least, that’s the idea but it doesn’t always work out that way… Tour prices are around NZ$30 per adult but it’s usually easy to find specials.
Finally, while the Otago Museum (check out Viator and Tripadvisor for more details) is free, there are a few cheap ways to get more out of this world-class collection which began some 150 years ago. For instance, dive into New Zealand’s largest science centre which houses a tropical butterfly garden and watch shows about the Southern Hemisphere’s night’s sky at the planetarium for around NZ$20. You can also enjoy two guided tours of the enormous collection, the Treasures of the Otago Museum (Viator/Tripadvisor) and Stories of the South (Viator/Tripadvisor) guided tours.
Need more cheap stuff to do? Check out the 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Dunedin.
Cheap Eats in Dunedin
Thanks to its diverse population and university campus, Dunedin is one of the best cities in New Zealand to find affordable street food. You’ll find food carts often gathered around the Otago Museum Reserve at the Otago University. Look out for the Hungry Tui, Churros Olé, The Dumpling Lady and Citizens.
Should you prefer to scout out the more immobile eateries, hit the streets and find affordable Japanese cuisine at The Jitsu (135 Stuart Street), classic Kiwi fish and chips at The Fish Hook (424 George Street), bagels and coffee at Beam Me Up Bagels (9 North Road), and soup and panini specials at Hungry Hobos (187 George Street).
For more restaurant recommendations, check out The Foodie Guide to Dunedin.