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Dunedin and Coastal Otago
-> Map of Dunedin

Dunedin travel tips:

  • Dunedin region This region has some of the best wildlife viewing spots in the country, from Moeraki to Oamaru and the Otago Peninsula
  • Dunedin was founded by Scottish settlers, it even carries the gaelic name version of Edinburgh
  • The Victorian style historic district of Oamaru is amazing, the best preserved heritage area in New Zealand
  • The Otago Peninsula is an exciting detour to coastal beauty and ruggedness
  • The Moeraki Boulders close to State Highway 1 are a must stop

Close encounters with wildlife and history

The Otago coast stretches from the Waitaki River north of Oamaru to the mighty Clutha River south of Dunedin.
The Waitaki district is a place of haunting natural beauty with plenty of things to do, complemented by Oamaru’s historic whitestone architecture. Travellers come to see the diverse wildlife, idyllic fishing villages and rolling green pastures.

Dunedin's dramatic hills surround a long, natural harbour, which attracted Maori settlers to the site over four centuries ago. More recently the area was settled by whalers, gold miners and migrants from Scotland and China. Memorable for its historical architecture, Dunedin is one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. On the doorstep of the city, you can find incredible wildlife - the world's rarest penguins, a mainland albatross colony, Fur Seals and Sea Lions.

Dunedin travel tips - penguins at Katikati PointThe Clutha district, gateway to the deep south, provides rural experiences, superb fishing and wildlife adventures along majestic sweeping beaches.

The Otago Peninsula is home to rare and unusual coastal wildlife. Discover Hoiho (Yellow-eyed Penguins), Little Blue Penguins and the world’s only mainland albatross colony. Sea Lions and Fur Seals also live here.

Heritage architecture: The Otago gold rush left a legacy of ornate Victorian and Edwardian buildings, regarded as the best collection in the Southern Hemisphere. The Flemish Renaissance-styled railway station is one outstanding example.

The University of Otago: Founded in 1869, New Zealand’s oldest and largest university gives Dunedin its reputation as a centre of learning. The energy and creativity of the vibrant student culture adds fun to daily life in Dunedin.

See here for hotels in the Dunedin region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the Dunedin region

  • Dunedin travel tips - penguin in OamaruMoeraki Boulders: It took about 60 million years to create those bizarre boulders on the beach north of Moeraki village, they lie there like giant dinosaur eggs. They were formed by crystallisation around a core, and are of course 'concretions'. Further north within walking distance you can see some of them getting exposed in the cliff face. The fishing village itself is a beautiful spot for another stroll.
  • Katiki Lighthouse and Shag Point: The Katiki Point Penguin Trust has looked after the resident Yellow-eyed Penguin colony here well, it's probably the best place in New Zealand to observe them. The site is nearly overrun with visitors these days, therefore please respect the signs and fences to avoid any additional intrusion into their habitat. Further south at Shag Point the Fur Seals enjoy their rocky 'lounging' spots along the headlands.
  • Dunedin travel tips - Oamaru quarryOamaru: Amidst all the natural beauty it may be a surprise to stumble upon this extraordinary gem from Victorian times, this is maybe the only place in New Zealand where you may think you're in an English or French historic town. Oamaru owes its beauty to mainly two things: the beautiful white local limestone with which the town was built and the fact, that the economic downturn of the region was so severe for so long. The buildings were left to decay for decades, without any renovations or demolitions, until the time was right for the rediscovery and careful Dunedin travel tips - historic Oamaru rejuvenation of the historic district as a whole. It's not just old fashioned and pretty, but on top of everything Oamaru has added a lot of spice by inventing the Steampunk movement - a Victorian science fiction movement driven by steam  - the whole town seems behind it and the Steampunk Headquarters and the annual festival is hilarious fun! Even without Steampunk, the areas around Harbour Street and Tyne Street are lively with inviting shops and cafes, allow at least 2 hours to explore the many delights here. An excellent reason to stop for the night is the Blue Penguin colony at the ocean end of the port. Not only can the penguin numbers be in the hundreds (in summer), but also the visitor numbers, which is why the daily arrival of the shy cute fellows is now happening in a sort of amphitheatre with an entry fee. There's also a Yellow-eyed Penguin observation point south of the town, and on the way there is a lookout over the harbour in King George Park. Literary Dunedin travel tips - Oamaru cormorantsfriends can visit the house where Janet Frame lived (56 Eden Street). Further south, the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum just north of Dunedin was the largest building in New Zealand, the main block was 230 metres long and 70 metres wide, built from 1879 and demolished in 1945. 37 female patients were killed in a big 1942 fire, leading to its closure. Because the remaining buildings are now privately owned there's not much to be seen any more, but the drive along the coast via Seacliff and Karitane is definitely worth it.
  • Dunedin travel tips - world's steepest streetDunedin: This city may not be comparable to Auckland these days, but it used to be New Zealand's richest region, the organisational hub of the big Otago gold rush, established by Scottish settlers in 1848. It had  New Zealand's first university, first 8 hour working day, first daily newspaper and first city council. In 1881 the Dunedin cable tramway system opened and became the first such system outside San Francisco. The city centre around the Octagon boasts impressive buildings like the Dunedin Railway Station, Saint Paul's Cathedral and the 'Dunedin Centre'. Besides the Otago Museum with its traditional Dunedin travel tips - world's steepest streetcollections Dunedin now has a new icon, the Otago Settlers Museum, a thoroughly modern and fantastic exhibition that tells the story of this city. Dunedin is also renowned for the Botanical Garden, a garden of international significance. There is even an authentic Chinese Garden near the railway. A weird attraction is the steepest residential street in the world, Dunedin travel tips - university of DunedinBaldwin Street. At a 35% incline it is pretty scary and quite an experience, walking is more recommended than driving though. Also in this area of the city is the Signal Hill lookout with great views. If you'd like to step into an authentic 1906 household you can visit Olvestone House. South of the city centre is St Clair with a promenade along the surf beach and a heated public outdoor pool. There is also a shark bell to warn surfers - fancy joining the local surf school? Further south you can find Tunnel Beach, a spectacular spot with cliffs and an archway. The accessible tunnel was dug by a son of the city's founder, Cargill, but in the end tragically one of his daughters drowned on the same beach.
  • Dunedin travel tips - Aramoana seagullsPort Chalmers and Aramoana: The northern side of the harbour is much less touristic than Otago Peninsula, but here you can find the historic port village of Dunedin - Port Chalmers - with more heritage buildings and at the end of the coastal road you'll find the beautiful beaches and the long mole of Aramoana. This is a good wildlife spot right opposite the other harbourside with its Royal Albatross Colony (you can spot the white fluffy chicks on the hill from afar). From or to Port Chalmers there is an alternative route linking up with Highway 1 in the north (Waitati), great if you want to visit the Orokonui Ecosanctuary or have time for the nice beaches at Doctors Point, Purakaunui or Long Beach.
  • Otago Peninsula: The peninsula is nice to drive along to start with, ideally you'll follow the coast one way and come back Dunedin travel tips - Orokonui Takahevia Highcliff Road. The coastal road is often right next to the water, with lovely boat sheds here and there. Portobello is a nice little settlement on the way to Taiaroa Head, where you'll find the Royal Albatross Colony (the world's only mainland colony). Highly informative tours can take you to see the big white chicks feeding or waiting for their parents, all from a safe distance so as not to scare away the birds. The Department of Conservation also operates an opportunity to see Blue Penguins come ashore (Penguin Place). There are also big private farms on the peninsula which have converted to offer private wildlife encounters on their huge properties, despite the business aspect they are actually an interesting alternative due to the exclusive and restricted access. On the way back you can explore lots of narrow and unsealed roads, most visitors probably opt for High Cliff Road in Portobello and thereby get the chance to visit the famous Larnach Castle Gardens on the way.

Recommended Dunedin and Otago walks

  • Dunedin Botanic Garden - a range of walks, Great King Street or Lovelock Avenue, Dunedin
  • Lover's Leap & The Chasm - on top of cliffs to Sandfly Beach (2 h return), Sandymount Road car park, Otago Peninsula
  • Dunedin travel tips - Tunnel BeachTunnel Beach Track (1 h return), Blackhead Road and then Green Island Bush Road, south of Dunedin
  • Oamaru Public Gardens - from 1876, with aviaries, Chelmer Street or Isis Street, Oamaru
  • Taieri River Track - along the Taieri Gorge (2 h one way or shorter), from the bridge at Taieri Mouth
  • Sutton Salt Lake - New Zealand's only salt lake (but only half as salty as sea water) with a loop track (1 h), Kidds Road, south of Middlemarch

Recommended Dunedin and Otago lookouts

  • Signal Hill, Signal Hill Road, Dunedin
  • Mount Cargill - 676 m high with a view towards the Otago Peninsula, access via Campbell Road or by foot from Bethune's Gully, Norwood Street, Dunedin
  • Bracken View Lookout, near the Northern Cemetery and the Botanic Garden, Lovelock Avenue, Dunedin
  • Dunedin travel tips - Dunedin public poolSoldier's Memorial, Highcliff Road, Otago Peninsula
  • Rotary Park Lookout, above McKerrow Street, Highcliff Road, Otago Peninsula
  • Port Chalmers Memorial Lookout, Blueskin Road, Port Chalmers
  • King George Park Lookout, Test Street, Oamaru
  • Kurow Hill Lookout (45 min one way), Grey Street, Kurow

Recommended Dunedin and Otago museums

  • Otago Museum, Great King Street, Dunedin
  • Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Queens Gardens, Dunedin
  • Dunedin Public Art Gallery, The Octagon, Dunedin
  • Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hākena, Parry Street, Dunedin
  • Port Chalmers Museum, Beach Street, Port Chalmers
  • North Otago Museum, Thames Street, Oamaru
  • The Forrester Art Gallery - in the Bank of New South Wales building from 1884, Thames Street, Oamaru
  • The Vanished World Centre - about the local geology and fossils, State Highway 83, Duntroon
  • Maniototo Early Settlers Museum, Earne Street, Naseby

Map of the Dunedin region

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