Located in New Zealand, on the South Island’s southeast coast, is the city of Dunedin. Known for both its Scottish and Maori heritage, it was settled by Scots from 1848 and even its name is a Gaelic version of Edinburgh. Dunedin has retained a Scottish heritage with its stone buildings, Highland games, and bagpipers, as well as whisky and haggis on offer around town. It is the second largest city in the South Island and is considered to be one of the four main cities in New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons.
Surrounded by dramatic hills and lying at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere. The Dunedin skyline is dominated by a ring of seven hills which form the remnants of a volcanic crater. Notable among them is Mount Cargill, 700 metres/2,300 feet in height. Interestingly enough, the city’s largest industry is tertiary education – Dunedin is home to the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university, established in 1869. One of its claims to fame is that it is the furthest city in the world from London!
The City’s Sights and Sites
Starting with the Octagon, the city centre of Dunedin, an eight-sided plaza bisected by the city’s main street, this is predominantly a pedestrian reserve with grass and paved features and, naturally, contains a statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Several of Dunedin’s significant buildings and institutions adjoin the plaza. Baldwin Street, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the steepest street in the world. It is a short, straight street of a little under 350 metres/ 380 yards in length.
Some of Dunedin’s finest Victorian and Edwardian architecture includes the First Church Otago – built in 1867, Dunedin Railway Station – a beautiful structure with its blossoming and impressive garden – constructed in 1906, Dunedin Prison, a fine example of Edwardian style architecture – built in 1898, Dunedin Town Hall – dating back to 1880, and St Paul’s Cathedral – completed in 1919. However, the jewel in the Dunedin crown is Lanarch Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, built in 1871 and perched on a hill overlooking the magnificent Otago Harbour. 200 workmen spent three years building the castle shell, and master European craftsmen spent a further 12 years embellishing the interior. This superbly-crafted building ,with its magnificent architecture, showcases a unique collection of New Zealand antiques.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery, in the Octagon, has a strong collection of old, modern, and contemporary works by both New Zealand and overseas artists. It also has the country’s most extensive collection of old masters’ paintings and the most significant collection of paintings by post 1800 overseas artists.
The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is a recently renovated collection of heritage buildings in the 1930s Art Deco style, and is the most important Art Deco building of its period.
The city contains numerous other galleries including over a dozen dealer galleries, many of which are found south of the Octagon, along Princes Street, Moray Place, and Dowling Street.
A different type of culture certainly, but you might enjoy a visit to the Speight’s Brewery and Ale House, New Zealand’s largest brewery – founded in 1876. Speight’s provides tours of the brewery and is joined by the Speight’s Ale House, where visitors can enjoy the “Pride of the South’s” brew, along with a large, hearty meal.
Out of Town Attractions
A drive or tour up the Otago Peninsula will be rewarded with endless views where the beach scenery is dramatically rugged. Taiaroa Head, at the end of the Otago Peninsula overlooking the mouth of the Otago Harbour, has stunning landscape and is a scenic one hour drive from Dunedin. Nestled at the foot of Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross Centre. It is the only place in the world on the mainland where you can view Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat.
Right on Dunedin’s doorstep you will find incredible wildlife including the world’s rarest penguin colonies. Hiking and cycling trails crisscross the landscape of the Otago Peninsula, and are home to colonies of albatrosses, sea lions, and rare yellow-eyed penguins.
Offering a great combination of cultural heritage and dramatic, natural scenery, Dunedin is yours for the taking.