Quirky Dunedin Is Loaded With Character

10 March 2015

When you think about New Zealand’s South Island, the two towns or cities that immediately come to mind are Christchurch and Queenstown.

Yet there’s a third place, Dunedin, that’s loaded with character, and those who have been will tell you it should be top of the list for 2015.

Dunedin’s full of quirky things to see and do and that’s part of the charm of this East Coast South Island New Zealand city that’s almost as British as it gets outside of the United Kingdom.

 Larnach - New Zealand's only castle

Here, the architecture, food and even landscape could make you think you’re somewhere in the north of Scotland, which is quite fitting really considering Dunedin is the Celtic name for Edinburgh and the city’s Larnach Castle, out on the Otago Peninsula, is the only castle in New Zealand.

Built in 1871 and overlooking, the property was bought in 1967 by a young couple who discovered it in a state of disrepair. Now, restored to its former glory, this grand family home is once again a private residence – and happily, it’s open for tours.

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A Cross-Country Drive Like No Other

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There is also accommodation available in the castle grounds, from an elegant stone manor house to chic lodges and even a “Stable Stay” in, you guessed it, the stone outbuilding where the horses used to live.

 Dunedin Harbour and the Otago Peninsula

Still on the Otago Peninsula, if you’re a nature lover, then a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland breeding colony of the Northern Royal Albatross, is a must. With a wingspan of thee metres, these majestic seabirds have been monitored at their Taiaroa colony since 1937.

Nearby at Natures Wonders Naturally, hop on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) for a cross-country drive like no other, visiting cormorant, seal and penguin colonies. Or for a firsthand glimpse into life on the farm, take the Sheep Shed tour to watch a sheep-shearing demonstration.

The Peninsula also offers one of the region’s most unique accommodation options, including Kaimata Retreat, a lodge that features just three guest rooms, alongside an open-plan lounge, dining room and kitchen, all of which feature floor to ceiling windows and spectacular water views.

The food at Kaimata is world class and the restaurant features a daily-changing menu with an emphasis on local produce, including fresh seafood and wild venison from nearby Fiordland.


Want to know more about Dunedin? Don’t UnderESTimate Dunedin

Find fine wine in Central Otago. Central Otago Wine Tour


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Fresh As Fresh Can Be

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Another top accommodation offering in the region is the Hotel Saint Clair, at Dunedin’s favourite surf beach, a 15-minute ride from the middle of the city. Here find 26 rooms and suites that come complete with oversized beds and all of the mod-cons we’re used to back home.

While you’re here, score a table at Pier 24, helmed by celebrity chef Michael Coughlin, who serves up local and seasonal New Zealand produce from the surf and the turf.

 The world wandering albatross

Local produce is also the star attraction at Plato, which offers fine dining with a twist. Think fresh, fresh seafood in the form of perfectly crisp, light whitebait fritters (when in season), perfectly cooked lamb rump with roasted beetroot, and a warm chocolate and walnut brownie for dessert.

While Plato has an exemplary winelist that makes the most of the superlative Central Otago Pinot Noir, if you;re keen to kick on after dinner, head to Mou Very – if you can get in.

It’s not so much that Mou Very is exclusive, although it’s very, very cool. It’s just that, as the country’s smallest bar, it can only seat six people! If the band’s playing, you’re going to be out on the street.

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Shower Of Chocolate In The World's Steepest Street

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Around town, there’s a plethora of things to do.

One of Dunedin’s most popular events is the annual Cadbury Jaffa Race, which takes advantage of the fact that Dunedin is home to the steepest street in the world. With a gradient of 1 in 2.86 at its steepest section, Baldwin Street is officially recognised by the Guiness Book of Records – so what better way to acknowledge this feat by sending up to 25,000 individually numbered Jaffa sweets cascading down it?

 The annual jaffa race

Cadbury has an ample supply of Jaffas to hand since they maintain a working factory in Dunedin. It’s available for weekday tours – bring your sweet tooth, because the chocolate is freely given to ticket holders!

If bitters are more up your street, head to the Speights Brewery for an inside look into a historic working brewery.

Get there

Virgin Australia flies direct from Brisbane to Dunedin. Alternatively, Air New Zealand  flies to Dunedin from Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via Christchurch.

James Gregory Wilkinson

James Gregory Wilkinson has been writing about travel for the past 19 years and is currently the Travel Editor at Time Out Australia, a role that takes him across the globe on a monthly basis. He’s a travel expert on Sky News Australia and has been published globally in over 20 newspapers, magazines and online.