Dunedin is located on the southeast coast of New Zealand’s South Island, at the end of Otago Harbour. This vibrant southern city is a cultural hub known for its large student population, interesting arts and fashion scene, along with great cafes, restaurants and bars housed inside beautiful heritage buildings.

The city is known for its Edwardian and Victorian architecture and it’s Scottish and Maori heritage. Dunedin sits at the entrance to the Otago Peninsula, home to an abundance of wildlife, including sea lions, colonies of albatross and the rare yellow-eyed penguins.

Dunedin has a lot to offer travellers who venture this far south so here is a list of the best things to do in Dunedin.

1. Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

A visit to the Dunedin Railway station is an essential item on any Dunedin tour itinerary, the building is magnificent and an architectural icon of the city. Explore the railway station building itself or jump aboard the Taieri Gorge Railway for an excursion around the region.

The iconic building features an expansive mosaic floor and a one-kilometre-long platform. The building’s Flemish-renaissance style architecture is very impressive, built in the early 1900’s when Dunedin was a primary commercial centre of New Zealand, no trip to Dunedin is complete without a visit to Dunedin Railway station.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: Around 1 hour
  • Times: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

2. Otago Museum

Otago Museum is one of New Zealand’s oldest and largest museums and is an obvious Dunedin attraction, and a highly rated one. The museum has a focus on natural history and houses an important collection of artefacts and fascinating, informative galleries and exhibitions related to culture, science and nature.

A favourite is the Tūhura Science Centre which has 46 interactives including a three tier live butterfly experience. Otago Museum is centrally located, an easy 20-minute walk from The Octagon in the city centre, and also has free wifi, a café and a shop.

  • Prices: Free (general entry), Museum tours start from $15, Science Centre admission: Adults $15, Children (3-18) $10, Family, 2 adults + 2 children $45
  • Times: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

3. Larnach Castle & Gardens – Larnach Castle tours

Larnach Castle & Gardens - Larnach Castle tours

The only castle in New Zealand, Larnach Castle is famous for its scandalous and tragic history, and it’s impressive master craftsmanship. Built by merchant baron and politician William Larnach in 1871 for his first wife, this iconic building offers a peek back in time into Victorian culture.

The building has been restored and cared for by the Barker family who have owned the castle since 1967, it’s restoration is funded through admission fees. Larnach Castle is decked out with period furniture and antiques and has spectacular views of Otago Peninsula. Learn all about the castle and the stories it holds on a Larnach Castle Tour.

  • Prices Castle:
    • Adult $34.00
    • Child $12.00
    • Family Pass (2 adults and up to 4 children) $80.00
    • Castle garden:
    • Adult: $17.00
    • Child: $5.00
    • Audio tours (device) $5 per person
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Times: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions
  • Additional info: Larnach Castle often has daily specials – from 8am to 9.30am – check the web site for those.

4. Wildlife Tour – Penguin Place tours

Wildlife Tour - Penguin Place tours

The Otago Peninsula is renowned for its abundant yet fragile wildlife. Penguin Place is a private conservation reserve that works to save the endangered (and very cute) yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho). The project is fully funded through tourism and Penguin Place offers guided sightseeing tours to observe the rare yellow-eyed penguins going about their business in their natural habitat.

During the walking tour, you are likely to see blue penguins, fur seals and native bird species and learn about them with the help of your knowledgeable guide. Tours take you through a beautiful native forest and regenerating wetlands and include a visit to the penguin rehabilitation facility.

  • Prices: Adults – $54; Children – $16; Family Pass (2 adults and up to 3 children) – $120; Under 5 years of age – free.
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Times: Winter (April-September) – departing 3:45 p.m.; Summer (October – March)- departing frequently from 10:15 a.m. until dark.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: All ages – need to be able to walk 1 kilometre and cover 100 stairs.

5. Visit Baldwin St (the steepest street in the world)

Visit Baldwin St (the steepest street in the world)

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Dunedin’s Balwin St is the steepest residential street in the world. The Street is on a 35% slope that runs up the side of Signal Hill, it attracts thousands of tourists every year. There is even an annual Jaffa Race run by Cadbury whereby millions of sphere-shaped chocolates go rolling down Baldwin Street in front of a massive crowd.

It’s a famous Dunedin event, and quite a site to see! Baldwin Street is 100 meters long and starts at 30 metres (98 ft) above sea level and rises to 100 meters (330 ft) above sea level.

  • Prices: Free to visit.
  • Accommodation – $50 – $109
  • Accommodation is currently $150 per night for 3 people. It is an additional $50 per person up to 12 people.
  • Tours  – $65 – $165.
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Times: All day, any time of the day.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

6. Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is dedicated to telling the stories of the people of Dunedin and the local area. This museum of social history features fourteen themed galleries with captivating, interactive displays covering the human history of the area through powerful stories about people from the early settlers to more recent migrants to the area.

All of whom have contributed to the formation of the city of Dunedin through their various characters, culture, art, and innovation. The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum is very highly rated and includes an on-site shop,café and research centre.

  • Prices: Free
  • Times: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

7. Take Royal Albatross Colony Tour at the Royal Albatross Centre

Take Royal Albatross Colony Tour at the Royal Albatross Centre

  • Prices: Adults – $52; Children – $15; Family – $119
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Times: 10:15 a.m. until dusk
  • Best time: All year
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

8. Tunnel Beach Track

Tunnel Beach Track

Some consider Tunnel Beach the most romantic spot in Dunedin. The short walk to the beach takes you through private farmland to a secluded cove surrounded by sandstone cliffs, featuring a spectacular sandstone sea arch formation and sandstone boulders.

The entrance to the beach is down a tunnel that was excavated by John Cargill, a son of Captain William Cargill in the 1870’s so his family could swim in privacy.

The beach has a dangerous rip that killed one of Cargill’s daughters. It’s best to do the walk at low tide or access to the beach is limited.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: 20 minutes each way
  • Times: All day
  • Best time: During low tide
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

9. Olveston Historic Home

Olveston Historic Home

Olveston Historic Home was built in the early 1900’s for prominent businessman and philanthropist David Theomin, and his family. The family occupied the home until the death of the last surviving family member, David’s daughter Dorothy in 1966. The home was then gifted to the city of Dunedin, and very little has changed inside the home since, offering an incredible insight into a bygone era.

The 35-room Edwardian mansion, designed by architect Sir Ernest George, is fully furnished with furniture, fine art, and artefacts from all over the world and fitted with all the luxuries available at the time. The home is like a museum and an art gallery combined, every item tells a story as you will discover on the guided tour led the incredibly knowledgeable tour guides. Olveston sits on Dunedin’s Green Belt and is an easy 20-minute walk from The Octagon in the central city.

  • Prices:Adults: Starts from $22.00
    • Concessions $20.00 (NZ Seniors, YHA,
    • Backpackers or Tertiary students)
    • Dunedin residents: Starts from $17.00
    • Children: Starts from $12.00 (School age)
    • Infants (0-5yrs): Free
    • Entry to the gardens and giftshop is free.
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Times: 9am – 5pm daily
  • Six 1-hour public tours commence daily at: 9.30 am, 10.45 am, 12 noon, 1.30pm, 2.45pm and 4 pm.
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions

10. Dunedin Botanic Garden

Dunedin Botanic Garden

The first botanic garden in New Zealand, Dunedin Botanic Garden holds prestigious accreditations from various international botanical societies, including the status of 6 Star Garden of International Significance. A fantastic place to enjoy the song of native birds like the tui and the bellbird. The garden has a significant New Zealand Native plant collection and makes an important contribution to the conservation of rare and endangered plant species.

It has an extensive range of botanical collections including geographically ordered collections containing plants from North, South and Central America, Southern Africa, North Asia, the Mediterranean and the Himalayas. The garden is located to the north of the city and include glasshouses, an aviary, a cafe and a gift shop and admission to all public areas of the garden is free.

  • Prices: Free
  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Times: Garden is open from dawn till dusk every day of the year. The Information Centre and Shop: Open – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed – Christmas Day and Good Friday. The Winter Garden Glasshouse: Open – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Alpine House: Open – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Croque-O-Dile Cafe: Open – 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Closed – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
  • Best time: Spring and Summer (to see the garden at its best)
  • Minimum age: No age restrictions