For a small city, there is a lot to do in Dunedin, depending on your interests, travelling companions and budget. Since having children, I’m more inclined to seek out interesting places and things to do, and it’s been wonderful seeing my home town through renewed eyes. I love it here, and even though we probably won’t stay here forever, it’s a good place to be right now.Playgrounds
If you’re travelling with children, and the day is fine, you’ll be spoiled for choice with playgrounds. Playgrounds we love are Marlow Park in St Kilda (locally known as “The Dinosaur Park”, after its giant dinosaur slide), and Arthur Street in City Rise (the flying fox is great fun). Dunedin Botanic Garden is great for children – you can feed ducks, clamber all over Peter Pan and assorted other sculptures, enjoy a coffee in the café, chat to the birds in the aviary, and wander through the Rose Garden. Woodhaugh Gardens is often very sheltered when the rest of the city isn’t; during the summer, there’s a wading pool for the kids, and the recently-upgraded playground is loads of fun. There are walking tracks to explore too.
Otago Museum is a great place to explore, for kids and adults alike. There’s the Animal Attic (a collection of wild and exotic animals), Discovery World (lots of fun hands-on scientific experiments), and the Tropical Rainforest (ideal for a cold day; full of beautiful butterflies). Toitu Otago Settlers Museum has a focus on early Otago, with a photograph hall full of the earliest settlers (including ancestors of mine), and a wonderful transport hall with vehicles you can “ride” on. Toitu is also the home of Josephine, a fabulous train that every kid seems to love.
Being a coastal city, Dunedin is spoiled for beautiful beaches – but be prepared for chilly waters, even on the hottest of days! Most popular are St Clair and St Kilda, which are great for swimmers, sunbathers and surfers alike, but if you are a beach-lover, it’s worth investigating smaller beaches such as Smaills, Tomahawk and Brighton. Long Beach is perfect for rock-climbing, and the walk down to Tunnel Beach is dramatic and beautiful.
Quite possibly one of Dunedin’s most explored areas, The Peninsula can be explored in one day if you have a car. There’s the Albatross Colony (expensive, and only worth the time and money when the birds are in flight, coming and going from their nests), the currently-closed-for-earthquake-repairs aquarium, Broad Bay China (a vintage crockery lover’s heaven) and assorted places to spy penguins (try Sandfly Bay for guaranteed sightings, but be prepared for the size of the sand dunes!).
On the other side of the harbour to The Peninsula lies sleepy, quaint Port Chalmers. This is where cruise ships dock during the summer, and it is home to a number of fabulous galleries and second-hand shops. There is a seafood festival held every two years, which is definitely one for the calendar.
Dunedin is a city of hills, and the great thing about hills is that they offer amazing views. Put on your walking shoes and clamber up Mt Cargill, or Flagstaff, or to the Organ Pipes. Take a drive up to Signal Hill, and meet The Buddhas.
As with any city or town, there are always places deemed “tourist attractions”. In Dunedin, that means Baldwin Street (the world’s steepest), the gorgeous Railway Station, and the clocktower of the University of Otago. There’s also Cadbury World (I recently took Tiny on the 75-minute tour, and he loved it), First Church, Larnach Castle, historic Olveston and Speight’s Brewery.
If shopping is your thing, there are the usual stores and malls on the main street, with good op shops and fabulous designer stores dotted around the surrounding streets. On a Saturday morning, The Otago Farmers Market (widely regarded as one of the best in the country) is a great place to buy local produce, or grab a bite to eat.
There are too many cafés and restaurants worth visiting to list them all here, but personal favourites are Plato, Scotia, Two Chefs and Table Seven, with Modaks, Nova and Mazagram as my picks for the best coffee.
I could go on and on about what there is to do here, but I won’t, because I’m hoping the little I’ve shared will be enough to entice you to come and see how beautiful and fun this little city truly is!