Located on the Otago Coast, Dunedin was founded by sea-faring Scottish settlers, whalers and gold miners around 150 years ago. The name Dunedin actually comes from the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh – Dun Eideann. 

It’s a city of superlatives: it has New Zealand’s oldest university (University of Otago), steepest street (Baldwin Street) and most photographed building (Dunedin Railway Station.)

It may be small, but it has a lot to enjoy – including great food, cool culture and plenty of natural beauty. Dunedin is also a UNESCO City of Literature, and the art, writing and creative scene here is thriving.

One of the delights of exploring Dunedin is that so many buildings in the downtown core have historic significance. It is thought to be one of the most well-preserved cities from the Victorian and Edwardian era in the Southern Hemisphere.

Be sure to also visit Larnach Castle – the stately and opulent home of an early Dunedin politician and the only castle in New Zealand.

Don’t miss the impressive Dunedin Railway Station, made from stone in an elegant Flemish Renaissance Style. This huge and imposing structure reflects the wealth Dunedin experienced during the Gold Rush era (pictured below).

Dunedin Railway Station

Activities & Attractions


Dunedin is a delight for food lovers, because innovative cuisine is celebrated here. There’s always a new and imaginative café, food truck, restaurant or brewery popping up with something delicious to try.

Ironic Café is a great contemporary spot to stop for a drink and a bite to eat, especially if you love oysters. Glenfalloch Restaurant is also a culinary highlight, with elegant three course meals served up on a peaceful garden patio.

If you’re in the mood to enjoy Dunedin’s great seafood – Plato is the place for you. Another great local eatery is Dog with Two Tails. Their kitchen makes all food from scratch – with fresh local ingredients. The space is often used for events such as poetry readings, art shows and live music.


Dunedin has many beautiful scenic walks to choose from, so bring a pair of comfortable shoes.

At the i-Site Visitor Centre you can pick up a map of the self-guided Dunedin Street Art Trail tour, a 90 minute walk that shows you the most iconic public art in the city. Or, get out of the city on a moderate two hour trek from the Sandymount Road car park along the stunning cliffs of The Chasm and Lovers Leap.

Another beautiful and relaxing place to walk is Sinclair Wetlands, a lush protected natural habitat for over 60 different species of birds.

Pictured here is the view from above Allan’s Beach on the Otago Peninsula, 30 minutes drive out of the Dunedin city centre. There are a number of tracks in this area across vast, dramatic landscapes.

Allans Beach, Otago


Shopping in Dunedin presents the chance to find unique treasures in trendy vintage stores and upmarket fashion boutiques located within historic buildings. Edinburgh Way is one of the most stylish streets in the city, lined with local New Zealand designers like Ruby and Slick Willy’s.

You can also rummage through the eclectic collections at the vintage shops on Lower Stuart Street, offering everything from artwork to jewelry to handbags and home décor.


Learn about the rich history of Dunedin with a visit to one of the local museums. The Otago Museum reveals fascinating insights into the region with collections that cover science, nature and culture. It also contains an indoor tropical forest, complete with butterflies.

The Otago Settlers Museum is also a popular destination for history lovers, and it’s more focused on the human stories of Dunedin’s past. You can also pay a visit to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery – the first public art gallery to be established in New Zealand.


Dunedin is known for offering excellent access to wildlife. Within a short drive from the city, you can visit a colony of some of the rarest penguins in the world.

You can also see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the rare Royal Albatross – a truly impressive large seabird. Along the coastline it is also possible to spot sea lions sunning their large, round bodies in the sunshine.

(Picture from the Royal Albatross Centre)


History & Culture

According to archeological evidence, the first Maori occupation of the area happened in 1280-1320 AD, within a few decades of their arrival in New Zealand.

The early Maori inhabitants would have lived along the coast and relied on moa and seals for food. The first European contact was made by sealers and then whalers in the 1790s, both were focused in the lower harbor area around Otaku.

The early settlements of Puketai and Otepoti were abandoned in 1826 after a huge loss of life due to measles, as well as the Musket Wars. The Free Church of Scotland sent two ships to Dunedin in 1848 to form a colony.

When gold was discovered inland in 1861, the city became one of the main commercial and industrial centres in New Zealand.

This Gold Rush also lead to the University of Otago being founded in 1869, which is the oldest university in New Zealand.

As influence moved away from Dunedin to the North Island in the 20th century, this small city rebranded itself as a tourist destination – focusing on culture, history and natural beauty.

Key Facts

  • Dunedin is a relatively compact city but there are lots of hills, so the excellent public transport options make it easy to get around by bus. You can pay with cash, or get a Go-Bus card. Here are the bus timetables for Dunedin and the surrounding area.
  • Every Saturday from 8am to 12:30pm, Dunedin hosts the vibrant Otago Farmers Market – which offers everything from flowers to vegetables to homemade cheeses to fresh pastries.
  • The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame – the national sports museum – is the only one of its kind in the country.
  • You can drive 20 minutes in any direction and find yourself at some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
  • Olveston House is an intriguing time capsule in the heart of downtown Dunedin. It’s an English manor house build at the turn of the century and perfectly preserved with period furnishings.
  • While you’re here – pick up a copy of the Otago Daily Times. It was the first newspaper ever published in New Zealand and it’s still running today.
  • Park at the bottom of Baldwin Street – one of the world’s steepest streets! If you’re game, you can walk up it (pictured)
Baldwin Street, Dunedin

Dunedin with MoaTrek

MoaTrek visits Dunedin on our special tour to see Dunedin and Stewart Island which runs three times per year between November and March. This tour includes the following Dunedin activities and sightseeing.

  • In Dunedin tour the city sights, bays and beaches.
  • Explore the wildlife-rich Otago Peninsula.
  • Visit the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head.
  • Take a guided tour of historic Olveston House built in 1904.
  • Visit the Discovery World Tropical Forest at the Otago Museum.
  • Catch the Taieri Gorge train from Dunedin to Pukerangi.

Find out more about this MoaTrek tour here.

Alternatively, most MoaTrek tours finish in Queenstown or Christchurch both of which are a short domestic flight away from Dunedin – or a few hours drive.

The MoaTrek team is more than happy to help you with suggested flight arrangements – so you can explore Dunedin at your own leisure.

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