The splendor of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Of particular note is Dunedin Railway Station, built 1904 - 1906 and St Paul's Cathedral in the Octagon.
The Otago Museum and Discovery World is renowned for its Maori and Pacific Island collections and its natural history displays. Discovery World Otago Museum is a hands on science center, with many interactive exhibits and programs. The Otago Settlers Museum features the social history of Otago, seeking to tell the stories of the people who have made Dunedin and Otago their home. A visit to the Speights brewery is also considered a must while in Dunedin and if you have the time the Taieri Gorge Railway is spectacular.
Within the city boundaries are numerous noteworthy gardens, from the formally laid out annual colour displays of the Dunedin Railway Station gardens, to the delightful private gardens owned by local residents. The Botanic Garden is famous for the Rhododendron Dell, its exotic beauty celebrated every year in the third week of October with the Rhododendron Festival. Glenfalloch Woodland Garden and Restaurant is a 30 acre harbor side garden featuring rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and fuchsias.
The Otago Peninsula can be visited for the day from Dunedin and the stunning harbor landscape is worth exploring. It’s here that you will find the only mainland gannet breeding colony in the world as well as a myriad of other wildlife. High among the rolling hills of the Peninsula is Larnach Castle, the grand home of an early politician. Construction of the castle began in 1871 and was completed 12 years later. You can stay overnight in one of the many rooms. From here, views out to sea and back towards the city emphasize the singular beauty of Dunedin and its jewel-like harbor.
Learn about the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin when you visit Penguin Place - a private conservation reserve dedicated to ensuring the survival of this unique species. The project is entirely funded by guided tours which allows the conservation team to engage in habitat restoration, predator control, a research program and an on-site rehabilitation facility.
On your tour, you will learn about the issues the Yellow Eyed Penguin faces, their life cycle and how the project is carried out. You'll take a short bus trip over to the reserve and be led on foot by your guide through a system of covered trenches to viewing hides which allow access to the living and breeding habitat of this very shy bird without disturbing them.
The Otago Peninsula headland is arguably the most precious wildlife habitat in New Zealand and the farm owned by the Reid family is right on the forefront of this headland. Here, amidst truly spectacular scenery, the world's rarest penguins, Hoiho the yellow-eyed, the little blue penguins, the New Zealand fur seals and the Stewart Island Shags all live in harmony. Your tour begins at the reception area, 1 kilometre from the Natures Wonders entrance. Here your fully trained local guide explains safety procedures, then its off in the Argo for an exhilarating experience! First stop is the mythical "Maori's Footprint" location which offers panoramic views over the Otago Peninsula. During the nesting season you'll stop at a breeding colony of Cormorants (Spotted Shags) nestled on a rugged cliff face rising from the crashing Pacific Ocean waves below. Continuing on you arrive at a hide for a very close encounter with a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and their pups, who enjoy nothing more than basking on the rocks and swimming in the pools in front of you. From here a beach-front ride takes you to a covered track leading down to a purpose-built hide on Penguin Beach to view little blue penguins in their nests (in season) and spot the rare Yellow-eyed Penguin in their nest or on the beach. Your guide will provide interesting and informative commentary throughout the tour. You then return to the highest point on the farm, 201 metres above sea level from where you have spectacular 360 degree views of this beautiful peninsula.
Founded in 1876, the Speights Brewery still occupies its original Dunedin site - with several of its buildings dating back to the late 1800's. One of the only remaining 'gravity breweries' in the world, this 60-minute tour explains its inner workings. There is an opportunity to taste six different beers as well as bottle, cap and brew your own personal Speights Gold Medal Ale - the brewery's flagship beer.
Orokonui Ecosanctuary is the flagship biodiversity project for the South Island where multiple species of plants and animals are protected from predators. A predator fence surrounds 307 hectares of Coastal Otago forest, pests have been removed, habitat enhanced with weed control and planting, and many rare and endangered species re-introduced.
Join one of the ecosanctuary’s expert and friendly guides on this 2 hour forest explorer walking tour. You will experience the sights and sounds of the enchanting native New Zealand forest. Your ticket includes a complimentary self-guided walking permit allowing you to explore the ecosanctuary further at the completion of your tour.
For the wildlife enthusiast, the MAX tour is an 8 hour immersive wildlife experience. Combining a boat cruise aboard the 'Monarch', a Royal Albatross nesting area tour and our award winning peninsula encounter tour into one 'total wildlife' tour. This tour will allow you a unique opportunity to combine the best possible viewing from land and sea.
To begin, the one hour Monarch cruise introduces the wildlife of Taiaroa head from the sea where occasionally dolphins and whales are also seen before returning to the jetty where your guide will be waiting to transport you to the Royal Albatross centre. Here you join a one hour descriptive introduction and viewing of the Royal Albatross breeding area before finally travelling to Elm Wildlife's private conservation reserve. Here you will meet and watch Hooker Sea lions, Yellow-eyed penguins, usually arriving home from the ocean, Little (blue) penguins in nest burrows and a large breeding colony of New Zealand Fur seals.
Enjoy stunning cliff top views with the personalised tour of Huriawa peninsula. Friendly and knowledgeable guides will entertain and inform with the vibrant history and stories of the pa (fortified village). Learn about the siege of Pa a Te Wera, a six-month-long campaign and how the pa was successfully defended by Te Wera's people. This experience includes a mihi whakatau (informal greeting), a guided walk through the protected reserve and light refreshments.
Speights Brewery was founded in 1876 and still occupies its original Dunedin site, with several of its buildings dating back to the late -1800's. Speights has proudly kept its rich heritage and it is one of the last remaining 'gravity breweries' still operating in the world.
Take a 60 minute tour of this historic site which also includes a tasting session of six Speights beers. After the tour, sit down to a 2 course dinner at the Alehouse and enjoy the hearty fare of the south.
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is New Zealand's first botanic garden and is also a Garden of International Significance. It is home to more than 6,800 plant species and is spread across both rolling hills and flatlands. Wild native bellbirds, wood pigeons and tui can be heard on most days. The garden occupies 30.4 hectares in North Dunedin. Its varying range of floriculture and horticultural includes roses, herbaceous and perennial borders, a rock garden, New Zealand native plants and four hectares of Rhododendron Dell. It also houses a New Zealand Native plant collection including cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species.
Dunedin’s Chinese Garden is in the traditional yualin styles and its design was based on gardens of the Jiangnan area. The garden was built to lead you on a journey of understanding of culture, heritage and history. The garden also has a Tea Shop where you can sample traditional Chinese teas and food, including steamed buns and dumplings.
Discover rare objects, special exhibitions and a live butterfly rainforest experience at the Otago Museum. Through the galleries you'll discover the unique culture, heritage and wildlife of the Otago region. Highlights include the Tangata Whenua gallery which tells the story of the Southern Maori life and mythology. The Discovery World Tropical Forest is fun for young and old, you'll enter a rainforest filled with hundreds of beautiful butterflies. The special exhibitions are always fascinating and when you're ready for a break there's a great cafe to relax at. The museum is open 10am to 5pm daily, except Christmas Day. For information on current exhibitions and admission fees for exhibitions and the Discovery World Tropical Forest visit the Otago Museum.
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum
Encounter history at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Learn about the people whose character, culture, technology, art, fashion, and transport shaped New Zealand's First Great City - Dunedin. In the galleries you can trace the fascinating journeys from the earliest settlers, Kai Tahu and their ancestors, to the most recent arrivals. The themed galleries weave the stories of past and present with future thinking, featuring interactive displays with stunning visuals and powerful narratives. Admission is free and the museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 4pm April to September, 10am to 5pm October to March and Thursdays until 8pm. For more information visit the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum website.
If you really want to see the world's biggest sea bird close-up, then this is as good as it gets. A unique opportunity to watch these magnificent birds on their nesting area at Taiaroa Head. Your tour guide will deliver you to the Royal Albatross centre to join their one hour tour, before joining up with the rest of the half day tour. This multi-award winning, scheduled, daily, 'small group' tour departs from Dunedin city in the mid-afternoon for the Otago Peninsula wildlife 'hotspots'. The tour combines tourism and conservation in a symbiotic relationship and provides absolutely unrivalled viewing of estuarine and marine wildlife. Your knowledgeable guides will inform you of activity being viewed and visit places where the best possible viewing of Hooker's Sea lions, Yellow-eyed Penguins, Blue Penguins, a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and Royal Albatross can be had. A further 25-30 other estuarine and marine bird species are seen during the experience. Close up unobtrusive viewing from beach locations and strategically placed observation hides is guaranteed.
Olveston House is a special place. It offers visitors a glimpse of a lifestyle long gone that can never be recreated. Visitors feel very much like a guest in the family home as they move through the eighteen rooms open for viewing during the course of the one hour guided tour. There are few historic houses that can offer such originality and integrity as Olveston.
The house has only ever had one family in residence. Miss Dorothy Theomin, the sole surviving member of the family who built Olveston, died in 1966 and the property, complete with all its contents, was passed into the care of Dunedin City. Constructed between 1904 and 1906, the Neo-Jacobean style grace and grandeur of Olveston is distinguished by a wealth of decorative detail. The Theomin family decorated their home with irreplaceable artifacts and priceless treasures. Bronze, cloisonne and ivory from Japan and Chinese jade and ceramics reflect David Theomin's interest in decorative art from East Asia. In total, some 240 paintings and graphics grace the rooms.
Experience panoramic views of Dunedin, Otago Harbour and the Otago Peninsula. Personally guided tour of the Castle, a magnificent 19th century heritage home, with time to browse at your leisure. Travel to the Castle along the Harbour Drive and High Road, taking in spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Otago Harbour and Dunedin City, stopping for photo opportunities. Your driver becomes your personal guide at Larnach Castle and will take you on a 45 minute tour. Another 45 minutes to wander the gardens or explore the Castle in more detail. Learn of William Larnach triumphs and tragedies and enjoy the sheer decadence of the day, be astounded to learn it took 200 craftsmen 15 years to build their 'castle'.
Cruise the length of the beautiful Otago Harbour, passing by the historic fishing village of Careys Bay and the working port of Port Chalmers. Continue your tour to the tip of the Otago Peninsula for the One Hour Wildlife Cruise. Enjoy unrivalled wildlife viewing. See what cannot be seen from land: Albatross, New Zealand Fur Seals and up to 20 species of bird and marine life in their undisturbed and otherwise inaccessible environment. Learn the fascinating history and geology of the area. Take a scenic drive along the Otago Peninsula, enjoying spectacular harbour and ocean views.
Sea kayak along the wild beaches and soaring sea cliffs of Otago Peninsula to the headland and the Royal Albatross colony. In stable double sea kayaks explore the wildlife. Species such as the Royal Albatross, NZ Fur Seals and Sea Lions, Penguins and Shags are often sighted.
A championship-class golf course in a beautiful setting, bordered on one side by native bush and on the other by Dunedin’s tranquil suburbs, the Otago Golf Club also has expansive views of the City of Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula and the hills of Mt Cargill and Flagstaff.
The Otago Golf Club was established in 1871 and is hailed today as New Zealand’s oldest club, as well as being one of the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere. The historic Balmacewen Course is widely recognised as one of New Zealand’s finest golf courses. It provides a unique blend of links and parkland golf, complemented by expansive views of the City of Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula and surrounding hills. See here for details.
Few places on earth have such diversity and abundance of marine life as the Otago Peninsula and surrounding ocean. Perhaps the best way to get up close and personal with these marine species is to take a cruise on the harbour and out through the heads where the Albatross fly. Spot fur seals on the rocks and often sea lions and penguins swimming by. You will use Port to Port Wildlife Cruises for an extended (2 hour) pelagic cruise to make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
The Maori Waka Tour will take you onto the beautiful Waikouaiti River, where the ancestors of Kati Huirapa travelled long before. Hear the stories, customs and traditions, whilst learning the skills to paddle the waka (double hulled canoe). Plant harakeke (flax) on the spit, and help restore the native coastal environment.
There are a number of short walks to enjoy on the Peninsula. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation.
Walking Time: 1 hr return walk from carpark
Getting there - drive is approximately 25 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.
Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road, then right onto Seal Point Road. The carpark is at the end of this road. A path crosses farmland to the top of the sand dunes. Go down the sand hill - which can be rather testing on the return, uphill journey - and walk about a kilometre along the beach. Near the southern end a marked track leads up to a hide to view the locals, yellow-eyed penguins. Please keep at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, 20 metres from active animals and if you are in a group don't surround them. With penguins, please don't linger on the beach below the hide, or anywhere else where they may come ashore. If you encounter a penguin on the beach keep well away and crouch down. If they feel threatened they will not come ashore.
Walking Time: 1 hour / 2km return walk from carpark
Getting there - drive is approximately 15 minutes south from the centre of Dunedin.
Tunnel Beach is to the south of Dunedin. Start at the car park on Tunnel Beach Road, signposted off Blackhead Road. This short walk goes through an excavated tunnel kids will love, to a secluded beach and a spectacular, rocky coastline.
Walking Time: Lovers Leap 50 min return walk from carpark or Sandymount Circuit 1 hr return walk from carpark
Getting there - drive is approximately 30 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.
Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road and the carpark is at the end of the road. The loop track begins at the carpark at the end of Sandymount Road. This walk via The Chasm and Lovers Leap - with a side track to Sandymount summit - gives spectacular views of Otago Peninsula's coastline and cliff tops. Another marked route provides alternative access to Sandfly Bay. The Lovers Leap and Chasm tracks are closed for lambing, 1 August - 31 October.
Walking Time: 5 min walk to the beach from carpark
Getting there - drive is approximately 40 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.
From Portobello turn onto Allans Beach Road. The carpark is at the end of the road.
Special wildlife such as sea lions and penguins frequent this wild ocean beach. Please respect their needs by keeping at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, and 20 metres from active animals. Do not linger on beaches where penguins may come ashore.