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.
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.
A small-group bus tour from Dunedin. Join a local guide for a journey across the Otago Peninsula. Travel over the high road with postcard views of the harbour and coast. You'll travel past quaint communities and rural farms. Spot wading birds as your mini-bus explores around the inlets and the wetland eco-systems. Your tour will visit a remote Otago Peninsula beach. A short walk from the mini-bus will provide dramatic views of rugged coastal cliffs, offshore islands and perhaps some huge sea lions. The trip continues to Wellers Rock Wharf, for a Monarch Wildlife Cruise. You'll travel out of the harbour, around Taiaroa Head, and out to sea. Watch royal albatross glide across the water and return to their breeding colony. Beneath a historic lighthouse is a colony of playful fur seals. You'll spot other rare seabirds and maybe blue penguins or other marine mammals. You are also welcome to bring a pre-packed meal on tour with you. Snacks and drinks can be purchased whilst aboard the MV Monarch. We recommend having a good-sized lunch before the tour departs Dunedin. The final stop is at a Yellow-eyed Penguin conservation reserve. Visit the on-site rehab centre before a tour of the reserve. You'll take trails through native bushland, walking through tunnels and trenches to different viewing hides scattered around the reserve. Watch as the world's rarest penguin returns ashore and interacts around their nesting sites. The tour ends with a relaxed drive, following the harbour, back to Dunedin.
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.
Join a local guide for a journey across the Otago Peninsula on this small-group tour of Dunedin. Travel over the high road with postcard views of the harbour and coast. You'll travel past quaint communities and rural farms. Spot wading birds as your mini-bus explores around the inlets and the wetland eco-systems. Your tour will visit a remote Otago Peninsula beach. A short walk from the mini-bus will provide dramatic views of rugged coastal cliffs, offshore islands and perhaps some huge sea lions. The trip continues to Taiaroa Head, home to the Royal Albatross Centre. Time is allowed to go inside and check out the displays. Take a walk down to Pilots Beach and see fur seals hauled out on the rocks, or walk out to the clifftop viewpoint, you might spot a royal albatross gliding past. Food & drink can be purchased here from the Albatross Cafe. Guests are also welcome to bring a pre-packed meal on tour with them. We recommend having a good-sized lunch before the tour departs Dunedin.
The final stop is at a Yellow-eyed Penguin conservation reserve. Visit the on-site rehab centre before a tour of the reserve. You'll take trails through native bushland, walking through tunnels and trenches to different viewing hides scattered around the reserve. Watch as the world’s rarest penguin returns ashore and interacts around their nesting sites. The tour ends with a relaxed drive, following the harbour, back to Dunedin.
Join a local guide for a journey across the Otago Peninsula on the small group bus tour of Dunedin. Travel over the high road with postcard views of the harbour and coast. You'll travel past quaint communities and rural farms. Spot wading birds as your mini-bus explores around the inlets and the wetland eco-systems.
Your tour will visit a remote Otago Peninsula beach. A short walk from the mini-bus will provide dramatic views of rugged coastal cliffs, offshore islands and perhaps some huge sea lions. The trip continues to Taiaroa Head, home to the Royal Albatross Centre. You'll be taken up to a private viewing observatory for a special look at the northern royal albatross breeding colony. Watch as these majestic birds glide past on three-metre wingspans, or as they feed their chicks at the nest. Guests are also welcome to bring a pre-packed meal on tour with them. We recommend having a good sized lunch before the tour departs Dunedin.
The final stop is at a Yellow-eyed Penguin conservation reserve. Visit the on-site rehab centre before a tour of the reserve. You'll take trails through native bushland, walking through tunnels and trenches to different viewing hides scattered around the reserve. Watch as the world’s rarest penguin returns ashore and interacts around their nesting sites. The tour ends with a relaxed drive, following the harbour, back to Dunedin
Travel along the wonderful Otago Peninsula roads with local guide and enjoy an interactive commentary as you go. Hear stories of sea creatures and early settlers as you pass quaint little townships and rolling farmland. The boat will cruise out of the Otago Harbour, to Taiaroa Head. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the world’s only mainland nesting place of royal albatross. Watch as these huge birds glide in from the ocean and soar high above their hillside nest sites. Continuing back down the Otago Harbour, you’ll go past Careys Bay, a historic fishing village and then see the busy wharves of Port Chalmers. The boat will cruise through the Quarantine Islands and past the stunning bays, hills, farmland and forests that surround the harbour.
Learn about the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin when you visit The Opera - Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance, a private conservation reserve dedicated to ensuring the survival of this unique species. The project is entirely funded by guided tours which allow 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. Your experience will begin in a theatre before moving to the rehabilitation center where penguins may be seen up close. You'll take a short bus trip over to the reserve and be led on foot approx 2km by your guide through a system of covered trenches to view hides that allow access to the living and breeding habitat of this very shy bird without disturbing them. There is also an opportunity to meet other animals that reside in the reserve including fur seals, sea lions, and several species of shore and land birds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A popular style of touring is to take a preplanned self drive road trip. After a thorough consultation with you we expertly plan and create your self drive tour around New Zealand. These tours allow you the freedom to explore at leisure with the comfort and security of pre-booked activities and accommodations. Route suggestions, APP guidance plus local support mean your New Zealand vacation is in safe hands. See self drive ideas here
If you prefer to let someone else do the work then an escorted small group tour might be for you. Our sister company at New Zealanbd Coach has a range of hand picked small group itineraries are ideal if you prefer to travel in the company of like minded people. Tours are limited to a certain number of participants which means different accommodation options, exclusive activities and of course a knowledgeable guide ensures you get to see the best of New Zealand. See small group tours here.
A private guided tour offers true flexibility and the security of a knowledgeable local guiding you all the way. Well planned itineraries ensure you see exactly what you want to see but with your own driver-guide you can adapt to suit the day or your preference. 100% tailor-made to suit you a private tour is a great option when travelling as a small group. All our self drive itineraries can be replanned and priced using a private driver and guide, so if it is what you fancy just contact us to discuss.
All North Island touring ideas - See here to explore the diverse North Island - itinerary suggestions.
All South Island touring ideas - Iconic scenery and landscapes await on this made for touring island. See itinerary suggestions
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