Top Ten Dunedin Tourist Attractions

Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of NZ and wears its Scottish heritage with pride. The city of Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere surrounded by beautiful beaches, dramatic hills, and a picturesque harbour.

New Zealand’s Dunedin is a city loaded with contrast, character, and attractions that you will need to experience. There is an endless list of things to see and do, such as museums, heritage buildings, castles, street art, art galleries, beaches, and wildlife to name a few.

In this blog, we will dive into some of the leading tourist attractions which we hope that you’ll use and add to your must-see “Dunedin Sights” itinerary.

Dunedin Museum

Night view of Dunedin Museum with coloured lights.

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There are 4 museums within easy driving distance of each other, all unique and distinct:

  • Otago Museum – Having one of the largest museum collections in New Zealand, you can discover fascinating stories of nature, culture, and science. Explore galleries on natural science, rare specimens, and humanities artefacts. There is a science centre and planetarium within the museum itself.
  • Toitu Otago Settlers Museum This is a museum of social history highlighting the character, culture, technology, art, fashion, and transport of the Otago province. Trace the lives of Scottish settlers, indigenous Māori, and early Chinese immigrants.
  • New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame Celebrates NZ’s 75 greatest sports achievers, their memorable moments, the trophies, and the tools of their trades for their sporting triumphs. See it all come alive when you visit the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame at the Dunedin Railway Station.
  • Dunedin Gasworks Museum You can find one of only a handful of known preserved gasworks museums in the world today. This museum includes a unique collection of five stationary steam engines some of which are still in full working order. There are also displays of domestic and industrial gas appliances. The museum is only open Sundays from noon till 4 pm.

Penguins, Birdlife, Seals, and More

Dunedin has been dubbed New Zealand’s wildlife capital. With rugged coastal terrain and secluded beaches, it gives shelter to some of the rarest species in the South Island or the world for that matter.

Taiaroa Heads at otago harbour.

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When you travel towards the southern edge of the Otago Harbour, you will find Taiaroa Head and the Royal Albatross Centre. Only a 32 km drive from Dunedin city, this wildlife reserve is home to amazing feathered creatures such as the royal spoonbills, red-billed gulls, and the rare Stewart Island shag. You can also see southern fur seals and cute little blue penguins in their natural habitats, this reserve is one of the great Dunedin attractions.

There are many other places where you are likely to spot rare wildlife in their natural habitat scattered across Dunedin. You can find the yellow-eyed penguins at Boulder Beach and Okia Reserve, where you are also likely to see sea lions. Pilots Beach is a prime location to see little blue penguins scurrying up to their cliff-face burrows.

Art Galleries

artwork from Dunedin street trail.

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A city deep in history, culture, heritage, and architecture, it comes as no surprise that the heart of the Otago Peninsula has some of the richest art galleries and vibrant street arts available.

  • The Dunedin Public Art Gallery – NZ’s first art gallery was established in 1884 and is one of the major metropolitan art galleries. It is renowned for the richness of its historic collection and its close working relationship with major artists. The Gallery houses a significant collection of artworks covering the period from 1860 to the present.
  • Hocken Gallery – The Hocken is a reference-only research library, archive, and gallery open to the public. You will need your photo ID to register on-site upon arrival should you not have a Hocken card or Otago tertiary ID. The Hocken Gallery is open Monday to Saturday showing curated exhibitions of historic topics.
  • Dunedin Street Art Trail – Scattered across the streets of Dunedin, volunteers bring their colourful and exciting mural collaboration art to Dunedin city streets.

Larnach Castle

Aerial view of Larnach Castle during the day.

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Larnach Castle was built by the prominent entrepreneur and politician, William Larnach and is one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions. Larnach Castle gardens are one of only five gardens nationwide to have been given the rating of “Garden of International Significance” by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. Visit our previous blog for a more detailed post on Larnach Castle.

Moeraki Boulders

evening view of Moeraki Boulders sunset colours.

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Travelling north on State Highway 1 towards Christchurch, Moeraki Boulders Beach is only an hour’s drive from Dunedin.

These spherical stones have formed due to the hardening of Palaeocene mudstone which was buried in the mudstone cliffs. Over time, waves from the sea gradually eroded the softer stone to reveal the spherical formation beneath. Each boulder is a calcite concretion approximately two meters high and weighing a few tonnes each and formed about 65 million years ago.

You simply cannot drive along the North Otago coast without stopping to appreciate these natural phenomena scattered across the beach.

Botanic Gardens

Flowers blossom at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

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Dunedin’s Botanic Garden has over 6,800 different plant species from all over the world. You could be among tiny alpine plants from a lofty mountain, or you could be in Mexico among the agaves. There are countless tracks to explore whilst listening to the songs of wild native bellbirds, wood pigeons, and tui.

Occupying 30.4 hectares in North Dunedin, this Botanic Garden is NZ’s first botanic garden and holds the status of six-star Garden of International Significance.

The Botanic Garden lies at the foot of North East Valley; cruise up Opoho Road and start your adventure. You should also see the Winter Garden House while you’re there. This elegant conservatory was constructed in 1908 and has 3 wings of the Glasshouse for you to enjoy.

Shopping and Malls

In the 1860s the Otago Gold Rush led to the rapid expansion and commercialisation of the colonial settlement in Dunedin, and it quickly grew to be New Zealand’s largest city.

Today, Dunedin is the sixth most populated city, and you can bet there are lots of places where you can get your dose of retail therapy between your outdoor excursions.

busy shopping at the Meridian Mall in Dunedin.

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  • Meridian Mall – Meridian offers all the convenience, service, style, and selection stretched over three levels, so access to all your favourite stores is a breeze and fully enclosed. Meridian also boasts an international food court with several food and cafe retailers.
  • Wall Street Mall – Wall St Mall provides boutique shopping with internationally loved brands in an elegant, enclosed, and gracious shopping space. Its heart is a large central atrium allowing natural light to filter through, which resembles an open palazzo. This architectural design links Dunedin streets and neighbouring malls offering you anything you desire.
  • Golden City Mall – Connected to the Meridian and Wall St Malls, the Golden Centre Mall has something for everyone. You can find books, music, fashion, flowers, lingerie, fragrance and cosmetics, handmade products, gift shops, delicious food, and coffee all in one place.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Orokonui Ecosanctuary Building during the day.

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Orokonui Ecosanctuary is an ecological island wildlife reserve developed by the Otago Natural History Trust in the Orokonui Valley only 20 km to the north of central Dunedin. Facilitating a self-sustaining ecosystem free of predators, people can enjoy a peaceful encounter with nature.

This 307-hectare ecosanctuary is the only area of native forest in mainland South Island where indigenous plants and animals can live in the wild without threat from most introduced pests.

Home to some of New Zealand’s most fascinating and rare forest wildlife such as Takahē, Kākā, Tūī, Kererū, Tuatara and much more.

Railway Station

evening view of the Dunedin Railway station.

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The Dunedin Railway Station has put this city on the map with its iconic and prominent architectural design. Established in 1906, this magnificent Flemish Renaissance-style edifice features white Oamaru limestone facings on black basalt rock. Architect George Troup has been nicknamed Gingerbread George due to the building’s characteristic ‘Gingerbread House’ appearance.

The station is open to the public, so you can marvel at the elegant interiors and period adornments. A large restaurant takes up much of the ground floor and the upper floor houses an art gallery and a sports hall of fame.

Local Events

Steep street, Bladwin Street dunedin.......

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Baldwin Street is located in the residential suburb of North East Valley, northeast of Dunedin’s central business district. It is recognised by Guinness World Records as the steepest street in the world. Baldwin Street being at a gradient of 35% and rising 30m above sea level.

The street is the venue for an annual event in Dunedin, the Baldwin Street Gutbuster. Since 1988, every summer people from all over get together and compete in this race. It involves participants to begin running from the base of the street to the top and back down again.

The event attracts several hundred competitors annually and the race record is 1 minute 56 seconds. Make your mark and conquer Baldwin Street today!

There are tonnes of activities and attractions in Dunedin, coupled with its year-round moderate temperatures, Dunedin has become a favoured tourist destination. There is just so much to see and do year-round, listing them all in a single blog is a challenge. Visit our other blog on things to do in Dunedin for further ideas on more Dunedin sightseeing locations.

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