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Dunedin Guide

Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

Dunedin Station
Dunedin Station dates from the early 20th century

Dunedin is the South Island's second largest city after Christchurch. What is one of New Zealand's oldest cities nestles the end of an approximately 20-km-long inlet from the sea on the east coast of the South Island. 

Dunedin is traditionally one of New Zealand's "main four" cities, the other three being Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. However, while still the biggest city in the Otago region, Dunedin is today only the seventh most populous city in New Zealand.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin


Dunedin has much to offer the sightseer both in and around the city. Dunedin is Gaelic for "Edinburgh," and, as the name of the city suggests, it has a strong Scottish heritage. Predating that is the area's strong Maori heritage

Dunedin's heritage stems partly from its boom years, starting in the 1860s, when gold was found nearby.

This hilly little city itself has much of interest, from the many architectural vestiges of its past to some wonderful gardens and museums.

The Octagon
The Octagon

The Octagon

The focal point of the city is the Octagon, a mix of old and new architectural styles. St Paul's Cathedral, the Regent Theatre, and Dunedin Public Art Gallery are all situated on the edges of this eight-sided plaza, first laid out in 1846. Dunedin's i-Site tourist information office is located here, too, at number 50, along with a statue of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Dunedin Public Art Gallery is the oldest art gallery in New Zealand, founded in 1884. The present site, six refurbished Victorian buildings dates from 1996. The gallery has a permanent collection and also holds frequent temporary exhibitions.

Dunedin Railway Station
Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station is probably the most iconic site in the city of Dunedin itself. The station's size speaks to a time (the turn of the twentieth century, to be exact) when Dunedin was a busier city than it is today.

Although built in 1904, Dunedin Railway Station looks much older, having been designed in the neo-Baroque style of the day. The station's landscaping, with kempt lawns and beautiful flower gardens, highlights its old-world grandness. The station no longer has regular passenger services. But it is the terminus for the delightful Taieri Gorge Railway.

Lanach Castle, Dunedin
Lanach Castle, Dunedin

Larnach Castle

On the topic of old buildings, Larnach Castle is no doubt Dunedin's most famous building, but is about 14 km out of the city center, on the spit.

The mouth of New Zealand's fourth longest river, the Taieri River, is about 30 km south west of Dunedin.

Dunedin guide
St Paul's Cathedral (left), Burns' statue (centre) and the Municipal Chambers on the Octagon

St Paul's Cathedral

Consecrated in 1919, St Paul's Cathedral is made entirely of Oamaru stone. Its vaulted ceiling is the only one of its kind in the country. The stained glass windows of this impressive Anglican cathedral are some of the finest in New Zealand.

Regent Theatre

Opposite the cathedral is the Regent Theatre. Originally a hotel, then a cinema, and now a theatre, the Regent is home to the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Dunedin Botanic Garden.
Camelia at Dunedin Botanic Garden

Dunedin Botanic Garden

The Dunedin Botanic Garden is one of the finest in the country and the oldest. Laid out way back in 1863, they are close to the University of Otago and a popular stroll with students. Divided into the Upper and Lower gardens, the Lower Garden has a Japanese garden and a historic, heated glasshouse. The Upper Garden has native plants and a small aviary.

Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Pond at Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden

Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden

Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden is a garden that styles itself as "only truly authentic Chinese Scholar's Garden in the Southern Hemisphere."

Dunedin's Chinese community has had a pivotal place in Dunedin's history ever since the 1860s, when mainly young men from China came seeking their fortune in the newly discovered nearby goldfields.

This garden was proposed at the time of Dunedin's 150th anniversary celebrations, in 1998, and opened ten years later, in 2008. This very authentic garden was specially constructed in Dunedin's sister sister, Shanghai, then relocated to Dunedin.

The Chinese New Year and other traditional festivals are held here annually. Enjoy the gardens themselves, the Tea House, Gift Shop, and Tower Room.

Located right next to the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Most of the Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden is wheelchair accessible.

Hours: 10 am - 5 pm daily; closed 25 December.

Access - Getting There

Dunedin Airport is 21 km southwest of the centre. Regular shuttle buses run between the airport and the city. There are flights to Auckland (1 hour, 50 minutes), Christchurch (1 hour), and Wellington (1 hour, 40 minutes) as well as to Brisbane (3 hours, 35 minutes) in Australia.

Numerous buses connect Dunedin with many other towns and cities in New Zealand. These include Alexandra, Balclutha, Christchurch, Cromwell, Gore, Invercargill, Lawrence, Oamaru, Queenstown, and Wanaka.

Getting Around

The bus is the main way to get around the city. Purchase a GoCard from the i-Site or directly from the driver. Fares are zoned. Bus #8 runs out to the Botanic Garden. The Octagon is the best place to catch a city bus. Buses run from around 6.30 am until 11 pm on weekdays with more limited services on weekends. 

View of Otago Harbor over South Dunedin.
View of Otago Harbor over South Dunedin

Hotels in Dunedin

Some recommended places to stay in the city include the Victoria Hotel Dunedin, the Kingsgate Hotel, and the Law Courts Hotel.

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