As suggested by the name, Dunedin is a city with Scottish origins that is brimming with culture and history. It is packed full of things to see and do in a relatively small area, and contains some of the countries most diverse landscape and architecture. Due to its gold rush in the 1890s, Dunedin became the country’s financial centre, and was home to the first university, electric tram, and daily newspaper, to name just a few things. The city boomed until the gold ran out, and today it has to compete with the overtaking cities in the North Island. However, the striking architectural scenery still remains, as well as its Scottish heritage, which is evident all over the city. Today it is famed for its university, students make up around a quarter of its population, which provides the city with a slightly different atmosphere during University semesters.


The hub of Dunedin lies at the Octagon, which was planned to be its focal point when the city was originally designed in 1846. Today this spot still fulfils its role and you will find many Dunedins coming here daily to carry out their business. This is a good place to come and sit and watch Dunedin’s life go by. The area is also used during festivals and for exhibitions.

St. Paul’s Cathedral rises high above the open space of the Octagon. Its Gothic pillars dominate the surrounding skyline, and its white Oamaru stone dazzles in the sun. The nearby Municipal Chambers have been built with the same brick, and the two creating a striking alternative to the neighbouring buildings. The Gothic influence of this and other buildings in the city shows the Scottish Edwardian influence that makes the city’s architecture so different from the rest of New Zealand. One of the best examples of this style of structural design is that of the First Church. This is regarded as the greatest contribution by Robert Lawson, who was Scottish born, to Dunedin’s alternative heritage.

Dunedin’s Public Art Gallery is a modern gallery that has one of the country’s best collections of European Art, as well as an excellent collection by contemporary New Zealand artists.

The Otago Early Settlers Museum provides a history of the province’s early settlers. It traces their history from early Maori settlers, through the gold rush and mining era to present day. The museum runs through two adjoining buildings, one being the former bus station, and the other a former art gallery. Both are built in Art Deco style, adding to the variety of architectural styles found in the city.

Dunedin is home to the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street. With a gradient of 1 in 2.7, and 270 steps to the top, when clambering up the street it seems a marvel that the current record for running up and down it is just 2 minutes!

If you wish to escape from the city to a more open expanse, just 4km south of Dunedin lies St. Clair Beach. This sandy beach offers excellent surf, as well as the opportunity to swim due to its lifeguard patrols, if you are brave enough to dare the freezing waters. A further 3km is Tunnel Beach, which gained its name due to its breathtaking cliffs that surround the beach, offering exceptional views.

Otago harbour also offers sheltered waters to engage in water sports, including rowing, sailing and windsurfing. The quinnal salmon season between December and April attracts many visitors along the banks of the harbour, as no licence is required.

Ultimately Dunedin is best experienced on foot to take in the outstanding features of the city. The surrounding areas present incredible scenic views and there are many routed walks available. Maps and leaflets are available from the Visitor Centre as guides for possible routes. For the best panoramic views, head for Mount Cargill, which can also be reached by car, and Mount Holmes.


The Octagon craft market every Friday offers the opportunity to pick up unrivalled bargains, and original gifts and souvenirs. The Octagon also houses a shopping centre, as does Lower Stuart Street, Princess Street, George Street and St Andrews. These all offer standard chain shops.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Much of Dunedin’s nightlife caters for its influx of students. The city becomes quieter during University holidays, which often means that it is a more enjoyable experience to go out. Weekly listings appear in the free magazine, Fink, or daily in the Otago Daily Times. Restaurants offer student-friendly menus at student-friendly prices, although there is a splattering of restaurants that cater for a more expensive pallet.

Tourist Information

Dunedin Visitors Centre48 The Octagon, Dunedin CentralP O Box 5457 DunedinNew Zealand

Phone: +64 3 474 3300Fax: +64 3 474 3311Email: visitor.centre@dcc.govt.nz


Dunedin’s international airport has flight connections to Sydney and Brisbane, as well as internal flights to Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua and Christchurch. The airport is located around half and hour from the city centre, and shuttle buses are available.