Unfortunately, when it comes to planning a New Zealand road trip holiday, poor Dunedin often gets dropped off the itinerary as it is a little tucked away and people usually don’t allow enough time.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should include it…
1. Larnach Castle
Dating back to 1871, this beautiful old homestead is located on the stunning Otago Peninsula. The ‘castle’ is set on 35 acres of manicured gardens which are fantastic to wonder around in and take photos. The history of the property is very sad but interesting and the guided audio tour is excellent. For as long as I can remember, there have been rumours that the castle is haunted and I have to admit, there are some spots that do send a shiver up your spine.
One thing a lot of people don’t realise is that you can actually stay at Larnach Castle. There are a few different options to choose from to suit different budgets. I have stayed at the Larnach Lodge which was purpose built in the style of a colonial farm building next to the original stables which have been converted to accommodation. The Camp Estate is a new stone manor house with a 5 star rating.
I cannot recommend the “Dinner at the Castle” experience enough. You definitely need to pre-book it as there are limited seats in the dining room but it is well worth it. You get to enjoy a beautiful 3 course meal in the original dining room of the castle with fellow guests. The food was delicious and the staff were amazing. My little boy was 4 at the time and started getting very restless between the main course and dessert so the waitress asked if she could take him for a walk to the kitchen and found him a treat so we could enjoy our dessert in peace – a definite win as I’m sure every parent would agree!
2. Royal Albatross Centre
Located approximately 20Km from Larnach Castle, on the tip of the Otago Peninsula is the only mainland breeding colony for the Northern Royal Albatross in the world. This place is solely dedicated to the preservation of these majestic birds. I learnt more about the Albatross in 30 minutes than I had in my entire life and left with a stronger desire to reduce the amount of plastic we use. In the words of David Attenborough – “Otago Peninsula and Taiaroa Head is a unique and very special place. It is a place that every visitor to Dunedin should see.” They also do a Blue Penguin tour each evening as these cute little birds return home for the night. There is a great café at the Albatross centre with beautiful views – well worth the stop.
3. Architecture and Art
Dunedin was founded in 1848 by the Scottish Free Church (fun fact – Dunedin is derived from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh). The city still retains a lot of beautiful examples of architecture from various eras since then that make for some fabulous photo opportunities. The most famous of which would be the Dunedin Railway station built in 1906. Other spots that may be of interest are Olveston Historic Home, Municipal Chambers, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Dunedin Courthouse. The best way to explore it all and get educated at the same time is to do a city walk. In addition to the architecture there are some fantastic examples of street art all over the city – there’s even a trail map you can find online to make sure you see them all. If that hasn’t given you enough of an art fill, there’s always the Dunedin Public Art Gallery you can check out too.
4. Taieri Gorge Railway
Start at the stunning Dunedin Railway Station and take a beautiful train journey into the Otago hinterland through rugged landscapes. You can choose to go to Pukerangi and back which will take around 4 hours return or through to Middlemarch and back which will take around 6 hours. Some great photo opportunities along the way and a very entertaining and informative commentary. It’s important to note that neither Middlemarch or Pukerangi are particularly interesting destinations – this really is all about the journey.
5. Baldwin Street
The world’s steepest street as made official by the Guiness book of world records or at least it was until 16 July 2019 when it was taken down by Ffordd Pen Llech in Wales. We parked at the bottom and walked up and I’m really glad we did. We saw a few people attempt to go up in a car and some cars just can’t handle the 35 degree slope. It’s been used as a stage for a number of fundraising activities, events and outright stupid stunts. The photos don’t really do it justice so you’ll need to check it out for yourself!
With it’s rich history, modern art, heritage architecture and stunning surrounds, I really think you would be doing yourself a disservice to miss Dunedin altogether. Why not sneak in a quick 2-3 night stay? There’s plenty of great places to eat and drink and if you are always looking for nightlife then go when the Otago university students are in town! I hope you enjoy Dunedin as much as I did.