I must admit I underestimated Dunedin. I thought that the city was relatively a small city and did not expect the city had so many things to do. And that’s the reason why I had planned to spend only half a day in Dunedin as part of my backpacking travel in South Island.
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Dunedin is the second largest city in South Island of New Zealand (which I did not know before coming into Dunedin!) and is the city in the Otago province region. In Maori language, the city is known as Otepoti. Archaeological evidence shows that the Maori people lived in Dunedin during 1250 and 1300 AD.
The best time to visit Dunedin is during the summer and autumn seasons (between December and May). I visited during the winter season (between June and August) and it was very cold and wet. Half a day in Dunedin was definitely not sufficient and I highly recommend staying in the city for at least 3 days.
How to get to Dunedin?
- Flight – Dunedin airport connects with all major cities in New Zealand operated by Jetstar (budgeted airlines) and Air New Zealand. The only international flight is from Brisbane which is operated by Virgin Australia.
- Bus – Intercity NZ runs frequent buses from the major cities and towns to Dunedin. I took the bus from Queenstown. The bus journey is around 285 kilometres (3 hours 30 minutes drive) and the route is very picturesque.
Stay at Dunedin
Dunedin has many accommodation options. Ranging from budgeted to luxury, there are plenty of them to choose from. You can consider staying in the city so every attraction is accessible. Some of the options to take note are Scenic Hotel Dunedin City, Woodlands Motels and Apartments, and The Victorian Hotel.
Review of Central Backpackers Hostel
I am a budgeted traveler, so I generally stay at hostels. I am also a solo traveler, so I believe the best place to meet other fellow cool travelers is at the hostel. In Dunedin, I stayed at Central Backpackers Hostel, which is in the city center. I did not like the hostel very much as it was not as clean as I expected and it was very crowded. I would not suggest staying at this hostel unless you have a limitation on stay at Dunedin and are tight on budget. I stayed here as I landed the previous night and needed a place to crash. Even though I did not have a pleasant experience at the hostel, I did love their indoor cat Gizmo who was very fluffy and cute.
Half a day in Dunedin
As I had just half a day at Dunedin, I had booked a tour for 3 hours and I was lucky enough that I was the only one in the tour. I had a guide / driver Les who drove me around Dunedin city in a cool Mercedes sedan. You can also hire a self driven car at Dunedin airport.
University of Otago
The first stop was at the University of Otago. I must say that university was pretty awesome. Dunedin has a lot of Scottish influence and the heritage one building was built by the Scottish settlers. All along the tour of university, I just kept thinking to myself ‘how cool would it be to study in such a beautiful campus!
Before heading to the second stop, I requested Les to take me to the castle. He was such a lovely person, without hesitation he immediately agreed to it. He said that the castle would take about 20 minutes drive from the city center and I would have to buy an entrance fee for the castle.
The second stop was at Baldwin Street. It is the World’s steepest Street. I did not walk the entire street but I did walk enough to get the glimpse of how the steepest street looks like.
Dunedin Railway station
The third stop was at Dunedin Railway station. The Dunedin Railway station is country’s most photographed building. And I wouldn’t debate that and the building is probably my most favourite building in Dunedin. The architecture and the detailing in the railway station was amazing and truly a photographer’s delight. The first floor has an art and a sports museum. Unfortunately, the art museum was closed and hence I could not visit it.
The fourth stop was Larnach Castle. The drive to the castle was all misty and covered with fog. So I could not see the harbor and did not get the amazing views. I was welcomed by a lush beautifully maintained garden. At the door of the castle, a lady approached me and gave me a small booklet explaining about a self guided audio tour. The castle has an underground exhibit and has three floors including the ground floor where all the history, exhibits and stories are showcased. The castle also stretches with a dining area where the receptions are held.
Note that the Barker family, who bought and renovated the castle, lives in the castle currently and hence certain sections of the castle are closed. The entry ticket can be purchased at the gate of the Castle and it costs about NZD 31 for an adult. This castle is definitely a must visit when in Dunedin and I highly recommend it.
Closing Notes | Half a Day in Dunedin
Dunedin also has amazing street arts everywhere and I was quite surprised that the graffiti ruled the city so much. I couldn’t do walk around the city much which was a shame as I would have loved to have walked around to see these pretty art pieces. I would also go back and stay there for a longer period the next time I am in New Zealand.
Have you visited this beautiful town in South Island? If yes, then what else do you recommend? Also, which is your favourite South Island town?
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