Backpacking in New Zealand

Things to do in Dunedin New Zealand: What to do in Half a Day? (2024)

With heaps of activities to indulge in, Dunedin offers a blend of history and modernity. From exploring the historic architecture and vibrant street art in the city center to immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage at the Otago Museum, Dunedin promises a memorable journey for every traveler. In this post, you will find the things to do in Dunedin New Zealand. Nature enthusiasts can marvel at the unique wildlife on the Otago Peninsula or embark on scenic hikes, such as the Tunnel Beach walk. Don’t miss the iconic Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest residential street.

I confess to underestimating Dunedin. Initially perceiving it as a relatively small city, I had not anticipated the abundance of activities it had to offer. This miscalculation led me to allocate only half a day to explore Dunedin during my backpacking travel in South Island.

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About Dunedin

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.

Optimal for outdoor exploration, the best seasons to visit Dunedin are during summer and autumn (December to May). My personal experience visiting during winter (June to August) revealed chilly and wet conditions.

With only half a day allocated, I found it insufficient to truly appreciate Dunedin’s offerings. Consequently, I highly recommend planning a more extended stay of at least 3 days to fully immerse yourself in the city’s diverse attractions.

Things to do in Dunedin New Zealand

How to Get to Dunedin?

  • By Air – 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.
  • By BusIntercity 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.

Where to 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

As a budget-conscious solo traveler, I typically opt for hostels to connect with fellow travelers. During my stay in Dunedin, I chose Central Backpackers Hostel in the city center. However, my experience was less than ideal, as the hostel fell short of cleanliness standards and was overly crowded. I would recommend considering alternative accommodations unless you are constrained by time and budget. Despite the hostel’s drawbacks, one delightful highlight was the presence of Gizmo, their adorable and fluffy indoor cat. While my stay lacked overall satisfaction, Gizmo added a touch of charm to the experience.

Things to do in Dunedin New Zealand: What to do in Half a Day? (2024)

Things to do in Dunedin New Zealand in Half a day

With only half a day to spare in Dunedin, I wisely booked a 3-hour car tour and lucked out as the sole participant. My guide and driver, Les, navigated the city in a stylish Mercedes sedan, providing a personalized experience.

Alternatively, if you prefer more independence, self-driven car rentals are available at Dunedin airport. This allows you to explore the city at your own pace, ensuring a tailored and enjoyable visit to Dunedin’s attractions.

University of Otago

Our initial stop led us to the University of Otago, an impressive institution with a rich Scottish influence. The heritage building, crafted by Scottish settlers, added to the charm of Dunedin. As I strolled through the campus, the thought of studying in such a picturesque environment lingered in my mind.


Baldwin Street

Our next destination was Baldwin Street, crowned as the world’s steepest street. While I didn’t traverse the entire length, I strolled enough to witness the sheer incline that earns this street its renowned title. The unique topography of Baldwin Street provides a fascinating glimpse into the challenges posed by such steep inclines, making it a must-see attraction in Dunedin.

Baldwin Street

Dunedin Railway station

Our third destination brought us to the iconic Dunedin Railway Station, hailed as the most photographed building in the country. I wholeheartedly agree with this acclaim, as the architectural brilliance and intricate details of the station make it my personal favorite in Dunedin. The station, with its captivating design, proved to be a photographer’s paradise. Regrettably, the art museum on the first floor was closed during my visit, depriving me of the opportunity to explore its treasures. Nevertheless, the overall charm of the Dunedin Railway Station left an indelible mark on my journey through the city.

Dunedin Railway station

Larnach Castle

Eager to explore more, I requested Les to take a detour to the Larnach castle. His amiable nature shone through as he readily agreed. He informed me that reaching the castle would require a 20-minute drive from the city center, and there would be an entrance fee for the castle visit. The flexibility and accommodating spirit of Les enhanced the overall experience, making the tour truly personalised.

Our fourth destination led us to the enchanting Larnach Castle, a journey through misty landscapes and fog-covered surroundings that regrettably obscured the harbor’s breathtaking views. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the sight of a lush, meticulously kept garden. A friendly lady presented me with a booklet outlining a self-guided audio tour. The castle, featuring an underground exhibit, spans three floors. Each level, including the ground floor, is adorned with captivating history, exhibits, and stories. The expansive castle also houses a dining area, serving as a venue for receptions and adding to its overall grandeur.

It’s important to note that the Barker family, the current owners who bought and renovated the castle, resides in it. Consequently, certain sections are closed to visitors. Entry tickets, priced at approximately NZD 31 for adults, can be conveniently purchased at the castle gate. Despite some restricted areas, Larnach Castle is undoubtedly a must-visit attraction in Dunedin, and I highly recommend exploring its rich history and captivating architecture.

Larnach Castle

Closing Notes | Things to do in Dunedin New Zealand in Half a Day

Dunedin boasts incredible street art scattered throughout the city, showcasing an unexpected graffiti charm. There are many things to do in Dunedin New Zealand. Unfortunately, my time for exploring on foot was limited, preventing me from fully appreciating these beautiful art pieces.

I am eager to return for a more extended stay and immerse myself in the vibrant street art culture. If you have explored this charming South Island town, I would love to hear your recommendations. Additionally, I am curious to know which South Island town holds a special place in your heart. Share your experiences and favorites with me by writing to me on

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