Dunedin and Coastal Otago
Travel to Dunedin and the lower part of the South Island and you get a taste of Scotland in the middle of New Zealand.
Dunedin, known as the Edinburgh of the South, is the second-largest city on the South Island and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is an endearing city of classical architecture, truly unique wildlife, noted education establishments and even the world’s steepest street. It is a striking locale with clear blue-green ocean, a score of white sand beaches sheltered by towering cliffs and a harbor sprinkled with bush-clad islands. The Dunedin skyline is dominated by a ring of seven hills that formed from the remnants of a volcanic crater.
The core of the city is very reminiscent of its namesake in Scotland and radiates out from the central Octagon area. Larnach Castle (New Zealand’s only castle) and Oveston are fine examples of Victorian and Edwardian style architecture; another is the iconic Railway Station. A city tour ending at The Otago Settlers Museum will uncover the tales of those who settled in Dunedin from early Maori to Scottish pioneers and Chinese gold miners.
Dunedin is distinguished as New Zealand’s center of learning with the University of Otago being the country’s oldest university. The city is also a plant paradise. Dunedin’s Botanic Gardens is New Zealand’s oldest, first opened in 1869.
Also check out Dunedin’s quirky annual events that include a nude rugby match and feats of daring on Baldwin Street. The street has been made famous when the Guiness Book of Records named it the Steepest Street in the World. Once a year 30,000 hard coated candy balls are rolled down the hill and the Gutbuster Challenge tests endurance with a run up it.
The city is also home to NZ’s first brewery Speight’s which dates back to the 1876. One of the world’s only gravity-fed breweries, Speight’s is a Dunedin icon and can be toured daily. Good food and plenty of it is standard fare at many of Dunedin’s restaurants, which offer everything from traditional hearty meals to contemporary al fresco dining. Dare you try the Scottish national dish – haggis.
The world’s only mainland albatross breeding colony was established almost a century ago at Tairoa Head, the gateway to Dunedin harbor. Near the albatross colony, is the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve, home of the world’s rarest and smallest penguins.
True to its Scottish roots, there are 12 golf courses all within minutes drives of the city center. The Otago Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Dunedin is also world famous for its’ surf beaches and massive breaks as well as winds which make it a prime locale for windsurfing.
A not-to-missed experience during your travels in Dunedin is to ride the Taieri Gorge Railway. This is a half-day return trip from Dunedin passes over the spectacular Wingatui Viaduct 154 ft. above the riverbed.
Central Otago, affectionately called “Central”, covers a vast area west of Dunedin. Yet the area has fewer than 18,000 permanent residents. One can experience true solitude and get close to nature in an inspiring and timeless land.
At latitude 45 degrees South, the Central Otago Wine Region is the most southerly wine producing region in the world. The vineyards are also the highest in New Zealand, at up to 1,300 ft. above sea level, on the floor of glacial valleys.
There are many walks and treks that take you into places not seen from the main highways. The rivers offer plentiful catches especially for fly-fishing. Guided tours showcase some of the region’s best attractions. On the lakes, aquatic activities are popular in summer and cruises are available. Artists are also drawn to the clear light and the striking scenery serves as inspiration for many works in various media.
Leave extra time on your South Island itinerary to discover this gem of a region.