Although Dunedin has in the past been dismissed as just a damp student town, it is now possible to see past this reputation. Behind the wild street parties and the enclave of run-down and freezing flats is a city with a unique appeal and a big heart. The historical legacy of what was New Zealand’s largest town during the golden era of the 1860s, combined with the modern energy brought in by the lively students and a vibrant arts scene, create an atmosphere which is unrivalled by any other in New Zealand. Who would have thought that Gothic architecture could go so well with anarchic street art?
Vogel St Kitchen — 8:00am
This is one of Dunedin’s newest and coolest cafés, established in an old warehouse building as part of the council’s plan to revitalise the city’s Warehouse Precinct area. The historic and industrial en-vironment outside the café is strikingly juxtaposed with the modern and refreshing interior. Combining these unique vibes with a delicious menu creates a breakfast experience in Dunedin like no other. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the beginnings of what is hoped to be a world-class street art trail, with exciting commissions by several international artists giving the Warehouse Precinct a beautiful burst of colour.
Ross Creek — 9:30am
Start your day the same way as hundreds of fitness-inspired Dunedinites, with a walk through the Ross Creek Reserve. Central to the reserve is the Ross Creek Reservoir, one of the oldest man-made lakes in New Zealand, created in the 1860s to provide water to the rapidly expanding population of Dunedin during the Otago Goldrush. The beautiful native bush of the reserve will give you a great chance to blend in with nature to kick off your morning right.
George St Shopping — 11:30am
As the birthplace of iconic labels Nom*D, Company of Strangers and Creeps and Violets, it goes without saying that Dunedin’s shopping opportunities are not to be missed. The most notable of these can be found on George St, the nucleus of the city centre. Boutiques such as Slick Willy’s, Belle Bird and Plume shelve the best of Dunedin and New Zealand fashion, each curating a store which perfectly combines Dunedin’s dark and cold climate with the dynamic and progressive fashion for which it is famous.
Starfish – 12:30pm
A trip to Dunedin is not complete without a visit to the starkly beautiful St Clair beach, and there is no better way to spend this than by having lunch at Starfish café and restaurant. My family has a saying that you should never eat a seafood dish more than 10km from the sea, and Starfish’s position on St Clair’s esplanade proves the truth behind this saying; the closer you are, the better it is. Princess Zara Phillips dined at Starfish when she visited Dunedin during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, so it clearly has the royal seal of approval.
Tunnel Beach — 2:00pm
A secluded walking track and excavated tunnel brings you to Dunedin’s most unique and romantic spot, Tunnel Beach. Discovered in the 1870s by the son of William Cargill, Otago’s founder, the track and tunnel were created so the Cargill families could enjoy their own private beach away from the bustling St Clair. The incredible sandstone formations and powerful water rips make this beach an absolute must.
Larnach Castle — 3:30pm
Turns out you don’t have to go all the way to Europe to see historic castles, as New Zealand has one of its own on the top of the Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle was built in 1871, and a tour of the grounds and castle will evoke all sorts of wistful Victorian sentiments.
Architectural Heritage Tour — 5:30 pm
The city is filled with a collection of Victorian and Edwardian gems which will make any architecture enthusiast’s eye sparkle. Otago Boys’ High School, the University of Otago, Olveston House, the Dunedin Prison, the multiple Gothic cathedrals and the iconic railway station are all reminiscent of the first European settlers to arrive in the mid-19th Century, providing a spectacular link between the present and the past. Download an architectural heritage map from the dunedinnz website and immerse yourself in a bygone era.
Speight’s Ale House — 7:00pm
One of the most iconic features of Dunedin is the historic Speight’s Brewery, bringing pride to the south since 1876. Within this brewery is the Speight’s Ale House, the first to open in New Zealand. There is no place to have dinner in Dunedin that is more quintessentially Otago, claiming to provide “hearty, value for money servings of southern fare”. Order a prime locally-grown steak and wash it down the only way accepted in Otago, with a nice and cold pint of Speight’s.
Rob Roy Dairy — 9:00pm
At first glance, it looks like any old dairy. But not just any old dairy could boast having the best ice creams in Dunedin and actually live up to their claims. Rob Roy Dairy has revolutionised the simple Tip Top in a cone with an ice cream parlour extension to their humble corner dairy. Not only will you be served the largest version of a single scoop you have ever seen, you can also make it a ‘designer dessert’ by adding a variety of toppings and sauces. Every subsequent ice cream will seem uninspiring in comparison.
Signal Hill — 9:30pm
Apart from the occasional lick to ensure the chocolate dip doesn’t go all down your front, try to refrain from devouring your whole ice cream until you get to the top of Signal Hill, Dunedin’s best and most accessible lookout point. Sit and enjoy your frozen treat as you take in the spectacular night view of the Dunedin lights, fringed by the peaceful darkness of the Otago Harbour and Pacific Ocean.
As an afterthought…
Dunedin is the metropolitan hub of an Otago community which is more united than any other province in New Zealand. This is no more evident than at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the unyielding fortress of their beloved Highlanders rugby team. Cocooned within its enclosed walls you will find 30,000 people all passionate about and screaming for one thing and one thing only. As an Otago girl born and bred, I admit that I may be a little bit biased, but the facts speak for themselves. Why pass up an opportunity to watch the defending champions on their own stage?