Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Dunedin & The Otago Peninsula
Built between 1873 and 1887, the Larnach Castle is the only castle in all of New Zealand. Sitting on a beautiful 35 acres, the castle grounds and interior are a wonderful way to spend a day. For an extended stay, you can stay at the 4-star Larnach Lodge, located on the castle grounds.
Constructed for an Australian banker and politician, the castle presents a combination of American, Venetian, and Gothic styles of decor and architecture, making it wholly elaborate and unique. In addition to its ornate interior and beautifully maintained garden, tourists and guests gather at Larnach for a supernatural experience: the castle is said to be haunted by multiple members of the Larnach family.
Be sure to take some tea or a light lunch in the ballroom, one of the most beautiful parts of the castle, as well as visiting the on-grounds plant nursery.
Known by locals as “Gingerbread George” because of its ornate architecture, the Dunedin Railway Station in New Zealand’s South Island was designed by George Troup and opened in 1906. In those first few years, the station was one of the country’s busiest, with at least 100 trains passing through its tracks each day.
While the station is still in operation, reduced rail traffic means the iconic building serves several other functions, and a tourist train that traverses the countryside via Middlemarch, Palmerston or Pukerangi departs daily from Dunedin. But there’s still plenty to do here without ever leaving the station; the ground floor houses a popular restaurant, and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the Otago Art Society are located on the upper level.
The Olveston House is a must-see sight in Dunedin, and the 1-hour tours are an incredible walk through this decadent, ornate, and elegant mansion. Built in the Jacobian tradition between 1904 and 1906, the 35-room house sits on an acre of beautiful gardens.
The house is maintained as it was originally decorated, with a unique and timeless beauty. The original owner, David Theomin, was a prolific traveler, and collected items from all over the world to decorate his house with, including French, Chinese, and Japanese treasures.
On your stroll through the house, pay close attention the the plethora of paintings displaying various pictures of contemporary colonial life in New Zealand, and when outside in the gardens, be sure to get a look at the automobile used by the Theomin family at the time of construction. At the end of your tour, stop by the gift shop and peruse the various souvenirs to remember your time at Olveston.
One of the incredible things about South Island is the unique wildlife opportunities available to visitors, and The Royal Albatross Centre is a perfect example. The center is home to the only mainland breeding colony of these amazing birds in the world, and its dedication to protecting the animals and their habitat is instantly clear to visitors.
Starting with a single albatross chick in 1938, the colony boasts a population of about 140 birds at present. Albatrosses are a sight to behold, with their impressive wingspan and flying speeds, they guarantee an unforgettable experience. Be sure to take advantage of all the information available about the centre, the peninsula, and the birds while you're there. Underneath the nature reserve is historic Fort Taiairoa, built in over 100 years ago to provide protection against Tsarist Russia, which features an amazing collection of armaments, including the world-famous Armstrong Disappearing Gun.
Visitors and locals alike assert that if there's one thing to be sure to do in Dunedin, it's a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway. Get out of the city, enjoy stunning views, and absorb interesting historical information all in one place by taking a ride.
Providing connections to Pukerangi and Middlemarch, trains leave daily in the mornings and afternoons, and rides are complete with live commentary telling of the history of the area as well as notes about the sights that are passed by.
Be sure to check out the observation platform for the best views of the spectacular gorge, beautiful plains, and tranquil Taieri River while experiencing the work of Dunedin's pioneers, who built the train tunnels by hand over a hundred years ago.
Penguin Place is the incredible feat of Howard McGrouther, who began the reserve in 1985 in order to protect the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. Funded completely by daily guided tours, the conversation is dedicated to the stabilization of the yellow-eyed penguin population, and the 90-minute tour begins with a brief overview of the biological situation in which the penguins find themselves, as well as an explanation of what the project is doing on the reserve.
Prepare yourself for incredible coastal views and glimpses of all kinds of animals as well as the impressive and thoughtfully constructed grounds on which they live that took over eight years to build. Learn about these amazing animals and the struggle to help them breed and survive in a breathtaking setting. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as you will be trekking over the reserve.
Known as the Edinburgh of the south, the charming city of Dunedin is a wonderful vacation spot for visitors of all interests. Known primarily for its incredible wildlife attractions, the city itself is filled with interesting activities.
For food-lovers, take a tour of the Cadbury World, the chocolate factory that produces more than 75% of New Zealand's chocolate. If you don't have too much of a sweet tooth, check out Speights Brewery, a city landmark that offers daily tours and tastings for those over 18. The city center, known as the Octagon, is bustling with shops and restaurants, and is always a lively place to visit.
For nature lovers, the Royal Albatross Centre, Dunedin Botanical Gardens, Orokunui EcoSanctuary, and Penguin Place are must-sees. Also visit the Otago Peninsula for stunning sea views, as well as the beautiful Tunnel Beach.
More Things to Do in Dunedin & The Otago Peninsula
If you're seeking the thrill of a fine glass of wine or a round of golf then Central Otago could be just your place. The hottest, coldest and driest part of New Zealand is also home to some of its most adorable towns and finer vineyards.
The capital of Central Otago is Alexandra and its boutique hotels are a great base for exploring. The highlights of Central Otago (besides its gourmet delights) include the very well-preserved gold-rush towns of Ophir and St Bathans, the art-deco charms of Ranfurly and the picturesque orchards of the fruit-bowl area surrounding Cromwell. Eleven golf courses dot the countryside and curling (the ancient Scottish sport) is popular in Naseby where you can play in year-round facilities. Otherwise the majority of action takes place along the Central Otago Rail Trail with walkers, cyclists and horse riders all enjoying the gentle gradient of the former railway line.
Known as the architectural heritage capital of New Zealand, Dunedin was once the largest and wealthiest city in the country. Sitting on the Otago Peninsula on New Zealand’s South Island, this lively university town with Scottish roots is increasingly popular among tourists.
Cruise ships dock at Port Chalmers, a suburb of Dunedin located about 8 miles from the city. Shuttle buses are available to take you into the center of town, typically dropping you off at the Octagon in the heart of Dunedin. Public buses also run between Port Chalmers and Dunedin, picking passengers up from the corner of Harrington, Fox and Meridian Streets. Taxis are also available to make the 15 minute drive to Dunedin. Whether you take a shuttle or a public bus, you will likely arrive in Dunedin at the Octagon – an eight-sided plaza in the center of town full of bars and cafes.