Known infamously as New Zealand’s student town, Dunedin has often been overlooked as having any touristic appeal. But behind the wild street parties and community 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 unmet by any other in New Zealand.
Who would have thought that Gothic architecture could go so well with street art?
08:00 One of Dunedin’s newest and coolest cafés, Vogel St Kitchen was established in an old warehouse building as part of the council’s plan to revamp the city’s Warehouse Precinct area. The historic and industrial environment outside the café contrasts dramatically with the modern and refreshing interior. Combining these unique vibes with a delicious menu made with regional flavours and produce creates a breakfast experience in Dunedin like no other.
09:00 After fuelling yourself with eggs benedict, start your day the same way as hundreds of athletic Dunedinites with a walk through the Ross Creek Reserve. In the middle of 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 gold rush. The beautiful native bush of the reserve will give you a great chance to soak up some oxygen to kick your morning off properly.
11:30 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 that it’s famous for.
12:30 A trip to Dunedin is not complete without a visit to the starkly beautiful St Clair beach, and there is no better way to do so than by having lunch at Starfish café and restaurant. There’s an old 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 it: 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.
14:00 Pop around the coast to a secluded walking track and excavated tunnel, bringing 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 ocean swells make this beach an absolute must-see.
15:30 It 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. Only one, mind you, as you won’t find any building quite like this in the rest of the country. Larnach Castle was built in 1871, and a tour of the grounds and castle will evoke all sorts of wistful Victorian sentiments that you didn’t even know you were capable of.
17:30 On your way back into the city, download the street art trail map from Dunedinstreetart.co.nz. This marks out the beginnings of what is hoped to become a world-class street art trail, with exciting commissions by several international artists giving the downtown Dunedin and the Warehouse Precinct a beautiful burst of colour. The self-guided walk takes about 90 minutes to complete, and takes you through more than 30 works, allowing you to get a great feel for the city’s historic and creative hubs along the way.
19:00 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 iconic 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.
21:00 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.
21:30 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.