How do you do Dunedin in one night? Erm, you can't! But honestly, if you feel like you've got one night to explore as much as possible of this mighty southern city we've put together a guide for TRENZ goers from brews to ice-cream stops to secret upstairs bars. If you do pull off all of this in one night then we'd like to see photos please.
When you’ve spent all day talking to people sometimes it’s nice to escape from everyone, including yourself, by doing something challenging. That’s where Escape Dunedin comes in. They hold real escapes for people (between 4-6 people or more) where you have to figure out how to get out of either Dunedin Prison - where you’re properly handcuffed in the old prison - or the Savoy Hotel. You’ll have to solve clues, decipher codes and work out symbols to open locks over one hour or 90 minutes. It’s a total rush and a one-hour game starts from $20 per head at The Savoy and $25 at Dunedin Prison. They take bookings up until 8.15pm but you have to book in advance.
If you’re not booked on one of the train and beer (or chocolate) tours with TRENZ that include Emerson’s then a trip to this microbrewery on your own is a Dunedin must. For many New Zealand craft brewers, their 'Eureka!' moment came when they first tasted Emerson's Bookbinder bitter. Who knew beer could be so flavourful? Bookbinder was first brewed back in the 1990s, and Richard Emerson's brewing setup has now expanded from his mother's kitchen to this multi-million dollar brew house on Anzac Ave. Showing off grassy New Zealand hops, their pilsner is another kiwi classic deserving praise. And if, after tasting some brews that you can’t find anywhere else in New Zealand, you find yourself peckish then their tasting plates have an eclectic mix to satisfy a range of palates from steamed buns to poutine to chilli salt squid.
Good Good Burger on Vogel Street will give you a laid back, tasty, experience. Housed in a retro caravan in a hip warehouse their mighty burgers are well slung together with grass-fed beef, buttermilk chicken or vegetarian options. And then there’s the tator tots that come with their own Good Good sauce, which is, thankfully very good. They also have Parrotdog brews and Central Otago wines so you can easily lose a bit of time here.
Work up an appetite for something sweet by wandering to your next destination. It will take 15 minutes to walk from Vogel street to Rob Roy Diary on George Street but you’re walking past some classics: the Chinese Gardens, The First Church of Otago, and right through the Octagon (from Good Good Burger, wander up Water street to set you on the right path). Yes, we’re sending you to a dairy but this is not a Tip Top in a cone experience. Rob Roy has revolutionised their humble corner dairy with an ice cream parlour extension that has reached cult status in Dunedin. Not only will you be served the largest version of a single scoop you have ever seen, you can make it a ‘designer dessert’ by adding a variety of toppings and sauces. Open until 8pm.
Or, if you’re looking for something more underground and offbeat (and closer to the Edgar Centre), then one of Dunedin’s best kept secrets, this oft-described ‘quirky’ harbour front restaurant will have you wondering if you’ve walked into a second-hand store by mistake. Plato’s walls are lined with a jumbled collection of teapots, and its tables are covered in colourful cloths. It’s the place to come if you want a fun, light-hearted night out, but make no mistake – Plato takes food seriously. It boasts the freshest South Island seafood and produce, washed down with Central Otago wines and locally produced beer. Then it’s a short walk to the Octagon because if your night ends up here, you know you’ve had an authentic Dunedin day.
Why not soak up Dunedin’s Scottish heritage with a visit to Scotia’s whisky bar upstairs. Nestled just off the Octagon in cosy surroundings you’ll find a selection of more than 200 single malts, and you can even try some haggis as a bar snack if you’re really going to go Scottish (and have room after that ice-cream!)
If you have a hankering to mingle with some scarfies then good luck to you! Seriously, if you really want a sneak peak into this student scene then pop your head into Vault 21 or Mac’s Brewbar both near the Octagon. And if that sounds like as much fun as a stab in the eye, then avoid these bars like you would a tornado, especially once they close.
Perhaps some good tunes after a day of serious meetings is what’s called for? Then check out some local talent at the Dog With Two Tails, an eclectic cafe, bar and music venue on Moray Place on the Octagon, so an easy walk. They have open mic nights, gigs with local and travelling musicians and even the odd quiz. This local favourite has speciality coffee, craft beer and whisky to cater to everyone’s evening needs.
For an unbeatable city view then catch a cab to Luna Bar in the little village of Roslyn high on a hill. Open late, you can find Emerson’s on tap and a variety of beers and local wine. It’s also a restaurant but you have to book. However, if we’re being honest, Luna Bar has more of an early evening/sunset atmos, so you could start here, and then cab into the Octagon.
Banner Photo Credit: Emerson's Brewery