Great Scot! The best things to do in Dunedin

Explore Dunedin, a unique New Zealand city with a very Scottish heart.

View of Dunedin, its harbour and surrounding hills, from the peak of Signal Hill, New Zealand.
  • Jetstar
  • January 2022

If you’re looking for a destination that’s a little left of centre, check out Dunedin. Often called the ‘Edinburgh of the South’, this harbour town has a renowned live-music scene, a large student population, and a distinctly Scottish vibe. Nineteenth-century architecture frames its bars, cafes and street art, and just out of town, along the Otago Peninsula, it’s all beaches and wildlife. Intrigued?

Visit Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle is the first thing you’ve got to tick off your Dunedin list. This stunning, historic castle is New Zealand’s only castle and the jewel in Dunedin’s crown. Built in 1871 and restored to its original Victorian glory, it’s completely captivating. Explore its exquisite interiors, including a sprawling ballroom and a soaring tower, and rolling gardens. If you’re feeling fancy, book ahead for high tea.

Stone lions flank the stairs to the entrance of Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand.
A grand entrance to the Victorian splendour of Larnach Castle.

Go surfing at St Clair Beach

Dunedin has some real coastal stunners right on its doorstep. Head to St Clair, with its white sand glowing against the blue of the Pacific Ocean. St Clair is popular as both a surf spot (other good Dunedin surf beaches include Aramoana, Murdering Bay and Karitane) as well as a leisurely seaside destination. You can go for a swim, then saunter the Esplanade, which is lined with al fresco bars and eateries. Too cold to swim? Slip into the warmth of the historic St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool.

A heated saltwater pool at the end of St Clair beach, Dunedin, New Zealand. Image credit: DunedinNZ
St Clair is home to one of New Zealand’s only heated saltwater pools. Image credit: DunedinNZ

Find a tropical forest at Otago Museum

The Otago Museum is a wonderland of nature, culture and science. There are seven gallery spaces spread across the complex, including a planetarium, with informative and immersive experiences for all ages and interests. The museum is home to the largest science centre in New Zealand, and features interactive attractions including a three-storey indoor slide. But the real star here is the indoor tropical forest. It’s steamy and lush, with a 5-metre waterfall, a sky bridge and a thousand rain forest butterflies fluttering amid the foliage.

A colourful butterfly drinking from a pink soaked sponge, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Get up close with colourful butterflies in the museum’s tropical rainforest.

See penguins on the Otago Peninsula

Like a lot of New Zealand, the wildlife in Dunedin is pretty special. Throughout the region and along the Otago Peninsula, you’re likely to see some truly unique (and pretty cute) creatures. Locals include little blue penguins, kiwis, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, sea lions and the Northern Royal Albatross. There are a number of eco-friendly wildlife tours you can do if you’re keen for a close encounter of the feathered kind. Just north of Dunedin, Orokonui Ecosanctuary is well worth a visit, especially for its kiwi crèche.

A waddle of little blue penguins on the sand, Otago, New Zealand. Image credit: DunedinNZ
Otago is home to some gorgeous wildlife, including these little blue penguins. Image credit: DunedinNZ

Hit the inner city’s shops and bars

It makes sense that a city so quirky and cultural would have some fabulous designer shopping lining its streets. If you’re feeling that retail itch, head to Edinburgh Way on Upper George Street where you’ll find the best of Dunedin designer wares. You’ll also find some cute bars for a quick refresher before exploring other shopping hubs. Head to Lower Stuart Street for vintage finds and Moray Place for more contemporary options. The Warehouse Precinct is an up-and-coming area with a slew of street-art pieces and exciting new businesses, bars and restaurants setting up shop in beautiful old warehouses.

A wall-mounted drinks board listing craft beers at a brewery-bar in Dunedin, New Zealand. Image credit: Miles Holden
Boutiques, bars and craft brews rule in downtown Dunedin. Image credit: Miles Holden