Cheap as: how to do Dunedin on a budget

It’s easy to have a blast without splashing cash in this historic town.

Three people sitting on the lawn in front of Dunedin Railway Station on a sunny day. Image credit: Dunedin NZ
  • Jetstar
  • June 2022

Right down in the south of the South Island, historic Dunedin has tonnes of budget-friendly things to do. Its free galleries, museums, coastlines full of wildlife, festivals and fun vibe guarantee a good time whether you’re going five-star or not. Make the most of your trip with these top wallet-friendly picks.

Check out the street art

Dunedin is one of the world’s street art meccas, with many major international street artists coming here to add their work to the growing collection of jaw-dropping local pieces. The best way to check it all out for free is with a Street Art Trail map from the Visitor Information Centre. Ticking them all off should take you about 90 minutes. Combine this with an exploration of the Warehouse Precinct where you’ll find a lot of major street art pieces alongside indoor galleries and bars.

Two people on scooters with street art of a fish in the background, Dunedin, New Zealand. Image credit: Dunedin NZ
Street art abounds in Dunedin. Image credit: Dunedin NZ

Ride the Otago Central Rail Trail

Dunedin is an easy cycling city. It’s flat, relatively small and has an expert network of bike lanes and trails. It’s a great place to hire a bike and set out to see the sights. To make a day (or three) of it, head to Middlemarch, about an hour out of town, and get onto the Otago Central Rail Trail. The 152-kilometre trail leads you through pretty villages and stunning vistas between Middlemarch and Clyde. Choose a short daytrip section or go the whole-multi-day adventure. Riding the trail is free and there are plenty of budget accommodation options along the way. (Book ahead.)

An aerial shot of people riding the Otago Central Rail Trail in the autumn light. Image credit: Dunedin NZ
The Otago Central Rail Trail will lead you through sensational scenery. Image credit: Dunedin NZ

Explore the regal architecture

Dunedin is a contemporary city, but its architecture is something else altogether. So much immaculately preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture everywhere you look. The fact that it has Larnach Castle, the only castle in New Zealand, is probably a bit of a giveaway. Dunedin Railway Station alone will blow your mind. Take yourself on an architectural heritage walk to take it all in. There’s also the Writers Walk in the Octagon if you want to dip into the literary scene on your way.

Exterior view of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Dunedin Town Hall, New Zealand.
St Paul’s Cathedral and Dunedin Town Hall.

Hit the beach at St Clair

You might be thinking Dunedin is all historic buildings and bookshops and insidey things, but just 20 minutes out of town on the bus, there’s St Clair. A glorious, broad beach on the edge of the crisp, hypnotic Pacific Ocean. It’s a cute seaside spot with a cafe-lined esplanade, but the real drawcard is its hot saltwater pool, right on the beach. If you can get yourself there for sunrise, it’s a dreamy experience. Who says you’re on a budget when you’re floating in a warm pool by the Pacific?

A lone swimmer about to dive into the oceanside hot saltwater pool at sunrise, St Clair, New Zealand. Image credit: Dunedin NZ
If the ocean’s too chilly, opt for the hot saltwater pool. Image credit: Dunedin NZ

Day trip to artsy Port Chalmers

Another 20-minute bus ride from Dunedin, Port Chalmers is a fun spot to kick back for the day and explore. It’s steeped in a rich maritime history (check out the Port Chalmers’ Regional Maritime Museum) but current-day Port Chalmers is a creative enclave of artists and musicians, galleries and harbourside cafes and restaurants. It’s a popular fishing area too, with a biannual seafood festival, so fish and chips by the harbour is a must. To see all the action from above, head to Flagstaff Lookout.

A sculpture of an anchor at a scenic lookout with Port Chalmers in the background. Image credit: Dunedin NZ
Port Chalmers is an artsy, seaside spot. Image credit: Dunedin NZ