I mean, heaven is part of the name!
Dunedin. Dun-edin. No? Sorry for the bad joke, but that aside, Dunedin in New Zealand really does sound unreal! When people are looking for a new place to travel to, there are many things on their minds. Maybe it’s sports and activities that they’re looking for, or maybe culture and heritage, or perhaps it’s wildlife, or maybe just food and festivals, or maybe even just a quiet place to relax. What if I told you there’s a place where you don’t have to choose just any one of these activities?! You heard me right, Dunedin is a city in New Zealand that has all of these and more!
So, book your tickets to this city, the biggest in its region of Otago, situated in the South Island of New Zealand. This city is one of the best-preserved Scottish heritage sites in all of the Southern Hemisphere! But that’s just recent history. Before the settlements of the Europeans, there were the Maori settlements going back centuries before the Europeans settled. Dunedin is a collage of all of that culture, where both traditions are respected and celebrated.
Today, Dunedin is best known as a student city. The University of Otago, established in 1869, turns 150 years in 2019! This makes it the oldest university in the entire country! New Zealand is also one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world and Dunedin is a good example as to why the country holds that title. The country is also famous for movie shootings, especially the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Dunedin also has its share of movies that were filmed there, a famous one you may know to be X-men Origins: Wolverine. It’s always exciting to know when your favorite celebrity has been in the same place as you! And depending on what your favorite season is, you can choose to travel accordingly as Dunedin has it all! They even have snowfall in some regions if that’s something that’s already on your bucket list. So, if all these reasons haven’t convinced you yet, check out these must-do things in Dunedin and make up your mind if it’s worth the visit or not!
Built in the late 1800s, this castle is the only castle in all of New Zealand! The story behind it is quite romantic, with William Lanarch, a merchant, building the castle for his beloved wife Eliza. Apart from the architecture of the castle itself, there are beautiful gardens, historic stables, and outbuildings. You can even dine like royalty at the ballroom café. The castle hosts events year-round, so you can be part of the festivities by joining in during those days (check their website for upcoming events). The owners, the Barker family, have built accommodation around the castle so tourists can experience it as deeply as possible.
The castle and its grounds are open year-round, and usually admissions are given from 9 am to 5 pm.
The entry pass for adults is 1660 INR and is free for kids under 4. The prices for the accommodation range from 7800 INR to over 24000 INR! So, whether you’re budget conscious or not, there’s something for you.
What to try:
You need to try out the Venison Brioche burger (22$) while you’re at the ballroom café!
Royal Albatross Centre
This is the world’s first and only mainland breeding center for the royal albatross. The site is what can be called a perfect example of ecotourism where tourism happens without disturbing the environment. Apart from these majestic birds, you can spot the smallest penguin breed, the blue penguin, waddling around in groups! There are also historic tours if you would like to learn more about the country’s past. You will need to book ahead of time as a limited number of tourists are allowed inside each day. This is so as to preserve the solitude of the animals. And if you get hungry during the tour, you can go to the café there to satisfy your cravings! And remember, when you visit this center and pay for the tours, you’re helping by contributing to the protection and stewardship of the albatross as well as helping with children’s education and other good causes. So make sure to do some ecotourism and visit this place when you’re in Dunedin!
It’s open from 10 am to 9:30 pm every day of the week.
The Albatross tour costs 2500 INR per adult and 730 INR per child over the age of 5
Watch the Jaffa race!
Hard to believe for some of us who would normally prefer the eating part of a festival rather than the activities part, this race is one we ALL would enjoy! Jaffas are Cadbury’s “orange coated, chocolate filled” treats. They are basically little balls of chocolate that are rolled down the steepest street in Dunedin (called Baldwin street, next on our list) and each Jaffa is sponsored by someone. The candies have numbers on them and when they are rolled down the street in a race, the winning Jaffa’s donator wins a prize! The race began in 2001 and has since raised over 3 crores for charity. The proceeds go to Make A Wish, Parents Centre, etc. If like me, you too want to witness this tsunami of chocolate, be sure to visit Dunedin during the winter time as this event happens in July. This is definitely a much safer (and tastier) option for those of us afraid of running with the bulls in Spain!
Experience the Cadbury Chocolate Festival!
Who would want to take a pass on an annual celebration of delicious chocolate?! Did you know Dunedin is where Cadbury World is located at? So, don’t miss out on your chance to visit the factory, learn the art of chocolate making, and of course get to taste a lot of chocolate! As for the festival, you can get chocolate facials (yum??), go on chocolate tours, go on the famous Cadbury Crunchie train, decorate chocolates and even paint with chocolate. It’s hard to believe such a dream-like festival exists! Even with all these delicious treats, the highlight would be the Jaffa race- which is next on the list.
Try your hand at surfing!
Australia always gets the spotlight when it comes to surfing, but New Zealand has a few good spots as well! St. Clair beach is one of the best-known surfing havens in the country, located in Dunedin. The beach even hosts a list of surfing championships throughout the year. Surfing is one of Dunedin’s best “free activities”, as long as you already own surf board and the required gear. If not, you can rent the gear for the day for about 1950 INR. And if surfing is not your forte, take a walk along the beach, speak to the locals as well as the tourists from around the world- you’ll be sure to meet some of the kindest and most congenial people here!
Try walking up the steepest street in the world!
This street actually holds the Guinness World record for the steepest residential street in the world! Turns out that the steepness was caused by mistake, not design. The planning for most of Dunedin was done from London in the mid-1800s by people who had no idea about the geography of the place! Therefore, the terrain was not considered and well, Baldwin Street was born! The street spans 350m and goes up from 30m altitude to 100m altitude! That’s pretty steep!
It’s fun to try to walk up the street without getting out of breath. And that’s what the locals also must have thought of when they started an annual event called the Baldwin Street Gutbuster. The name pretty much sums it up- the goal is to bust your gut! The challenge is to run up the street and back down, and the goal is to raise health and obesity awareness. Try to break the record of 1:56 while you’re there! The street can be quite dangerous in the winter, so make sure you visit in warmer weather, so you don’t have a slip from the ice!
Visit the Botanic Garden
This beautiful garden is the first botanic garden in all of New Zealand! Even if you’re not too keen on flowers, you still have to visit this garden as it offers so much more: there are tree trails, an aviary (where you can see many species of birds), a volcano trail, and even some off-beat areas you can have a picnic at! The garden’s collection is stellar- they even have a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium), one of the largest flowers in the world, reaching up to a height of 3m! The best part about this garden? It’s free! That’s right, you are not compelled to pay but are welcome to donate a few dollars if you want to. It’s the perfect place to unwind with the family while also making sure the kids learn a thing or two about the environment.
The garden is open from 9 am to 4 pm every day but some buildings such as cafés and shops are closed during public holidays.
Free but donations are welcome!
What to try:
Try to challenge your friends to see who can stay beside the giant corpse flower the longest! Loser buys dinner.
Go on the Monarch Wildlife Cruise
They have been providing tours for over 60 years and know everything they possibly can about their land (and waters). There are a variety of cruises and tours you can go on, but if you take the full day tour, you’ll have spent the day in the best way possible. It includes a scenic bus tour to bird watch, then a stop at the Royal Albatross Centre, as well as at the Penguin Place Conservation Reserve. Here, you can spot a family of yellow-eyed penguins, found only in this part of New Zealand. You will also be able to see seals, sea lions, fur seals, dolphins and other marine animals on the tour!
Depends on which tour you book. For the full day tour, Summer: 10:30am – 7:00pm; Winter: 10:30am – 6:00pm (no harbour cruise)
The full day tour may set you back 12000 INR, but the experience may be well worth it.
What to try: Try to spot whales! The best time is June-August for whale spotting!