Dunedin is a student city and, therefore, is particularly friendly on the wallet, making it great for an inexpensive family weekend. It’s also arguably New Zealand’s most friendly city, making tit perfect for couples, families or solo travellers. Here is a guide to five of the best experiences in Dunedin for people on a budget.
Check out the Otago Museum, Free Admission
Located in the heart of the city, the Otago Museum is right beside the university. It is one of the most popular attractions in the city, and has one of New Zealand’s largest collections. One of its more special features is the large tropical butterfly rainforest that has been created in the interactive section of the museum. The museum is also known for its spider collection, its 30,000 bird specimens and 40,000 marine specimens. It has the world’s best moa collection, including two of three of the only complete moa eggs in the world.
As well as covering the natural sciences, the museum has an amazing collection of art, with the majority being Polynesian, Melanesian, Maori and Australian origins. With so much going on, it’s hard to believe admission still remains free.
Explore the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Free Admission
Conveniently located in the heart of the Octagon for those who wish to book a Dunedin city hotel, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery was the first public art gallery in New Zealand, founded by W.M. Hodgkins in 1884. The gallery has a balance of older and more contemporary pieces by both local and international artists. Some of its stand-out pieces by New Zealand artists include “A Waterfall in the Otira Gorge” by Petrus Van der Velden, “Portrait of a Girl” by G. P. Nerli and “All ‘e Same t’e Pakeha” by C. F. Goldie. Other notable attractions include the British Watercolours collection featuring more than 1,300 pieces and an amazing decorative arts collection, based on London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. This particular collection includes ceramics, textiles, glassware and furniture; it is the best of its kind in the country.
If you want to stay in the CBD, you can take in all of the action and atmosphere of the liveliest spot in Dunedin by perking up with a creamy cappuccino in one of the many Octagon cafes. The official Dunedin city centre, the Octagon is a place where tourists and locals come to dine, drink and explore local buildings and attractions including the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Dunedin Railway Station (New Zealand’s most photographed building), the Dunedin Town Hall and St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.
Take a Hike Along Frasers Gully
Take a bus from the city centre to the beautiful area of Frasers Gully. Here, you can walk undisturbed through one of the most stunning areas in Otago amongst lush native New Zealand bush. There are plenty of waterfalls, some wonderful examples of native New Zealand wildlife and plenty of flora to top it off. Start your walk from Kaikorai Valley Road and make your way towards Dalziel Road. You will bypass Kaikorai stream, home for native aquatic animals including freshwater crayfish, whitebait, eels and freshwater mussels. Although the track itself can be steep in places, it’s ideal for those with a medium level of fitness. Kids can handle it, provided they are reasonably active and more than 9 years old.
Spend a Day at St Clair Beach
One of the nicest beaches in Otago, St Clair beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand popular with surfers, café-goes, walkers and runners. If you’ve never attempted to surf before, St. Clair has an incredibly consistent break. The team at Esplanade Surf School offer group and private lessons, and are incredibly patient with first-time surfers. Nestled around the promenade are restaurants, cafes and bars at different price points. After a walk, surf or swim, spend an hour or two eating, drinking and relaxing with gorgeous views of the Southern Ocean. If you’re feeling particularly brave, time your trip to coincide with the city’s annual “Polar Plunge”. You won’t even know what hit you!
Otago Museum image non-attributed from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Dunedin Railway Station image by setev from Flickr’s Creative Commons