Dunedin is humming with hidden gems you won’t find in the guidebooks. A city that is constantly evolving with new tastes and experiences, and we’re here to help you find the untold tales.
Not only are the streets filled with gothic architecture, castles and wildlife, but there is so much more beyond the walls. Located south-east on the South Island of New Zealand, it’s the second largest city in the south and rich in heritage, renowned wildlife and its distinctly quirky character.
Ready to hear all about the hidden gems in Dunedin? Let’s jump in!
1. Dunedin Botanic Gardens
2. Otago Peninsula
3. Organ Pipes
4. Signal Hill
Known as New Zealand’s ‘first botanic garden’, these gardens hold the status of six star Garden of International Significance – meaning it is absolutely beautiful and you cannot go to Dunedin without stopping here. It occupies hectares of land stretching beyond the eye can see, housing endangered, native plant species – solely unique to New Zealand. The sprawling lower gardens feature the rather unique Edwardian Winter Garden glasshouse containing tropical plants, cacti and succulents which overlooks the serene Japanese Garden, complete with a bamboo grove. A good spot to stop for lunch is the duck pond and playground where you can spend a few hours taking in your surroundings while listening to musicians playing in the traditional bandstand nearby. Bring along your picnic lunch or pop into the nearby bagel shop for a takeaway picnic to spend more time getting amongst the greenery.
Otago Peninsula is high and rugged on the ocean side, yet warm and sheltered on the harbour side. Due to its volcanic origin, the Peninsula is part of the crater wall of a large, long-extinct volcano. Put a day aside to explore this region by taking the scenic drive to experience the spectacular environment that’s been left behind from the volcanic region.
Begin at Vauxhall, and follow the coastal road past small settlements and beaches to Taiaroa Head, where you’ll find an albatross colony. Want to see more wildlife? Check out the fur seals at Pilots beach and Sea lions on Te Rauone Beach! Along the way be sure to stop in and see the lookouts and beaches. Stop at Victory Beach there’s an Egyptian-looking rock formation known as the pyramids; at Allans Beach you may even get to see yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and sea lions!
As you have most likely gathered by now, a lot of Dunedin’s environment and landscapes have been formed by volcanic activity. This is exactly the case for our next hidden gem – The Organ Pipes.
These fascinating geological formations on Mt Holmes do not take long to reach and are well worth the short drive to the start of the track. You’ll walk through a bit of bush and come to clearings, only to be engulfed in almost tunnel-like forests before you reach the top. Once you come to an opening and catch a glimpse of the high rock columns rising straight up, you won’t question their unique name.
This man-made looking formation has a near-perfect hexagonal shape and will leave you standing in awe at how something has been made almost entirely by volcanic activity. The track can be steep in places and we recommend taking good shoes and warm, windproof layers when walking on this track.
Signal Hill is near the heart of the Otago Harbour and offers stunning views of the city and harbour. If this is your first time visiting Dunedin, then this must be your first stop!
Take in the 360-degree views of where your next adventure lies within reach. It’s only a short drive from the city and gives the perfect photo opp for that insta-worthy picture. We recommend visiting at dawn or dusk, and that you bring along a picnic!
If you’re a keen mountain biker, the Big Easy is a 6.1km trail that tops out at the Signal Hill Lookout. The trail winds through native bush with glimpses across the city and eventually all the way to the beaches and Otago Harbour.
As we said, if this is your first time around Dunedin – add it to the top of your list!
These gems are all suitable for a weekend getaway, better yet, for a road trip to see them all at once. If you’re interested, check out what campervans we have on offer and other campervan travel tips to start planning your road trip away.