Things to see and do in Dunedin
If you ask a Dunedin local to describe their city in one word, the most likely answer you will hear is “home”, which truly captures the Dunedin attitude: uncomplicated, unpretentious and welcoming.
It’s an incredibly humble city with a cosy small-town feel that has a lot to offer visitors and travellers who are seeking a relaxed and scenic holiday experience. Dunedin locals have a strong appreciation of nature and its harmonious offering, and it’s easy to see why when you are surrounded with awe-inspiring landscapes that engulf your attention as soon as you lay eyes on the expansive coastal vistas of the pristine Otago Peninsula. Best of all, you can explore this wonderful corner of New Zealand at your own pace along the scenic route to some of Dunedin’s picture-perfect destinations.
As slightly strange feature of the Otago Peninsula coastline, Tunnel Beach is set among looming sandstone cliffs and headlands just a few kilometres south of Dunedin. During the 1870’s settlement of the area by British colonists, a tunnel was carved by hand through the sandstone to provide access to the more sheltered and secluded beach at the bottom of the cliffs. The narrow man-made tunnel leads out into breathtaking beachscape with a rather prominent sandstone arch. The arch has been formed by the choppy seas and tidal cycles over millions of years.
Though, the arch isn’t the only example of million-year-old rocks you can find on Tunnel Beach. If you look closely and have a keen eye for nature, you may find one of the many small fossils that have been encased in the sandstone. Brachiopod and sea urchin fossils can be found at the beach and fossils can date back as far as the Paleozoic era, which is anywhere between 540 to 250 million years ago! This would make a great souvenir or gift to the natural historian in your life, or perhaps a great educational trip for the kids.
Bringing you back into the modern era, you can visit this stately castle nestled in the Otago coastal hills with one of the most enviable views in New Zealand. As the only castle in the country (apart from Kim Dotcom’s house) it has been restored since falling into disrepair after its sale out of the Lanach Family. It had been used as a mental asylum, a treatment facility for shell shocked war heroes, and much later its 3000 square feet ballroom becoming a holding pen for sheep!
During its construction, over two hundred men worked for nearly three years until it was completed. It then took a master European craftsman a further 12 years to dress the interiors with locally-sourced kauri wood ceiling, honeysuckle wainscoting, and Venetian glass and Italian marble floors. The building had suffered after its sale in 1906, but was graciously restored in the Seventies by its courageous current owners.
The Lanach Castle Estate offers accommodation at the nearby Lanach Lodge, which was designed to recreate a colonial farm building with spectacular harbour, ocean and Peninsula views. The lodge is close to other Otago attractions, such as Royal Albatross Colony and Monarch Wildlife Cruises, which makes it obvious why the locals named the Otago Peninsula as ‘the home of New Zealand’s wildlife’. The lodge offers both luxury and affordable family accommodation with 12 themed suites catering to any price range.
While laying claim to probably the most uninteresting of Guinness World Records, Baldwin Street has been transformed by the local Dunedin community into something truly unique. As the steepest street in the world – even topping the famously steep streets of San Francisco – Baldwin Street is the centre of the Dunedin Chocolate Carnival. Featuring chocolate sculpting, portraiture and of course cooking classes, there’s one particular event that outshines the rest: the annual Jaffa Race!
The annual Jaffa Race sees 25,000 chocolate ‘Jaffa’ balls rolled down the steep incline of Baldwin St with the first five across the finish line declared the winners. The event has raised money for various high profile charities, with over $500,000 in donations since its inception in 2002. With its unique chocolate and orange flavour, every international visitor should share a few Jaffas while in Dunedin!
If you think hiring a car and getting out and about in Dunedin is your kind of holiday, book a rental car through Europcar today and get ready for one eye-opening trip.