Dunedin was probably my favorite city in New Zealand. In the 1800s, the Central Otago gold rush made Dunedin the largest city in New Zealand, and you can still see evidence of that today in the old, substantial buildings in the central part of town.
Our first morning in Dunedin we went on a walking tour of Dunedin with CityWalks. Before going on the walk, though, we had to get dressed for the Dunedin weather. (Dunedin is not known for its great weather. The day we arrived, we were greeted by a hailstorm.) Even though it was still early March, I wore my coat, the fleece I had brought for when we went to the glaciers, and my gloves. My wife wore her long underwear, plus most everything else she brought on the trip.
We decided to skip the Otago Museum and instead went to the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. The museum was completely redone a couple of years ago. We especially liked the exhibits on the European settlers, including a special exhibit called “DUNEdinburgh” on the ties between Scotland and Dunedin, Otago having been originally settled by Scottish settlers. (“Dunedin” means Edinburgh in Gaelic.) Even the local team in Super 15 Rugby is called the Otago Highlanders (though the Scots who settled Dunedin were actually from the lowlands). The museum includes a renovation of Dunedin’s art deco bus terminal, a good example that art deco in New Zealand is not limited to Napier.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery is worth a visit. Apparently, they have New Zealand’s only Monet and two woodcuts and an engraving by Albrecht Dürer. Unfortunately, when we were there, they had put those things away in favor of other things. Lesson: Go, but be prepared to be disappointed.
Better is the Chinese Garden. Dunedin is a sister city of Shanghai and has one of only a few authentic Chinese gardens outside of China. It was beautiful. Very peaceful and so well done you did not even realize you were in the middle of town.
One afternoon, we took a pleasant walk up George Street to see the Clocktower Building at the University of Otago (the oldest university in New Zealand). On the way we stopped for something to eat at Modaks Expresso. We also looked at Knox Church, which, like both First Church and the Town Hall (a/k/a Municipal Chambers), was designed by Robert Lawson. It was at least as good as First Church and definitely worth seeing.
On the way back, we stopped at the sweetest place in Dunedin: Cadbury World. We did not go for the full tour, but even the shorter one came with free samples.
Finally, when you are in Dunedin, check to see what is playing at the Fortune Theatre. We were lucky to be able to see “Book Ends,” a play by Roger Hall, a famous New Zealand playwright.
In terms of eating and sleeping, I would suggest Scotia for dinner. I had haggis for an entrée (i.e., appetizer) and Fishermen’s Stew as my main. The haggis was very good, and the Fishermen’s Stew was fantastic.
For sleeping, we stayed at the Dunedin Palms Motel. It has a good location, not far from central Dunedin and is close to the Speight’s brewery. The Ale House there has very good food. If you can’t get a table in the restaurant, sit in the bar area. The food is the same.