Dunedin, New Zealand’s oldest city is situated on the south-eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Dunedin is the largest town in Otago, a region recognized for its spectacular scenery. Dunedin’s art gallery and museums contain some of the best collections in New Zealand.
The Otago Peninsula which lies within the city boundaries has internationally renowned wildlife reserves, including the rare Royal Albatross breeding ground and Yellow-Eyed & Little Blue Penguin colonies. Dunedin is home to the Worlds Steepest Street!
Dunedin City is set in the eroded core of an ancient volcano. The City Centre, situated at the south end of Otago Harbour, occupies the central part of an ancient volcanic system, a pile of lava flow some 25 km across which erupted between 10 to 13 million years ago.
There is no rainy season to dampen the spirit of Dunedin. The city receives less than 800mm of rainfall each year. Instead they experience extended twilight in summer, rich autumnal tones full of texture, romantic winter nights nestled in front of open fires and the colour of springtime with the city budding and blooming before your very eyes. During winter the hills surrounding Dunedin may see the occasional snow fall, which clears within several hours. Temperatures in August range from a low of 4 to an average of 13 degree Celsius, while during February temperatures hover around the low to mid 20’s.One aspect that makes Dunedin unique is its Scottish heritage.
The city’s Scottish beginning gives it a special flavour which makes it quite different from anywhere else in New Zealand or Australia. Dunedin is the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh, yet Dunedin is nothing like the Scottish capital. Dunedin is hillier, smaller, closer to the sea and has better climate than Edinburgh.Dunedin has many Scottish traits including the haggis ceremony – fine golf courses, pipe bands, the finest range of malts and whiskies in New Zealand. Yet it is not a carbon copy of a Scottish city. It is rather a place where Scots came to start again and in interacting with a new environment, an indigenous people and other migrants from an overcrowded Europe, made a special city with a Scottish flavour all of its own.The accents of the whole city seem to thicken each year during official Scottish Week and the skirl of bagpipes is often heard. Having a special appeal for our Caledonian Societies and Burns Club members,
Scottish Week is for everyone who is a Scot at heart and wants to join in. The whole city becomes involved in ceilidhs and concerts, banqueting on haggis patties, shortbread, oatcakes and black bun, curling, historical conferences, poetry readings, Queen o’ the Heather, Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, tossing the Caber and country dancing. The splendour of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin’s economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Architecturally outstanding is the massive stone Flemish Renaissance-style Dunedin Railway Station , built 1904 – 1906.
The Botanic Garden is famous for the Rhododendron Dell, its exotic beauty celebrated every year in the third week of October with the Rhododendron Festival. The number and variety of private gardens available for all year round viewing says something of the passion held by the people who created them and so loving tend them. Viewing these gardens is a real treat, as often the gardener will share insights and personal observations with you. Many of these private and public gardens are featured in the brochure Focus on Dunedin Gardens.
High among the rolling hills of the Peninsula is Larnach Castle , the grand home of an early politician. Construction of the castle began in 1871 and was completed five years later. Larnach Castle and its historic-style garden can be reached via the high road (Highcliff Road) along the Peninsula’s ridge. From here, views out to sea and back towards the city emphasise the singular beauty of Dunedin and its jewel-like harbour.
Dunedin is definitely the place to take a walk on the wild side. Guided wildlife tours to view and photograph colonies of Royal albatross, the rare Yellow-eyed penguin, New Zealand seals and sealions operate on Otago Peninsula all year round. Visitors can also take a drive to the Otago Peninsula, which is just 15 minutes drive from the Octagon in central Dunedin. The most spectacular flying visitor to the Otago Peninsula is the Royal albatross. This giant bird, with a wing span of up to 3m and which flies an estimated 190,000 km per year, lays its single egg at a colony at Taiaroa Head during November. After eleven weeks incubation chicks hatch during late January and early February.Young birds remain at the colony until late September, when they leave the peninsula to skim the oceans before returning three to six years later to breed. A modern visitor information centre at Taiaroa Head provides detailed interpretative displays and audio-visual on these majestic birds, and other Peninsula wildlife. Nearby is the viewing area which is open year-round except between 16 September and 24 November when the birds are mating and laying eggs.
Otago Peninsula is also home to the world’s rarest penguin. Known to the Maori as Hoiho, the Yellow-eyed penguin is the third largest of the 14 species of penguin in the world. Intensive conservation projects are currently underway on the Otago Peninsula to ensure the survival of this shy and beautiful bird. Native bush has been replanted to recreate the original habitat and encourage breeding, while attempts are being made to eliminate cats, ferrets and other predators.Other penguin species visit the peninsula; these include Fiordland Crested, Snares Island and Erect Crested penguins, and rare sightings of the Royal Penguin, Gentoo, Emperor and Magellan penguins are possible.Bird watchers can see up to five species of cormorants (known as shags in New Zealand) around the Otago Peninsula and Harbour – this is more species than can be seen in one area at once than anywhere else in the world. The five species include the Spotted Cormorant, Stewart Island Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Black Cormorant, and the Pied Cormorant.
The major population of New Zealand fur seals in New Zealand is located on the Otago Peninsula, and in recent years has grown dramatically so that thousands of New Zealand fur seals are found basking on the rocks. Visitors may also see Elephant and Leopard seals and Hookers sealion – the latter is the rarest sealion in the world.Otago Peninsula’s wildlife can also be experienced indoors, at the Otago Museum’s Natural History Gallery in Great King Street, next to the University of Otago . Modern displays show the birdlife and natural history of the southern oceans in their natural habitat, with excellent interpretative material. The Otago Museum and Discovery World , which also has the largest collection of articulated Moa bones in the world, and an excellent collection of Southern Maori artefacts.