Dunedin Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Dunedin

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    St Paul's Cathedral

    by allikat Updated Feb 5, 2007

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    St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin
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    The first time I visited St Paul's Cathedral, I climbed the steps and found an A4 piece of paper pinned to the heavy timber door requesting quiet inside - a music exam was being held. You could hear nothing outside, but as I opened the door to go in I realised that the music exam was being held on the huge cathedral organ - and whoever was sitting the exam they were likely to do very well! I sat down in one of the pews with just a handful of other people and spent the next half hour or so listening to the most incredible music. It filled the cathedral and seemed to be coming from everywhere. It was a special moment.

    St Paul's is right by Dunedin's Octagon in the city centre. Built on the site of an earlier St Paul's just after the First World War, it is all soaring arches inside and has some excellent stained glass windows. I returned a few days later in order to take some photographs, and ended up chatting with one of the church wardens who kindly gave me a very detailed tour of some of the windows. The huge window over the West door was made in London and installed here as a memorial window to the Great War - in brief the panels represent Victory and Sacrifice and incorporate various regimental coats of arms.

    Compared to the great Cathedrals of Europe, these New World examples can seem a little stark to me. I think I have a soft spot for St Paul's however, no doubt because of the unexpected organ music. Music aside, it is definitely a 'must see'.

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    Taieri Gorge Railway

    by allikat Updated Feb 5, 2007

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    Following the river through the Gorge
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    I come from a railway family background - steam enthusiasts mainly but of course all with an appreciation for a scenic rail journey. New Zealand has some real corkers, and the Taieri Gorge Railway, now privately owned, takes you through some spectacularly wild scenery. Construction began in 1879 but the depression of the time meant it was a full 10 years before the first section of the line opened. It eventually reached across Central Otago to Alexandra in 1906, although sadly parts of the line no longer exist.

    I made my journey from Dunedin to Pukerangi and back on a wet day, ending up with a sodden camera, but happy. The poor weather didn't detract from the beauty of the Gorge, and it meant there were fewer of us on the train so we could switch seats for better views and generally enjoy ourselves with there being less of a crowd. The highlight of my trip? Being invited to ride the journey home in the drivers cab - what a fantastic experience!

    You board the train at Dunedin's elaborate masterpiece of a railway station (see separate tip). The traditional carriages are a pleasure to ride in and the windows reach over into the roof space giving excellent views. Some are refurbished 1920's stock, whilst others have been built especially for the Railway. You can stand outside to the rear of each carriage, a real thrill as you clatter over viaducts through the Gorge.

    The first part of the trip takes you through a rather industrial part of Dunedin, past Carisbrook Stadium, and briefly stopping at Hindon before moving off through rolling hills and heading for the wilder scenery of the Gorge itself. As the scenery changes, you realise you are following the path of a river, the Taieri, and the journey to Pukerangi takes you through 10 tunnels and over several viaducts. The train makes brief photo stops along the way, and there is a running commentary given over the trains speakers.

    By the way, if you are a souvenir hunter, DO buy them on the train rather than at the station - prices are a little cheaper.

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    New Zealand's Most Photographed Building

    by allikat Updated Apr 11, 2008

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    Dunedin Railway Station
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    This extravaganza of a railway station is believed to be New Zealand's most photographed building. In a nation rich with natural beauty, Dorling Kindersley picked this building to be the only feature of NZ to make their list of "The World's 200 Must-See Places". I have to say, I love it.

    Get here early if you can - tour buses will clutter up the front of the building on a regular basis throughout the day, and the Taeiri Gorge Railway leaves from here, meaning the inside is periodically transformed from a photographers paradise into a swarming mass of tourists. But be here in between the crowds, and you can marvel at this absolute gem of a place. This is a building just begging to be photographed.

    It was built between 1904-06 and has since been restored to it's original glory. The interior is tiled with those thick, heavy, ornate tiles much loved by the Edwardians. The floor is a huge mosaic depicting New Zealand Railway emblems and motifs. The ornate ticketing windows are now only for show, and a grand staircase carries you up to a gallery, allowing you to see the whole from above.

    The station also houses the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (entry fee applicable) and there is a great bar/cafe, Scotia, with an impressive selection of Whisky, but to be honest I was content merely to enjoy the station itself.

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    The Octagon

    by allikat Written Feb 5, 2007

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    The Octagon, with St Paul's and the Town Hall
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    The Octagon forms the heart of Dunedin's city centre. A central green area is surrounded on all sides by St Pauls Cathedral, The Town Hall and Tourist Information Centre, the Civic Centre, the Public Library and lots of bustling cafes and bars. The poet Robbie Burns' statue holds pride of place, and you can follow 'Writers Walk' and read plaques set into the pavement commemorating notable poets and writers with Dunedin connections. A craft market is held here on a Friday, and the green is a popular hang-out for students and locals.

    From The Octagon you can find your way easily to all the city tourist attractions, and as the Tourist Information Office is here it makes it a logical place to start out from when exploring. It is also the starting point for some of the local tour bus companies.

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    Visit Olveston

    by allikat Written Feb 4, 2007

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    Olveston
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    Olveston is a marvellous old family home now open to the public. I found it by accident - I had gone to photograph Knox Church (see separate tip) and saw the brown tourist sign pointing the way up a steep hill. With time to spare I decided to take a look.

    As it turns out, you will do better to plan your visit here - viewing the house is by guided tour only, and I was lucky that I arrived about ten minutes before one was due to start.

    The house was built between 1904/06 and was designed for a family of four - bear that in mind when I tell you it has 35 rooms, of which you get to see (if I remember rightly) 18. Olveston was designed with comfort in mind and even has a central heating system, something that few New Zealand families enjoy even today. The furnishings and paintings on display form quite a collection, you certainly get the impression that the family had an appreciation for the finer things in life and the means with which to acquire them! This also means that photography is not allowed inside the house.

    Olveston was only ever lived in by the Theomin family for whom it was built and was lived in by their daughter Dorothy right up until her death in 1966. She bequeathed the house and it's contents to the City of Dunedin in her will, and as a result you get an incredible insight into the domestic life of a well-to-do family and their servants. The tour guide (my group was shown around by a wonderful Scottish lady) does a great job in bringing the family to life as you move through the rooms, and it was stipulated in Dorothy Theomin's will that any visitors able to play the piano even a little were to be invited to play a few notes on her grand piano ("well done" to the American lady in our group who overcame her shyness to do just that!).

    As well as the house are an acre or so of well-tended gardens, including a glasshouse filled with lilies and ferns.

    Tours last about an hour, and are held between 10am and 4pm every day except Christmas Day. Prices are $14.50 NZ per adult, $5.00NZ per child.

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    First Church of Otago

    by allikat Updated Feb 5, 2007

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    First Church of Otago
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    The First Church of Otago is an important piece of Dunedin's early Scottish heritage. It was established upon the arrival of the Reverend Thomas Burns and the first immigrants from the Free Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). The church here now, completed in 1873, is not the original (I believe it is actually the third to have stood here) and in fact it is built on the site of a hill. Bell Hill was levelled so that this church could be built, and the old bell which called earlier congregations to work and to worship is displayed in the church grounds.

    First Church is a delicious Gothic style building, all spires, tracery and stained glass. It feels far bigger inside than the outside leads you to expect, and like many other larger Presbyterian churches there is a substantial upper gallery to house a large congregation. There is a Heritage and Visitors Centre attached to the church (open Monday - Saturday 10am - 4pm) which houses an excellent display of local history and information about the church and the Rev. Thomas Burns. Outside are wide, empty, manicured lawns - you would never know you are only a few steep steps from the heart of Dunedin.

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    LARNACH CASTLE GARDENS

    by balhannah Written Jan 23, 2010

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    Laburnum Arbour

    The gardens.....they are large, so be prepared for some walking as they cover 35 acres!

    Renowned as one of NZ’s finest gardens it is a top rating “Garden of International Significance”.

    They are constanly being developed to their original form, so far, it has taken 40 years of hard work by Margaret Barker who is now the owner. When they bought the Castle, there was little of the garden remaining.
    Larnach had planted a shelter belt of Cypress for wind protection on all sides, not all this has survived, because Margaret removed some, so the "Barkers" could enjoy the lovely views.
    The Laburnum Tunnel is one point where there is a spectacular vista through the tunnel and down to the harbour.
    Original framework of paths, hedges and trees and been found and established again.

    There are nine different gardens.......
    South Seas Garden, Larburnum Arch & Green Room, Patterned garden, Lost Rock Garden, Serpentine Walk, Rain Forest and Alice Lawn.
    Spring to summer is the prettiest time to visit when the perennial borders are in full flower, the Azalea's and Rhododendron's are at their best, and many others are in full bloom.
    Visit in Autumn, and the Scottish Heathers are flowering and follow the Native trail

    Make sure you look at your grounds map so that you don't miss anything!

    These are beautiful gardens, and ones that are constantly being improved, I will be returning for another visit for sure!

    Entry to the Castle's gardens and grounds, ballroom cafe, historic stables and outbuildings. Informative garden and native plant trail brochures and maps provided to assist with exploring the gardens and grounds.
    Adult $10.00 Child (5-14) $ 3.00

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    The Worlds Steepest Street.

    by allikat Updated Feb 5, 2007

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    From the top of Baldwin Street
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    Baldwin Street in Dunedin claims to be the World's Steepest Street. I know there are a couple of other places around the world that claim to be so, but Baldwin certainly is steep! Mostly, people hover around the bottom, gazing up to the top and looking a bit daunted. Some, like me, cheat and drive up to the top, take a picture, and drive back down and away. A few intrepid souls make the whole ascent on foot, and on the day I was there one local in shorts and running vest was repeatedly skipping up and down the hill, sometimes backwards...He must make that a habit, because Baldwin Street has since been on TV after a group of unicyclists made their annual Baldwin Street ascent, and he was in the background doing the same thing.

    A gift shop at the bottom will sell you a certificate saying you've climbed it. Call me an old cynic, but shouldn't they be selling them at the top?

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    DUNEDIN RAILWAY STATION

    by balhannah Written Jan 22, 2010

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    Dunedin station

    What an impressive building is the Dunedin Railway station.

    The fully restored Station is of Flemish Renaissance-style architecture, and features white Oamaru limestone facings on black basalt rock, it certainly grabs your attention!
    As in a lot of places, the station in years gone by was extremely busy, in fact, it was New Zealand's busiest, handling up to 100 trains a day. Today, and only a few use the Station, one of them being the Taieri Gorge Railway tourist train.

    The use of the station has now changed. The one kilometre main platform is the country's longest and every year in October becomes what is probably the world's longest catwalk, for the South Island's main fashion show. There is also a large restaurant and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the Otago Art Society located in the building. A produce market is held in the station's grounds to the north of the building every Saturday morning.

    We had to catch a train from here, so had a good look, but if you don't still come in a have a wander around, marvel at the ceilings and the Royal Doulton tiles.

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    Taieri Gorge Railway

    by 80-bettyboo Written Jan 15, 2005

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    one of the photographic stop

    Operate a daily The Taieri Gorge from the Dunedin Railway Station through the Taieri River Gorge to Pukerangi (and to Middlemarch on summer Sundays) and only accessible by train.It takes 4 hour return. The scenery is just fantactic.
    You will also have photographic stops and on board refreshments will make your journey unforgettable.
    You can make the return journey to Pukerangi, or Middlemarch, or use the train as the one leg of your journey to or from Queenstown and Central Otago connecting `Track & Trail' coach..

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    SCENIC DRIVE OTAGO PENINSULA

    by balhannah Updated Jan 23, 2010

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    Lookout over Otago Peninsula

    I hope that if you are in Dunedin, that you can do this scenic drive. There is plenty to see and do!

    Located along the way are plenty of Art Studio's and Galleries, we made a stop at "Happy Hens" for a unique souvenir from New Zealand, it's located at Portabello.

    Another stop was Larnach Castle, a beautiful Castle with just as beautiful gardens, well worth a look.

    High cliff road, which runs through the middle of the Peninsula has magnificent views.
    We did a round trip, followed the coast road one way, and came back the other.

    Our final destination was The Royal Albatross Centre is nestled at the foot of Taiaroa Head. The Royal Albatross Centre is open daily all year except Christmas Day.
    Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of the year to view the colony, that is
    from the 24th November until the 16th September each year.
    Wildlife is prolific here, Albatross, Shags, Seals, Sea Lions, Sea Elephants, and two varieties of Penquins.

    The whole journey is only 64 kms round trip

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    Railway Station

    by grets Written Sep 16, 2004

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    Known as "Gingerbread George", New Zealand Railways official architect, George A. Troup, designed and built Dunedin's railway station in 1904-07 in the Flemish Renaissance style. It is worth taking a peek inside to see the Royal Doulton mosaic floor and architectural ceramics as well as stunning stained glass windows.

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    SIGNAL HILL LOOKOUT

    by balhannah Written Jan 22, 2010

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    The bronze figures at the lookout

    What a great view we had from this lookout, the site of Dunedin’s New Zealand Centennial memorial. The views were over most of Dunedin and its harbour, fantastic!

    There are bronze figures on the memorial, these were added after the war. They represent 100 years of British sovereignty (1840 - 1940).
    The male figure, "History", represents New Zealand’s first hundred years........
    The female figure spinning, "The Thread of Life", the unfolding of the second century.

    In June 1957, plaques were added, one showing the old provincial seal of Otago province, the other three ferns.

    Embedded in the memorial is a piece of rock from Edinburgh Castle.

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    LARNACH CASTLE - INTERIOR

    by balhannah Updated Jan 23, 2010

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    Bedroom in Larnach Castle
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    Larnach Castle is New Zealand's only Castle

    There is a choice of visiting everything..............
    OR..........Just the gardens...........
    Once the shell of the Castle was built, it was another 12 years to finish embellishing the interior. Expense was not an option!

    We visited the interior and saw a priceless Venetian glass wall, antique furniture and Victorian articles, ornate interior carving, detailed stonework, woodcarving, plasterwork and glass.

    If you like antique furniture then I think you will enjoy the Castle interior.

    The castle consists of forty-three rooms and a large ballroom. The Bedrooms and beds were all different style, some had matching floral curtains, bed cover, bed head, dressing table stool and even the placemats were matching!
    The baby's nursery, with its iron cot sitting in the centre of the room, dark furniture, adult paintings on the walls, nothing that made it look like a nursery, not like we do today.
    I thought the stair case was magnificent, also, the room which was complete in wood, ceiling and walls, beautiful!
    The dining rooms and sitting rooms, and others, I really enjoyed looking and seeing how they lived in the past.

    You can now stay here in one of the lodges or stables, so check out the website if you need more information.

    Entry to the Castle in 2010 including the tower, ballroom cafe, gift shop, Castle gardens, grounds, historic stables and outbuildings. Informative brochure provided, in several languages
    Adult $25.00 Child (5-14) $10.00

    OPEN.... 9am daily, last admission 5pm

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    LARNACH CASTLE

    by balhannah Written Jan 23, 2010

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    Larnach castle

    Larnach Castle is New Zealand's only Castle

    It is a Neo gothic Castle that has lovely architecture, carved ceilings, antiques and furnishings, it is beautiful inside and out!

    The history of this Castle is quite fascinating.
    It all began with William Larnach , of Scottish descent, being born in 1833 in New South Wales, Australia. His banking career began in Melbourne then followed the gold rush to the Australian goldfields. When gold was discovered in Otago, in the 1860's, Larnach became the manager of the Bank of Otago in Dunedin.

    When it came to building the Castle, Larnach a man of great vision, created a magnificent residence for himself and his family.

    The site he chose was on a hill, giving panoramic views of Dunedin, Otago Harbour, the Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean. The site was cleared, then approx 200 men spent 3 years building the shell of the Castle and then European craftsmen spent 12 years embellishing the interior

    Materials from all over the world were used - marble from Italy, slate from Wales, tiles from England, glass from Venice and France. No expense was spared in creating Larnach's dream home! Many New Zealand native woods were also used - kauri, rimu floors and honeysuckle panelling. In 1885 a 3000 square foot Ballroom was also added.

    Larnach was not so lucky in his love life, he was married three times and had six children. He was pre deceased by his first two wives and his eldest daughter, Kate. He took his own life in the New Zealand parliament buildings in 1898. After Larnach's suicide in 1898 the family was torn apart by legal battles over Larnach's property as he died intestate. The family then sold the Castle in 1906..

    Very nice to have a look at, we really enjoyed seeing all the antiques, unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so I had to buy a postcard set from the shop for my memories.

    We were impressed with this Castle, enjoyed the beautiful interiors, the planned garden with its plants and the views!

    Entry to the Castle in 2010 including the tower, ballroom cafe, gift shop, Castle gardens, grounds, historic stables and outbuildings. Informative brochure provided, in several languages
    Adult $25.00 Child (5-14) $10.00

    Gardens & Grounds Only (self-guided)

    Entry to the Castle's gardens and grounds, ballroom cafe, historic stables and outbuildings. Informative garden and native plant trail brochures and maps provided to assist with exploring the gardens and grounds.
    Adult $10.00 Child (5-14) $ 3.00

    OPEN.... 9am daily, last admission 5pm

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