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If you were hoping to find haggis, whisky and houses built to look like Scottish castles on your trip to New Zealand, you’ve come to the right place. Named after the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, ‘Dun Edin’, Dunedin has a surprising Scottish heritage that can still be felt across the city. The town centre is compact enough to explore on foot, and the beautiful, rugged coastline is filled with a huge variety of wildlife. We’ve rounded up some of the best things to see, do, and eat to get the best experience of this unique city.
This opulent house, built by wealthy banker William Larnach in the late 19th century, has the claim to fame of being New Zealand’s only castle. The façade was designed to represent the Scottish castles of Larnach’s home, and no expense was spared in its construction using Italian marble, Welsh slate, and Venetian glass. Restored to its former glory in the late 1960s, the castle provides a fascinating insight into Dunedin during Otago’s gold rush years. Filled with period furniture and surrounded by manicured gardens, the castle offers beautiful views from its tower and you can even take high tea in the old ballroom.
The Otago Peninsula is home to a colony of northern royal albatross, the only place in the world where you can see them in their natural habitat on the mainland. Located at the foot of Taiaroa Head, the Royal Albatross Observatory is a must visit whilst you’re in Dunedin. The rocky cliffs are also home to red-billed gulls, royal spoonbills, Stewart Island shag and southern fur seals, so expect to see lots of fascinating wildlife during your visit. Pilots Beach, located nearby, also has a colony of little blue penguins.
Dunedin Railway Station
One of the city’s most celebrated pieces of architecture, the ornate Dunedin Railway Station was built in the Edwardian Baroque style and makes for imposing viewing. Although the architect, George Troup, who designed the spectacular station, was originally mocked for his ‘gingerbread style’ he was later knighted for his work on the building. Incorporating Neo-Gothic elements, the chequered exterior was created using dark basalt and limestone, before being finished with magnificent colonnades, balustrades, and mosaic paving. Dunedin station is still in use today and is the place you’ll depart from if you opt for a scenic rail trip to the Taieri Gorge.
Explore Otago Museum
If you want to get an insight into the heritage of Dunedin, one of the best places to start is Otago Museum. Featuring a number of exhibitions on the Maori and Pacific Island cultures that thrived here before European settlers, it shows a different side of Dunedin to the Scottish influenced buildings of the city. The museum also has a strong focus on the natural history of the area, with fascinating exhibits on both past and present wildlife in the area. Discovery World is one of the particular highlights, with hundreds of butterflies, birds, fish, turtles and geckos letting you get up close and personal in this tropical jungle environment. Perfect for kids of all ages, you’ll find plenty to entertain you at the museum.
Step into the Past at Olveston Historic Home
Another interesting attraction for anyone interested in Dunedin’s history, the Olveston Historic Home is a frozen time capsule of New Zealand’s European-influenced past. Relatively unaltered since 1906, the house contains everything left behind by the Theomin family who were the last to live here. The house contains David Theomin’s amazing collection of artefacts from across the globe, with an East Asian influence. Chinese jade and Japanese weaponry are just some of the fascinating things on display. Outside, the house is a fine example of English Arts and Crafts Movement-inspired architecture, with a beautiful façade and extensive gardens.
Discover Nature Naturally
The Otago Peninsula is known for its amazing wildlife, but the delicate eco-structure means you have to be careful when exploring this unique habitat. This is why taking a Nature’s Way Naturally expedition is such a great way to explore the area. Designed to be the most environmentally friendly way to showcase the diversity of Otago’s wildlife this is the best way to witness nature in its most natural way possible. Not only does it look after this delicate environment, but the trip is likely to be the closest you will get to wild seals and their pups or yellow-eyed and blue penguins.
Recently awarded New Zealand’s Café of the Year title, Ironic Café is a lot more than tea, toasties, and slices of cake. Renowned for its wonderful flavour combinations and locally-sourced ingredients, be sure to drop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner at some point in your trip. Order yourself the afternoon tea and stare in wonder at the signature Cadbury’s dessert: chocolate custard cake, mandarin vodka fudge sauce, white chocolate panna cotta, dark chocolate ice cream, and macadamia nut toffee.
Enjoying a relaxed location on Dunedin’s harbour front, Plato’s uncomplicated approach to traditional food is as refreshing as it is delicious. As you would imagine, the menu has a distinct leaning towards everything seafood, no matter whether you’re visiting for brunch or dinner. Standout dishes include the homemade fish and chips, crispy squid and seafood chowder, which are all served with plenty of old-fashioned sourdough bread.
Drawing on Dunedin’s heritage, Scotia showcases the flavours of Scotland throughout its menu, from the haggis to the 250-strong whisky selection. Far from just a gimmick, everything from specialities such as smoked beef and game to the bread and sauces are prepared in house and the focus on quality can be tasted in everything. Wherever possible, produce is locally sourced and ethically farmed. Choose from a range of carefully selected New Zealand wines to drink alongside your meal, or sample something from the extensive whisky range.
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