First published on 13 Jan 2011. Updated on 20 Jun 2012.
New Zealand’s largest university town, Dunedin’s architecture, rugged coastline and heritage gives you the feeling that you could be in northern Scotland – and that’s part of the beauty of coming to a town that’s incredibly unique. So unique in fact that it’s also home to a pair of lesbian albatrosses, the world’s rarest penguins, smallest bar and steepest street.
From those lesbian albatrosses (yes, seriously) to the world’s rarest penguins and the fine art of sheep shearing, the rugged Otago Peninsula is the region’s most intriguing and visually spectacular location. Start at Natures Wonders Naturally and take a drive around the headland on an 8-wheel-drive Argo ATV - on this tour you’ll get to see the yellow eyed penguins on their own private beach, along with fur seals and a quick sheep shearing demonstration. Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin (+64 3 478 1150). Afterwards, take a drive down the hill to the Royal Albatross Centre where guides will take you to see the two female royal albatrosses that incubated an egg last year and hatched a little chick in January. 1260 Harington Point Rd, Harington Point, Dunedin (+64 3 478 0497). Back in town, make sure you stop by Cadbury World and see how the famous brand makes chocolate. 280 Cumberland St, Dunedin (+64 3 467 7967). Then pull your own pint of ale at the Speight’s Brewery. 200 Rattray St, Dunedin (+64 3 477 7697).
Kiwis know the world’s best whitebait comes from the South Island and the top spot in Dunedin to indulge in some whitebait fitters is Plato. A retro-inspired space, Plato was formerly a hostel for seafarers from around the world and retains its links to the sea with an array of seafood dishes featuring local produce. 2 Birch St, Dunedin (+64 3 477 4235). Another dining hotspot is Pier 24 at the St Clair Beach Resort, where chef Michael Couglin specialises in dishes featuring prime NZ lamb and beef. 24 Esplanade, St Clair Beach, Dunedin (+64 3 456 0555).
Here at Time Out, we don’t need an excuse to go for a cocktail or two, so when we found out about one of the world’s smallest bars while wandering the streets of Dunedin, it had to be a must. The bar itself at Mou Very fits about six people inside and a tad more outside (or rather a corridor) and serves a good selection of top Kiwi reds, local ales and a cocktail or two if they haven’t run out of ice. 357 George St, Dunedin (+64 3 477 2180). A short walk away is perhaps the best bar on New Zealand’s South Island (and we’ve been to a few) – Pequeno. Tucked away down an alley, the quaint bar features a central fireplace and a Pinot Noir list that rivals any purveyor of fine booze in the land. It was one of our last stops, but make it your first. Lower Ground Floor, Savoy Building (Moray Place), 50 Princes St, Dunedin (+64 3 477 7830).
Where to stay
Down at Dunedin’s main surf spot, the St Clair Beach Resort offers a coastal getaway only 15 minutes drive from the heart of town. The resort’s 26 studio rooms and suites all come complete with king size bed, LCD TVs, iPod docking stations and complimentary robes to warm up in after a chilly swim across the street. Time Out recommends opting for a one-bedroom apartment, complete with great views of the beach and a deep spa bath. 24 Esplanade, St Clair Beach, Dunedin (+64 3 456 0555).
Virgin Blue’s sister airline Pacific Blue flies to Dunedin via Brisbane. Time Out recommends hiring a digEplayer, the airline’s portable in-flight entertainment system that features an array of TV shows, movies and music for $20 to keep you entertained on the three-hour hop across the ditch.