Things to do in Dunedin – Cruise Stop
New Zealand has rich and varied wildlife, with some of the rarest found in Dunedin, the city wedged between the looming hills of Central Otago and the long-reaching Otago Harbour in southeast South Island. Beyond the wild ‘hoiho’ or yellow-eyed penguin, Dunedin charms visitors with its Scottish roots, evident in the city’s name which is derived from the Gaelic ‘Dun Eideann’.
The foresight of the founding Scots who fled religious persecution in their homeland can be appreciated today with a relaxed walk around The Octagon, an eight-sided plaza – marked no less by the statue of poet Robert Burns – that stands at the heart of the central business district and just 15 minutes away from Port Chalmers at the mouth of the harbour where cruise ships dock. You can enjoy some well-deserved retail therapy or sample Scottish brew with a side dish of fish and chips in the bustling shopping and dining venues that line The Octagon’s major arteries.
For a more immersive brewing experience, join an onsite 90-minute tour of Speight’s Brewery which has been operating since the late 19th century. A more ambitious jaunt would be to join a winery tour to Central Otago for the best of South Island’s Pinot Noir. The wine tour takes about five hours including time in transit, leaving a bit of time for families to follow the chocolate brick road to Cadbury World where children get to sample treats in a 75-minute factory tour.
The history and art aficionado may want to drop by Otago Museum, the keeper of South Island’s cultural and natural past, and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, featuring changing exhibits of contemporary art. Both are within walking distance of The Octagon. Around town, you can take in the many Victorian and Edwardian buildings and houses that were built at the height of the Gold Rush, or you can visit the campus grounds of New Zealand’s oldest, the 18,000-strong University of Otago, for more architecture dating back to mid-19th century.
Not to be missed is a visit to Larnach Castle and Gardens on the Otago Peninsula to hear about the scandalous history of the castle, and view this “Garden of International Significance”.
Otago Peninsula Wildlife
You will have plenty of opportunity to watch wildlife in your New Zealand cruise, but in Dunedin you can sneak up on them from behind camouflaged lookout points so you will be within earshot without disturbing their native habitats, or observe them from afar in an all-terrain or amphibious tour of the Otago Harbour. The harbour-facing shore of the Otago Peninsula is dotted with charming townships, but its Pacific-battered side, described as one of the most romantic places in New Zealand, is wind-swept and evokes a feeling of remoteness despite being close to the city centre.
The deserted sandy and rock-strewn beaches present excellent opportunities to spy on ‘hoiho’ from depressions in the sand, or watch royal albatrosses, whales, dolphins, seals and humpbacks from Taiaroa Head.