Dunedin is the second-largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, after Christchurch to the north. It is located in the Otago region on the southeast coast of New Zealand and serves as the region’s principal city. Dunedin cruise passengers will find a stunning, energetic city center situated at the end of a long inlet. As your New Zealand cruise ship pulls into port, admire the extinct volcano, Mount Cargill, or simply stare into the shimmering sea.
Located across the inlet from Dunedin is the Otago Peninsula, a small area of land that packs in a lot of nature and wildlife. You’ll be able to see its rolling hills of green from across the water while exploring Dunedin’s city center, but to really experience the peninsula, you’ll want to explore it up close and personal. Some of the wildlife you might see here are colonies of albatross, sea lions, and even penguins.
One of the most picturesque places to see the bright white albatross during one of our cruises to Dunedin is at the Royal Albatross Centre, located at Taiaroa Head on the tip of the Otago Peninsula. It is the only place in the world where the Royal Albatross nests and breeds on a mainland. While visiting, you’ll be able to witness this and learn more about the ecosystem of the Otago Peninsula. You’ll also get picture-perfect views of a white-and-red lighthouse framed by the Pacific Ocean.
This is the only castle in New Zealand, and Dunedin cruise passengers get to see it while in port. Larnach Castle is situated on a hill overlooking the Otago Harbor and dates back to 1871 when it was built by local merchant baron and politician William Larnach. The stately castle has historically decorated rooms you can tour and lovely manicured gardens to walk around outside. The castle wasn’t always so fabulous, though. In 1967, it was in near-ruins when it was purchased by the Barker family, who restored it to its original splendor.
Baldwin Street is a famous street in Dunedin thanks to its status as the world’s steepest residential street. It’s a fun place to take a picture and walk up and down. You can even get a certificate saying you were there from the shop at the bottom of the street.
To see more of the Otago region, take a train ride around the area on the Taieri Gorge Railway. It leaves from Dunedin Railway Station and travels all around the stunning gorge, rivers, and mountainside plains that make up this breathtaking region. You’ll also travel over spectacular bridges, such as the Wingatui Viaduct, the second-largest wrought iron structure in the world that is in operation.
New Zealand has a prominent beer scene with many breweries located all over the country. One of its most popular local beers is Speight’s, and the brewery for it is located in Dunedin. You can take a tour of the brewery and learn how the beer is made, and then enjoy free beer samples at the end of the tour.
Take a 90-minute tour into the habitat of the yellow-eyed penguin, an endangered species that lives on the shores of the Otago Peninsula. The tour is conducted by Penguin Place Conservation Reserve, which is the world’s first entirely tourism-funded conservation program. Your visit will help these penguins to flourish! During the tour you’ll see the conservation reserve and how it operates, learn about the issues facing the yellow-eyed penguins, explore the reserve’s rehabilitation center, and see the yellow-eyed penguins out and about. In addition, you might see fur seals, blue penguins, and other native bird species.
Dunedin has a variety of dining options, from eclectic to upscale ambiances and traditional to international cuisine. Here are some top places to try during your Dunedin cruise port of call.
Speight’s Ale House
Located in Speight’s Brewery, this is a fun place for a pint and some South Island comfort food.
Ombrellos Kitchen & Bar
Another excellent place to get some craft beer and cuisine is at Ombrellos Kitchen and Bar. This restaurant features a quirky dining room that extends into a relaxing courtyard. Pair your meal with one of the 15 craft beers being poured.
This place offers excellent Turkish cuisine at a good value. Take-out is also available if you want to enjoy your meal at one of Dunedin’s parks. Make sure to try the walnut dip while you’re here.
Ironic Café and Bar
For a memorable café experience, head to Ironic Café and Bar, which won the award for New Zealand Café of the Year in 2014. Its dining area is equipped with a fireplace and overlooks Dunedin’s railway station. You can also enjoy a glass of local wine or beer in the adjacent, sculpture-filled courtyard. If the Pohutukawa smoked beef is on the menu, be sure to try it.
Traveling with your family or a group? You’ll love dining at Vault 21, which puts a focus on shared plates that the whole table can enjoy together. Vault 21 got the “Best Venison Dish” award at the Silver Fern Farms 2017 Master of Fine Cuisine awards, so you know what menu item you’ll want to try when there! The Paua fritters are also an excellent choice.
If you’re in the mood for some Asian cuisine, dine at Hutong during your cruise to Dunedin. It focuses on delicious casual cuisine with fresh flavors inspired by southeast Asia. Try the Kung Pao chicken here.
Scotland, gold, and literature all play a part in the history of Dunedin. The city was originally settled by Scottish immigrants escaping religious persecution, and the name Dunedin is even derived from the word for Edinburgh in Scottish Gaelic. After gold was discovered in the area in 1890, the population of Dunedin exploded, and it became the richest city in New Zealand. Though its gold rush heyday is long past, Dunedin still has a lot of charm that make it stand out. It is the home of the University of Otago, and the university town atmosphere with its focus on research and education is prevalent throughout Dunedin. The city is even designated as a UNESCO City of Literature.
The Dunedin cruise port for is actually located in Port Chalmers, a small town located about 25 minutes north of Dunedin. Shuttle buses connect Port Chalmers and Dunedin. Next to the port, you won’t find too much, but there is a helpful visitor center and an ATM. If you have some extra time back at the port before having to get on the ship, you can also check out Port Chalmers’ maritime museum and sculpture garden, or grab a snack or drink at one of the bars or cafes in Port Chalmers.
There are frequent shuttle buses connecting Port Chalmers with the Dunedin city center. Once in the city center, there is a local bus system that can take you around Dunedin for a small fee. Taxis are also usually available at the port to take travelers into Dunedin. It’s helpful for cruise passengers to already have cash on hand in the local currency, since not all taxi drivers take credit cards.
For a lot of shopping located in one central area in Dunedin, head to George Street. This street is located just off the Octagon and is home to boutiques and malls. If you’re looking for something closer to the ship, your best bet for shopping is to head to the New World Supermarket in Port Chalmers.
Tipping is not expected in New Zealand, but for good service, people tend to leave a small tip. Generally, around 10% of the total bill is the standard tip in New Zealand. ATMs can be found all around Dunedin, especially at local banks, such as the Bank of New Zealand. There is also an ATM in Port Chalmers. In Dunedin, you’ll use the New Zealand dollar. In addition, credit cards are widely accepted.