How to spend 48 hours in Dunedin

Dunedin is by far one of the most enchanting cities in all of New Zealand. Renowned for its quirky cityscape, captivating cultural history, dramatic landscapes, rare wildlife, delectable cuisine and gorgeous scenery, Dunedin is somewhat of a haven for fervent sightseers. As the second largest city in New Zealand’s south and with only 48 hours to enjoy it, you will be hard-pressed to see it all. Lucky for you we have crunched the numbers and put together a collection of the best places to visit during your short time in Dunedin.

Day 1

Explore Dunedin’s Rich History at the Luxurious Dunedin Railway Station and Family Favourite Otago Museum

Start your Dunedin adventure with something delicious and nutritious at one of the many vibrant cafes along Octagon city square. Some of our favourites include the Swan, Perc Café, and the Morning Magpie for something light and hands down the best coffee in town. 

After a quick caffeine fix, stretch your legs and wander over to one of Dunedin’s most prominent historic attractions – the Dunedin Railway Station. This early 1900s exponent of Flemish renaissance style architecture was nicknamed the ‘Gingerbread House’ due to its melange of Oamaru stone exterior with black basalt rock footings. The opulent interior is laced with mosaic tiles, Royal Doulton Porcelain and stained-glass windows, a reflection of the economic prosperity at the time. As one of New Zealand’s most photographed landmarks, it’s well worth a tour of this spectacular old edifice. 

Sticking with the historical theme, soak up the cityscape on a short trip up the road to one of New Zealand’s oldest and most popular museums – the Otago Museum. A great place to take the family and enjoy the beautiful butterfly garden, planetarium shows, science centre and array of amazing old historical relics. Something for everybody and great value for money, the amazing interactive exhibits will have both you and the kids glued for hours.

Uncover the Incredible Urban Artwork on the Dunedin Street Art Trail

After a top-notch morning exploring the city’s colourful history, drop back past Octagon Square for some lunch before heading off to uncover the captivating artwork of the Dunedin Street Art Trail. A fantastic compilation of local and international artistic expression paints the city in a sea of colour, creativity, and imagination, blending art and history as you weave your way through the storied streets of Dunedin. Tailing through the city centre and the old archaic Warehouse Precinct, the trail will take you past some of Dunedin’s oldest buildings including the St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin Prison, and Dunedin Law Courts with over 80 fascinating street art creations to discover. 

Drop in for a Beer at a Dunedin Brewery

After finishing up your journey around the city centre it’s time to take a load off and quench your thirst at one of the local breweries in town. Our favourite two, the historic Speights Brewery and Emerson’s Craft Brewery offer guided tours providing the perfect insight into the history of the brewery, various brewing techniques, and a tasting tray to sample some of the brewery’s finest drops. If you’re all tuckered out from a long day of sightseeing, then you can pull up a pew at one of the tables and grab an early dinner from one of the brewery’s delicious menu options. 

Fine Dining with a View at the Esplanade

As day turns to dusk, it’s time to let the hair down and soak up a few cheeky sundowners at one of Dunedin’s most prevalent nightlife hot spots. Dine with a view at the Esplanade in St Clair as you watch the waves stroke the city shore while tucking into some of the city’s finest Italian cuisine. Sink your teeth into one of their authentic Italian wood-fired pizzas or mouth-watering braised lamb pappardelle as you enjoy the cosy ambience of this popular seaside bistro. If you aim to take things up a notch, step no further than the best thing since sliced bread at Dunedin’s Toast Bar. With award-winning cocktails, craft beers and tasty bar treats, this hidden gem is the perfect place to unwind for some chilled vibes and friendly banter. Or if you’re feeling a little fancy, pop on over to Vault 21 for a peek at their Asian-inspired fusion menu guaranteed to get the taste buds humming. Go in early for a relaxing meal, stay a little later and bust a move as the place transforms into one of Dunedin’s premier entertainment bars. 

Day 2

Unlock the Mysteries Surrounding Larch Castle

Rise and shine with an early visit to Larnach Castle. A stunning example of master craftsmanship, built back in 1871 under the guidance of William Larnach, New Zealand’s only castle showcases spectacular panoramic views of Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula and Otago harbour. Draped in scandal and tragedy, unlock the mysteries surrounding this iconic slice of local history as you journey through its hallowed halls and luxurious gardens. 

For lunch, mosey on over to Glenfalloch Gardens Café for a tasty meal, situated on the forefront of the Otago Peninsula. Enjoy the idyllic garden setting at one of Dunedin’s most popular outer city restaurants. Get stuck into the house-made chicken cacciatore or our personal favourite the lip-smacking slow-roasted beef brisket. 

Get up Close and Personal with Dunedin’s Local Wildlife

After lunch head to the tip of Otago Peninsula for a unique experience with the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony. These majestic giants of the sea are treated like royalty with widespread efforts to maintain the purity of this protected nature reserve. Learn all about these magnificent birds via a guided tour or watch the birds frolic in their natural habitat from the park’s exclusive observatory.  

For a further brush with mother nature, wander over to Wellers Rock Wharf for a Wildlife Cruise along the Otago Peninsula. The trip features exquisite views of volcanic highlands, sparkling beaches, and Dunedin’s historic lighthouse in an hour-long voyage up and down the coast. Keep an eye out for the royal albatross, fur seals, sea lions, blue penguins, and an array of rare seabirds. Be sure to book your ticket well in advance to avoid missing out, with no better way to get up close and personal with the Dunedin locals. 

As the sun starts to set, head back into town for a bite to eat at one of Dunedin’s many local restaurants and unwind before setting off on your next adventure through the heartland of New Zealand.

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