Picturesque churches, lush forests and rare wildlife fill the town of Ōtepoti (Dunedin) - the South Island’s second-largest city. Named after the Scottish Gaelic word for ‘Edinburgh’, Dunedin has a rich Scottish history and is also known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand because of the varied species that live in and around the town. As well as a large Scottish population, Ōtepoti is home to the South Island’s largest Māori tribe, Ngai Tahu. Ready to explore this city full of history and brimming with natural beauty? Pick up the keys to your Thrifty rental car, start your engine and let the adventures begin!
There’s no better way to start your day in Dunedin than with an engaging history lesson at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. With 14 themed galleries showcasing powerful stories of the region’s history, you’ll learn all there is to know about Dunedin - from its settlement in 1840 through to the 1861 gold rush as well as the developments that turned the town into what it is today. The museum features engaging and exciting artefacts that’ll pique your interest, including an original 1950s fire engine: Dunedin’s first proper computer and ‘Josephine’ - the town’s beloved Double Fairlie locomotive from the 1870s. With interactive displays and exhibits made to climb on, a visit to the museum is also the perfect place to keep the kids entertained.
Now that your thirst for knowledge has been quenched, it’s time to cool off with some of New Zealand’s best-selling beer at the Speight’s Brewery - on a sunny day in Dunedin, this is the place to be. It’s a 10-minute walk to the brewery from the museum and to get there you’ll pass through the Queens Gardens, where you can relax under a shady tree before continuing your Ōtepoti adventure.
At the Speight’s Brewery, those keen to learn about the oldest working Brewery in NZ can take on a guided tour. Here, you’ll learn about 141 years of brewing history, get an in-depth look at where the magic is made and - you guessed it - sample some award-winning beer. What could be better on a warm day in the South Island? When planning your visit to the brewery, remember to assign a designated driver.
Ready to feel like a king or queen for a day? Visit New Zealand’s only Castle, Larnach Castle, only 20 minutes away from the city centre. Opened in 1874, Larnach brings Gothic Revival architecture to life with stunning facades and unique interiors coupled with seven acres of verdant gardens. Looks familiar? You may know Larnach as the setting for the Lavania royal palace in the Netflix film, The Royal Treatment, and fans of the supernatural will recognise the castle as one of the country’s most haunted buildings - keep an eye out for any ghostly figures when pacing the halls! Built by William Larnach for his first wife, the grounds of the castle were chosen based on the site’s amazing views of the Otago Peninsula and Harbour, the city of Dunedin and the Pacific Ocean; all of which you can see from the castle tower. When visiting in spring or summer, you’ll spot blooming Azaleas, giant lilies and arch flowers all abloom throughout the grounds, with foliage and flora in every colour. Rated as a Garden of International Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust, the gardens are a popular setting for weddings and private events. With stunning natural beauty that shines through even more on a sunny day, pictures just don’t cut it - you’ll have to see it for yourself! If you don’t mind splurging, indulge in a high tea at the Ballroom Cafe or spend a night on the estate for a luxurious experience - after all, you are on holiday!
Take advantage of your rental car with a day trip to the beach town of Hampden. An hour’s north of Dunedin, Hampden is home to the intriguing Moeraki Boulders - which are exactly what they sound like - giant, spherical sandstone boulders scattered across Koekohe Beach. It’s a mystery how the boulders ended up here, with scientists estimating they date back about 65 million years! Kids will love hopping from boulder to boulder while adults admire the fascinating formations. Sounds like a plan. Pack up your towels, shovels, and spades for a fun-filled beach day out in Hampden.
The easternmost part of Dunedin forms the beginning of the Otago Peninsula, a stunningly scenic and popular strip that connects the 20 km long harbour to the sea. While on your way to the Peninsula, take a pit stop and visit the remains of the Dunedin Volcano - having erupted around 16 million years ago, today you can see what’s left of the now-extinct volcano.
Embrace the Otago sun with a scenic drive through the Peninsula with plenty of stops on offer throughout, including the Royal Albatross Centre, the Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance’s private eco-reserve and the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse, all providing epic experiences along the coastline. When it’s time for a bite, visit the quiet village of Portobello for an authentic fish and chips meal by the seaside.
Back in town, swap the shoreline for manicured lawns at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens and enjoy watching the sunset over the horizon before calling it a night. No matter your reason for visiting, Ōtepoti has something for everyone from the spirited traveller to the curious historian, and you can see it all in a Thrifty rental car.