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Fun In Dunedin!

Famed for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Dunedin is the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island. Having spent the past few nights on the move (Christchurch, Mount Cook, Oamaru), we finally had the chance to call somewhere home for more than one night. And what a home it was! Dunedin is an amazing city to kick back and spend some fun family time.  

What did we do in Dunedin?

The Otago Peninsula

  • Jutting out from eastern Dunedin is the Otago Peninsula, a nature lover’s dream. We experienced one of the most magical evenings of our South Island roadtrip at the Royal Albatross Centre, which offers wildlife and cultural tours of Taiaroa Head. Our evening started at dusk with a bite to eat in the cafe, followed by an introduction to the Northern Royal Albatross. These majestic seabirds spend most of their lives at sea. However, Taiaroa Head is the only mainland breeding colony for albatross in the southern hemisphere. Which means that once you’ve walked up to the indoor viewing area, you might be lucky enough to spy on them! We saw a few parents guarding their chicks and giggled at the ‘teenagers’ posturing and hanging around. I’m not normally a bird lover but this tour took my breath away.
  • After the albatross viewing, we had guided tour of underground Fort Taiaroa, built on the headland to counter the potential threat of a Russian invasion in the late 1880s and later used for training and defence during WWI and WWII
  • Then followed the second half of our nature experience, Blue Penguin viewing! Tours take place at dusk on a viewing platform at Pilots Beach. The ‘Korora’ are the world’s smallest penguins. Despite the torrential rain, it was well worth the wait, watching the first ‘rafts’ swim in and land on the beach. The penguins are beyond adorable, marching up the beach in droves to their nests. If you’re doing this tour with young kids in tow, be mindful of the fact you may not see the penguins till past 9.30pm in the summer.
  • The drive alone from downtown Dunedin out along the Otago peninsula to Larnach Castle is stunning.
    Larnach Castle itself is just the right size to keep kids entertained. Ask for a ‘Children’s Guide’ and then get your child to guide you around the castle (as we did with our 7 year old!).
    The Guide shares items that kids should look out for and an interesting and abbreviated commentary for each room. Built in 1871 by William Larnoch, the castle has interesting interiors, beautiful grounds and a cafe. Best of all there’s a dress up box which I think should be compulsory in all stately homes!

Downtown Dunedin

  • You can’t come to Dunedin and not pay homage to the New Zealand outpost of Cadbury’s. Chocolate is still manufactured at the Cadbury factory in Dunedin and the Cadbury World tour is great fun. Most importantly you get a tonne of free chocolate. My kids loved the Sensory Lab where you can make your own creation. At the end of the tour, you can keep scoffing more chocolate at the Cafe where scintillating hot chocolates await.
  • My favourite museum in Dunedin was the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.  The museum has free admission and is pretty big.  My kids enjoyed playing house in the recreated wattle & daub homes.  In the old bus foyer area are toys (and sofas for parents)
    The most fascinating part for me was the Exhibition on the famous ‘Dunedin Study’. In 1975 health researchers from the University of Otago began studying a group of 1037 children born in Dunedin three years earlier. Forty years later, they are still being studied! I loved the recreation of the children’s bedrooms through the years, I’m almost certain mine looked exactly the same in the 90s.
  • The Otago Museum has several exhibitions that will interest the kiddies.  Free of charge is the ‘Animal Attic’, filled with taxidermy, dead insects and pickled things in jars.  We had tickets for ‘We Are Stars’, a 3D show in the Planetarium and well worth watching.  You can also pay extra to visit Discovery World, where you can watch science demonstrations and even release exotic butterflies in the Tropical Forest
  • If it’s raining (let’s face it, highly likely), stop in to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery which is free. There’s some interesting art on display, including famed Dunedin painter Francis Hodgkins and there’s a little children’s room on the ground floor where they can draw/colour.
  • Baldwin Street is the world’s steepest residential street.  It truly is mind bogglingly steep and lots of fun to drive up and roll down.
  • I love historic homes but I know my children don’t. So I made a deal with Mr Jetlag, he took the kids to Moana Pool while I headed off on a guided tour of Olveston House. Olveston is an authentic and original historic home depicting the life of a wealthy merchant family in the early part of the twentieth century.  I really enjoyed the one hour tour and it certainly isn’t suitable for young kids. Moana Pool in the other hand was a big hit with the family, with its wave pool and watersides.

Where did we eat?

  • If you’ve been out along the Otago Peninsula, stop in for lunch at the 1908 Cafe in Portobello village. Despite the restaurant’s fancy-ish interior, it is child friendly with a decent kids menu. The lamb shank was excellent!
  • Rated no 1 on Tripadvisor, the Ironic Cafe opposite the famed Railway station is worthy of the accolade. The restaurant has a relaxed vibe and the seafood chowder and lamb are excellent.
  • 5 minutes walk from the Otago Museum is the Good Earth Cafe, a delicious and wholesome lunch spot.
  • Dunedin is a joy for the coffee lover. My favourite was from Mazagran Espresso Bar, close to the Octagon.

Where did we stay?

The icing on our Dunedin cake was our amazing airbnb rental in Roslyn. Having spent the past 2 nights in motels, it was wonderful to have a big space with separate bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and balcony overlooking the bay. The apartment was walking distance to several cafes and restaurants and only a 10 minute drive away from downtown Dunedin.

 

A huge thank you to Sharon O’Loughlin from Dunedin Marketing who was invaluable with her Dunedin advice! Thanks also to Sophie Barker from the Otago Peninsula Trust who showed us the beauty of the Otago Peninsula (and indeed her old home Larnach Castle!)

4 comments

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  1. Alex

    My step-son recently got back from visiting family in Dunedin and we loved looking at his pictures and hearing his stories – it sounds like a great place! Sounds like you had a lot of fun too. #citytripping

  2. Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)

    That 90s bedroom is brilliant! It sounds as though there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied for weeks at Dunedin. #citytripping

  3. WanderMum

    SO much to do there – for all the family. Looks like you had an incredible time and well done for getting to sightsee by yourself. The 90s bedroom certainly does look familiar! Thanks for linking #citytripping

  4. Wandermust mummy

    This is very helpful – we go in 2018 and will definitely be returning to this #fearessfamtrav

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