Dull Dunedin?


It was the challenge that started when one of my friends told me that Dunedin is dull. It  spurred me to action. Dunedin is a small city (just 118 000 people) located on New Zealand’s south Island. It is a city that punches well above its weight. Dunedin scrapes into my Top 40 cities (of over 100 000 people) at number 39. It sits between Liverpool, England and Krakow, Poland with a rating of 83%. (Paris, France my number one city scores 98% and Lagos, Nigeria gets 45% from me).

Dunedin is located 310km (192 miles) south of Christchurch on the A bit of trivia is that Dunedin is the farthest city in the world from London, England.The distant English capital sits 19,100 km (11,870 miles) away. This may have attracted the first European settlers, members of The Free Church of Scotland  who founded the city in 1848. The city experienced a boom after Gold was discovered in the region. The first University in New Zealand; Otago University was founded there in 1869.

Aesthetics 9.5/10

Dunedin straddles a valley. The core downtown is set out in a grid pattern with with a central plaza known as The Octagon.

Dunedin’s surrounding  suburbs   are scattered across the hills and along the coastline. The result is a city set in a spectacular backdrop of hills and water.

The town itself has some solid Scottish Edwardian  architecture including  St Paul’s Cathedral, the restored Town Hall and the magnificent Dunedin Railway Station. The streets of the city are filled with beautiful old houses. 


Liveability 7/10

Upon a visit to Dunedin in the mid-1890s, the American writer Mark Twain said: “The people here are Scots. They stopped here on their way to heaven, thinking they had arrived.” Dunedin has been nominated as one of the best places in New Zealand to live. 

The biggest negative factor of Dunedin, for me are its grey cold winters when  the temperature drops. The average winter temperature is 8 degrees celsius. This is far warmer than the average 1 degree Edinburgh experiences so the settlers got that right!

Unemployment is higher in Dunedin than other parts of New Zealand and median wages lower.


Culture 8/10

Dunedin has an amazing array of festivals and events including Winterfest and the Fringe Arts Festival.  There is a large Rugby culture. The Farmers Market at the main railway station is awesome.   There are good shops and a great range of restaurants and cafes

There are some excellent museums and galleries. I was impressed with the city’s fitness facilities and the beaches are pleasant (albiet wit freezing waters).


Safety 10/10

Dunedin is one of the safest cities in the world.


Transport 6/10

Dunedin had five cable car lines in addition to some tram (streetcar) lines, covering the city. The network included the world’s  steepest recorded tramline with with a  gradient of  1 in 3.75 . The services ceased line by line between 1950 and 1957. This is a shame because a cable car system would have put Dunedin on the map as the only city apart  San Francisco with this unique transport option. Remnants of the old lines can still be found and there has been talk of re opening a cable car line.

The city also had a suburban rail system which was shut down in 1979.

Dunedin now has a basic 18 route bus system (12 routes on weekends) operated by three companies under the brand name “GoBus”. The compact downtown is very walkable and most key tourist locales are easily accessible by bus. Any more than this, however and the system is limited forcing people into cars to traverse the city. 

The airport, because of the terrain, is 30 km (21 miles) away neccesiting an expensive trip in taxi, shuttle bus or hire car. 


Vibe 9/10

As one American living in the city says: Dunedin has a nice, funky vibe . The 20 000 students that flood the city annually keep it young.

Top Ten Dunedin

  1. Toitu Otago Settlers Museum- the social history of Dunedin is superbly laid out in this throughly entertaining museum
  2. Penguin Place–  a private conservation reserve aiming to help save the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin.
  3. Baldwin Street -the world’s steepest residential street – which I have run up
  4. Taieri Gorge Railway-this can be done as a day long excursion or as a prelude to riding a bicycle along the Otago Rail Trail
  5. Dunedin Public Art Gallery
  6. Key city buildings: Dunedin Railway Station, First Church, St Paul’s Church, St Joseph’s Cathedral and Regent Theatre
  7. Farmers market
  8. St kilda/St Clair beach- a walk along the coastline here is delightful 
  9. Otago Peninsula
  10. Speights Brewery tour and Cadbury Chocolate Tour



  1. I was just in Dunedin on Valentine’s Day and loved it. The train station is beautiful, inside and out. The Penguin Place was amazing for what they do – never imagined I’d be walking in trenches to view chicks. Did you get out to the rookery to view the Royal Albatross, the only place you will find them in New Zealand?

    I brought back to the US 6 skeins of yarn that is made from possum and merino wool combined. Can’t wit to begin knitting using it.

  2. We love Dunedin though Queenstown is a bit more exciting. Dunedin has a laid back elegance. I agree with your top ten list for the most part. The train trek via the Taleri Gorge Railway is a must. Penguin Place was a disappointment but to be fair, it may have just been an off day for the penguins.

    Two things to add to the list would be Larnach Castle, a wonderfully restored home, and the Cadbury factory and the free chocolate samples that go with it.

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