Welcome to Dunedin and the Catlins
Dunedin – often known as ‘Edinburgh of the South’ – is one of New Zealand’s oldest cities. It was founded over 150 years ago and was first port of call for fortune hunters from around the world who’d come to make it big in the gold fields of Central Otago and the South Island’s west coast. During the height of the rush, the port of Dunedin was home to as many as 65 vessels at a time, and the hills around the city were covered in white tents. By 1870 Dunedin had become New Zealand’s largest and richest city.
Dunedin’s Scottish ancestory is evident in the architecture and names around the city and ‘Dunedin’ itself is old Gaelic for Edinburgh. The heart of Dunedin is the Octagon and most attractions are walking distance from it. You’ll find shops, cafes and restaurants galore around here, along with the main information centre, museums and cinema.
The other focal point of Dunedin is the beach – head for St Clair for a bathe in the hot salt water pools. Even in winter the beach is worth a stroll – tuck into a hot chocolate and admire the die-hard, year round surfers!
The Otago Peninsula is mostly of volcanic origin and the pacific side is steep and rugged, with spectacular views and gorgeous tucked-away bays. The harbour side tends to be sunny and sheltered and this, along with its abundance of wildlife makes it an ideal set off point for a boat or kayak trip. Highlights of a Peninsula visit include Lanarch Castle – New Zealand’s only castle – both the grounds and castle are worth exploring and there’s a café and toilets on-site. Further along is the cute village of Portobello, with pub, restaurant, shop and café, safe beaches and friendly, family accommodation.
At the end of the Peninsula you’ll find Penguin Place, home to the little Yellow Eyed penguins, and the Royal Albatross colony and information centre. This is the only piece of mainland in the world where Albatross nest – you can spot these giant birds and occasionally their young, on the hills around the colony. There’s lots of indoor information, café and toilets. A drive from the city centre right to the end of the peninsula at Taiaroa Heads takes around one hour.
Located between Dunedin and Invercargill on the Southern Scenic Route, follow the road south of Kaka Point through rainforest, alongside waterfalls, caves and beaches. Highlights include Nugget Point – breeding area for yellow eyed penguins and home to the Nugget Point lighthouse, Cathedral Caves - a 20 minute bush descent and beach walk to spectacular caves (only accessible at low tide), Curio Bay – famous for one of the world’s finest fossilised forests, its also home to yellow eyed and blue penguins, seals, sea lions and Hectors Dolphins, Slope Point – Southernmost point of the South Island and Waipapa Point – golden beach and lighthouse; scene of New Zealand’s worst shipping disasater when in 1881 the Tararua was wrecked and 131 lives were lost.