Destination Guide: Dunedin

From the first people to live in the Dunedin area, Kahui Tipua, around 1250 AD to sealers, whalers, and Scottish settlers, through to the modern-day students, all have contributed in creating a rich and varied history that can be explored on a Dunedin family holiday.

If you’re looking to take a family holiday, mini-break, or even just a weekend, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create wonderful memories with your family.

Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans. 

Fun family experiences

Whether you’re looking for an adventure, or your just want to explore the architecture and natural attractions on offer, we have some fantastic suggestions for you.

Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle

Aotearoa’s only castle is a must-see when you’re in Dunedin. Nestled on the spectacular Otago Peninsula, you can marvel at the stunning architecture and interiors, discover scandalous and tragic stories, enjoy spectacular views, and wander in the internationally significant garden.

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Royal Albatross Centre

Royal Albatross Centre

Home to the world’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony, these seabirds are the world’s largest. Visit the Centre to learn about their story and select from a range of tours of the colony and area. The chicks hatch in late February and don’t take their first flight until September so chances are you will see these fluffy balls of fun if you visit during this period.

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Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins Pukekura

Every evening kororā, the world’s smallest penguin, come out of the sea and head off to their burrows for the night. Watch from a purpose-built observation deck as kororā scurry up the beach and head to bed. Join a tour and learn all about these wee cuties.

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Hare Hill Horse Treks

Hare Hill Horse Treks

Only 20 minutes from town, Hare Hill Horse Treks operate on trails in open paddocks with magical views of the Dunedin harbour and the stunning Aramoana beaches. Treks and lessons are suitable for all abilities.

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Tūhura Trust Science Centre

Tūhura Science Centre

Tūhura, Aotearoa’s largest science centre and the world’s only bicultural science centre, is bursting with captivating exhibits and activities. Experience a tropical forest featuring exotic butterflies and a waterfall of over five metres, a three-storey indoor slide, a bike-riding skeleton, and 43 other hands-on interactives to awaken wonder, curiosity, and reveal the science in everything that surrounds us.

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 Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden

Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden

From a desire to celebrate the city’s Chinese heritage and its valuable sister city relationship with Shanghai comes this perfect miniature of a traditional Chinese landscape painting. Capturing the essence of nature, every season brings unexpected surprises.

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Natures Wonders Naturally

Natures Wonders Naturally

Enjoy a wildlife adventure amongst the world’s rarest penguins, hoiho or yellow-eyed penguin, plus blue penguins, fur seals, and albatross in their natural environments. Tour transport options are coach, boat or ATV.

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Free family activities

Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.

Leith Valley Glow Worms

An after-dark treat! The glow worms are on a cliff face and further round in a cave – approximately a 15-minute walk in each direction. Don’t forget lights – head torches are the best.

Street Art

As you are travelling around Dunedin you will notice the amazing street art, but on the side of the Victoria Hotel is extra special at night time – UV lights bring morepork, weta and moths on the painting to light.

Baldwin Street

Tucked away in a suburban street, Baldwin Street is unfeasibly steep! It’s only 350 metres to the top but you’ll be surprised how long it takes.

Organ Pipes 

It’s a bit of a hike up the track but the incredible basalt pillars formed here by volcanic action are worth the effort.

Taiaroa Head

Explore Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula and discover the historic fort, a lighthouse, albatross viewing platform, nature displays, and a huge Armstrong Gun. Keep your eye out for fur seals/kekeno, sea lions/pakake, and penguins.

Woodhaugh Gardens

This pretty inner-city playground features a paddling pool and stream for those hot days, bush for critter hunting and hide and seek, free gas BBQ’s, a playground, and importantly, toilet facilities.

Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Taiaroa Head or Woodhaugh Gardens adventure maps before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

Family-friendly eateries

All the fresh Otago air will be making you extra hungry but luckily there’s an exciting selection of places to refuel.

The Perc Cafe

In central Dunedin and in a beautiful heritage building, The Perc offers great coffee, an extensive selection of cabinet goodies along with a menu. The kids will love the milkshakes, baked goods, and toasted sandwiches.

Patti’s and Cream

Come to The Scoop Shop for handmade ice cream made using local milk and produce. Keep an eye out for their old Bedford truck Betty, around town serving burgers and ice cream.

Long Dog

Perched on the Esplanade at St Clair’s beach and near the hot water pools, Long Dog has a huge variety of baked goods including cake, scones, slices, muffins, and scrolls plus stunning views.

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Vogel Street Kitchen

Located in the funky Warehouse Precinct, the exposed brick and beams are paired with retro furniture to create a casual vibe. Enjoy woodfired pizzas and sandwiches plus an all-day menu and excellent coffee.

Mamas Donuts

Hand-rolled, old-fashioned donuts with such a huge range of mouth-watering flavours you’ll struggle to choose!

Where to stay

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.

Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels

Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels

Located in St Kilda, close to sandy beaches, the hot saltwater pool, indoor ice-skating and handy to the Otago Peninsula, the Park offers a range of family-friendly accommodation including two and three-bedroom motel units.

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Wanaka Hotel

Cable Court Motel

Studio and one-bedroom units on Cumberland Street in central Dunedin and walking distance to the Tūhura Science Centre. Rooms have a kettle, toaster, microwave and fridge. Pet-friendly units available.

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858 George Street Motel Dunedin

858 George Street Motel 

Interconnecting rooms can create a spacious two-bedroom and two-bathroom suite ideal for family groups. Award-winning luxury accommodation in the heart of Dunedin with free off-street parking.

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Hunters Moon

Hunters Moon Boutique Farm Stay

Combine your holiday with a farm stay. At Hunters Moon in Mosgiel, just out of Dunedin, families can enjoy comfortable accommodation plus explore the garden, collect eggs, and feed the sheep and alpaca. A full guest kitchen is available and continental breakfast is included.

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