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Kiwis travel the world to experience everything from grand castles and renowned museums through to amazing natural attractions and beautiful beach destinations. When international travel isn’t on the cards, where do you go to get a taste of all of these things in New Zealand? Dunedin, of course.
Wreathed in volcanic hills and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Dunedin is where gothic architecture meets sweeping coastal landscapes, a wonderful mix of quirky urban charm and dramatic natural surrounds. Here you can visit New Zealand’s only castle, watch yellow-eyed penguins waddle along beaches, or take on the world’s steepest street.
If you’ve missed out on a European holiday this year, Dunedin’s wealth of beautiful Edwardian and Victorian architecture are a pretty good replacement; Olveston Historic Home could easily be mistaken for a grand aristocratic English estate à la Downton Abbey and has an astounding collection of precious antiques, artwork and artefacts from around the globe.
If you dream of an escape to Scotland, Larnach Castle does a pretty good impression. Transport yourself to the highlands with a sumptuous fireside banquet under the ballroom chandelier with a wee dram to complete the effect. Stroll the downtown streets and you can admire other heritage highlights such as the ornate Dunedin Railway Station, which could be plucked straight from Bruges with its signature Flemish architecture.
For an authentic glimpse of the orient, the Lan Yuan Chinese Garden offers a portal to old Shanghai from downtown Dunedin. Traditional and serene, the garden was built by Shanghai artisans as an inner-city haven for peaceful contemplation and features bridges, water features and a tea house. To replicate a trip to Japan, stop by the Dunedin Botanic Gardens and wander amongst the zen-like water features and bridges of the Japanese Garden.
To get a dose of cosmopolitan culture, the city’s notable number of museums and galleries cover the full spectrum of interests. The award-winning Otago Museum is one of the nation's finest, housing a stupendous collection of treasures from around the world, paired with an excellent calendar of year-round events and international touring exhibitions. The interactive exhibits and well curated artefacts at Toitū Early Settlers Museum tell the story of the region’s people and technology, with plenty to engage both young and old.
Known as the "wildlife capital of New Zealand" you won’t have to go far to spot some of New Zealand’s captivating and rare native species, local celebrities in their own right. A visit to the world's only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross is a must, as is a guided ‘safari’ to see yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins, fur seals and sea lions, shags, gannets and other creatures of wing or water. Tours take you to the remote hidden reaches of the Otago Peninsula, for a wild encounter of a truly special kind. Or experience it all from a different perspective with a cruise on the picturesque Otago Harbour; move over Sydney.
Who needs to travel to the Amazon to be immersed in beautiful forests alive with colourful birdlife and towering trees? The Orokonui Ecosanctuary is Dunedin’s genuine ‘cloud forest’ and a wonderfully serene place to spend a few hours.
Let’s not forget that dining out is a major part of any holiday. Think you’re missing out on a culinary journey to Melbourne? Never fear, you’ll find your ultimate foodie match within the many wonderful eateries, bars and breweries here, and the Otago Farmers Market is a destination in itself for artisan food connoisseurs.
As the gateway to a beautiful and varied hinterland, Dunedin’s city limits offer day tripping to small fishing villages, vast mountaintop vistas and quaint townships flanked by white-sand beaches. Take in some of the spectacular coastal drives, which rival the Great Ocean Road or Pacific Highway any day. Get off the beaten track a little and head up to the beautiful mountain-flanked plateau that’s home to Middlemarch and the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Nearby is Sutton Salt Lake, Utah anyone?
The true unsung heroes are the many spectacular beaches that surround Dunedin. Take your pick of famed beach locations all over the world — Bali, California, Cornwall — and there will most certainly be one here to match it. The difference is that you’ll likely have the entire place to yourself, there are almost thirty to choose from after all.
Think of the iconic natural attractions elsewhere that many of us aim to check off our bucket lists someday; we’ve got our own impressive versions right here: the Giants Causeway in Ireland v our Organ Pipes, Majorcan coves v Tunnel Beach, add to this the epic sweeping coastline and sea arches of Doctor’s Point or the historic Huriawa Peninsula and you’ve got the makings of a pretty exceptional holiday; after all international travel is so last year.
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