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Exploring New Zealand's elegant, architecturally significant city with its staunch Scottish heritage
Dunedin, New Zealand’s fourth largest city (and the country’s oldest) in the South Island is a little overshadowed by the big guns up north. Almost in a time warp, all the development and economy went to the North Island after WWI and it’s turned out to be not such a bad thing. One of the most arresting aspects of Dunedin is its window to the past. Edwardian baroque monuments blend with the gold rush era architecture; art deco buildings stand tall and Venetian Gothic windows loom close to Corinthian columns and Italian Renaissance facades. The breathtaking craftsmanship has been preserved due to lack of crazy 20th century progress here.
Discover some of the best preserved, stunning Victorian and Edwardian buildings, acclaimed fashion designers cache, glorious wild Otago countryside nearby, a splendid harbour and food and wine to sooth the soul. Dunedin’s best:
Look at the local city map to see how Dunedin’s forefathers laid the city out to replicate Edinburgh (including many if the same street names).
Take a walk to the Railway Station with its architectural splendour on display. Ornate Flemish Renaissance-style building that is grandiose and harks back to the early 1900s’ commercial heyday. (The floor inside has more than 750,000 Royal Doulton porcelain tiles.)
Spend half a day in the Otago Settlers Museum, an edgy architecturally designed masterpiece that houses the areas past treasures of settlement. All in one place, there’s an outstanding collection of the stories of Otago and Dunedin – take the guided tour.
Climb the world’s steepest street! Baldwin Street annually hosts the ‘gut-buster’ race up this incline but you can choose your own pace.
The shopping here is excellent, so head to the Octagon along George and Princess Streets. Ignore the side streets at your peril as quirky stores and boutiques are dotted throughout. The Meridian Shopping Centre on George Street offers 50 distinctive specialty stories and it also houses an international food court and is home to a Dunedin hero – Arthur Barnett’s department store – a retail treasure for 100 years.
Scottish poet Robbie Burns keeps sentry at the upper end of the Octagon. Dunedin’s rich poetic soul extends to the Writers Walk behind Burns’ statue. There are plaques in the footpath inscribed with words from New Zealand’s literary giants. The Octagon is a great space for outdoor concerts and on Fridays there are local artisans selling their waresThe area is the hub of Dunedin’s cafe and restaurant culture – so tuck in. (It also has free Wi-Fi.)
Visit Larnach Castle – New Zealand’s only castle. Built in 1871 by William Larnach, the building is now a private family home, which has been lovingly restored over the past 40 years by the Barkley family. Stroll through history in the house and through the 14h of beautiful gardens and grounds
Dunedin is close to Otago’s extraordinary natural beauty, wildlife in sea and on land, windswept outcrops and grass-edged trails to walk and explore.
Streetscape or landscape, Dunedin and its beautiful peninsula may not have changed for a century but its age and beauty is precisely what makes it so special.
images: James Dignan