Welcome to Dunedin, NewZealand!
Perched on the hills above one of New Zealand’s loveliest harbours, Dunedin (pronounced Dunn-knee-din), is a kiwi city with a Scottish heart. “Kiwi”, a flightless bird, is the national symbol of New Zealand. Once a little Scottish settlement founded in 1848 (a group of Scots settled here to escape religious persecution in their homeland), the Scottish influence bequeathed the world’s best preserved Victorian and historic buildings and houses set against the backdrop of the heritage city’s lush greenbelt of verdant native bush.
“Edinburgh of the South” is how the city is sometimes described because Dunedin is the country’s only kilt maker, whisky distiller and home to many bagpipe bands – keeping its ties with Scotland very much alive.
Dunedin is a city of “firsts”. The incorporation of the city council in 1865 was the first ever in New Zealand. It’s also home to the first university (University of Otago), first girl’s high school (Otago Girls’ HS), first chocolate factory (Cadbury Chocolate Factory), first public botanic gardens, first daily newspaper, first cable public transport, first street lighting, and first public art gallery. The first telephone call in New Zealand was also made here.
With more than 126,000 inhabitants, a cultural mix of Maori, whaler and Presbyterian Scot, Dunedin is a well-planned metropolis with its streets and suburbs fanning out. “Octagon”, the eight-sided plaza that forms the core of lively business district, is the heart of the city. Within easy reach around the square are notable landmarks such as the restored Town Hall, the Municipal Chambers and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all watched by the statue of Robert Burns.
Our Dunedin experience starts from Port Chalmers inside the Otago Harbour, the gateway to Dunedin, which is located about eight miles from the city centre.
Travelling alongside quaint stone-walled farmlets the whole day guided bus tour that began early in the morning offered panoramic views down the Otago Harbour on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Continuing through the tranquil countryside and half-way down the Otago Peninsula we called into the grounds of the famous neo-Gothic Larnach Castle. Built for banker William Larnach and his first wife Eliza, the estate boasts lavish embellishments, rich appointments, beautiful gardens, and spectacular tower views overlooking the harbour. Today the castle is home to the Barkers who have spent over 40 years restoring the 40,000 sq. ft. mansion, filling it with original New Zealand period furniture and antiques and gracing it with a garden of international significance.
After a photo stop at Dunedin’s landmark railway station that features an elaborate Victorian facade, extravagant tile floors and etched glasswork, we visited the Cadbury Chocolate Factory where we learned the history of chocolate at the informative visitor centre and see how Cadbury chocolates are made on a factory tour also featuring an amazing 5-story chocolate fall.
The Otago Museum is the place not to miss. For a $10 entrance fee you can have a guided tour of the various galleries, and its culture, nature and science centre.
For local cuisine that’s distinctly New Zealand style we enjoyed the lamb, cervena (venison), Bluff oysters, paua (abalone), pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), and of course, the kiwi fruit and tamarillo and the national dessert, pavlova.