From 2005 to 2007 I moved from my home in London to Dunedin, New Zealand to study at the prestigious University of Otago. I was lucky enough to be accepted based on my A-Levels and applied for my student visa, and I was on my way! (Obvs there was lots more planning, but that is part of a different post!)
Dunedin is a student town towards the south of New Zealand’s South Island, with a student population of about 20% (of its 120000). Dunedin means ‘Edinburgh of the South’ as it originates from the Gaelic for Edinburgh and has a proud Scottish History, with a statue of Robert Burns in the central Octagon. Dunedin is (closely) pronounced ‘done-e-den’ but affectionately called Dunners.
Located towards the north of the city, on a bright day offers panoramic views of Dunedin and the harbour. It is much breezier than in the town so pack a jacket or coat.
New Zealand’s only castle is Larnach Castle, overlooking the Otago Peninsula. Built in the 1870s with a gothic revival style architecture, this stately home is open to visitors with guided or self-guided tours. You can climb the narrow staircase to the battlements (the roof) for beautiful views of the peninsula.
Wildlife at Otago Peninsula
At the far end of the Otago Peninsula is the World’s only mainland Royal Albatross breeding colony. These majestic birds have a wingspan of over 3m and in Nov/Dec are found carrying for the young. These birds have a conservation status of vulnerable, and there ongoing work at the colony to improve this status.
There is also a Little Blue Penguin breeding colony. These are the smallest penguin species, being only about a foot tall.
It is also possible to have a guided sighting of the yellow-eyed penguin. These intensely shy and nervous creatures are not found in any zoos, as the strain of the situation is too much for them. You will walk along a hide and observe the penguins as they make their way up the beach to their nests. Even Sir David Attenborough recommends a visit to this wildlife capital of NZ!
University of Otago Clock Tower
This building is the reason why the University of Otago is known as one of the prettiest universities in the world. The clock tower overlooking the river Leith, especially in the spring months is very picturesque. Built-in 1869 by the Scottish settlers, there are clear links to Scottish architecture, with its dark gothic styling. The buildings are still in use today (used to home the international student’s department when I was studying). The building is a symbol of higher education in New Zealand.
St Clair and St Kilda Beaches
These stunning sandy beaches are just a few minutes south of the city centre. St Clair is a hot spot for surfers, but the sea is cold! Alternatively, you can use the heated saltwater outdoor swimming pool, if the Antarctic sea is a bit too cold (yes we did have an iceberg pass by when I was studying!). St Kilda is located more towards the east, with its long sandy beaches for a Sunday stroll.
Dunedin Railway Station
This defunct railway station used to serve central Otago during the height of the goal rush. The building resembles the University Clocktower, with the Law Courts on the opposite corner having the same gothic architecture and coloured brickwork. There is now a tourist railway train towards central (Taieri Gorge) but has also been used recently for fashion shows.
Who would have believed that the World’s steepest residential street is in this small little city in New Zealand? Up in North East Valley, with has many many steep roads in parallel to one another, but other than standing at the bottom and looking up not much else to it.
Rugby is an integral part of most kiwis life, and experiencing a live game is a must! Carisbrooke in the south of the city used to be the home to the Highlanders Super Rugby side and Otago Provincial side. Many times I spent on the terraces watching world-class rugby. The stadium has now closed and relocated to Forsyth Barr, part of the University Campus. This stadium has a permanent roof (which in the winter is a great thing) and has the student atmosphere. For non-international games (so not the All Blacks) tickets are very reasonable.
I was unsure whether to include Aramoana on this list, as it’s shouldn’t attract tourism due to its tragic past. Aramoana is a small hamlet towards the north of the city and is the site of New Zealand’s deadliest criminal shooting in 1990. You feel like you are at the end of the world, and the massacre that occurred was so unexpected and out of the blue. Thirteen people lost their lives on that fateful day and crushed this small community (four of the victims were children). Visit this little village to appreciate the peace and tranquillity found there, embrace the ebb and flow of the sea as you walk the beach/mole and look out for the wildlife around as well (we saw a little blue penguin).