Walking through Dunedin’s Toitū Otago Settlers Museum I discovered a memorable marketing pitch from one of Dunedin’s early Scottish settlers, John McGlashan. “If your prospects are bad then I can safely say you would be 10 times better off in New Zealand, where, if you are able and willing to work, to keep yourself sober, you would in a little time be surrounded with an abundance of bacon and eggs, bread, butter, milk and cream, puddings, fowls, and all kinds of vegetables.” Scottish settlers like McGlashan arrived in the mid 1800s with plans to recreate the romance of Edinburgh. It didn’t take long for me to work out they also created a thriving city with a natural charm that many places can only dream of.
With its blend of new and old that fits perfectly, Dunedin in New Zealand has more than its fair share of interesting things to see and do. Dunedin gets much of its vibrancy courtesy of Otago University which fills the town with a youthful creativity. One of my favourite attractions was the cutting edge Toitū Otago Settlers Museum which will filled with innovative exhibits. From an interactive bus ride through 1950s Dunedin to dressing up in period costume and playing an original eighties video game, this hands-on museum is as much fun for adults as it is for children.
Dunedin’s traditional layout means everything is in walking distance. Next door you will find Dunedin’s historic railway station which was built in 1906. Its over-the-top Flemish Renaissance-style architecture earned architect George Troup a knighthood as well as the nickname ‘Gingerbread George’. Dunedin Railway Station is said to be the most photographed building in New Zealand so don’t forget your camera. The Otago Farmers Market is also based here every Saturday and it’s a huge hit with locals and tourists. It is the ideal spot to try a “bacon buttie”, a Kiwi favourite made with fresh bread, butter and bacon. McGlashan was telling the truth about the abundance of bacon.
Much of the city’s wealth came from the gold rush of 1860s. With the massive influx of miners, the town needed a brewery. Speights is home to New Zealand’s best beer according to the locals. The brewery is built above a natural spring which provides one of the key ingredients for making beer. Speights is also one of the only gravity fed breweries in the world as I discovered on an entertaining tour where Kiwi humour, and beer sampling came together for an enjoyable couple of hours.
Centrally located in the heart of the city and home to Dunedin’s cathedral, town hall and art gallery, the town square known as The Octagon is easy to find and has an abundance of restaurants. One of the benefits of Dunedin being a university town is not only the diverse range of eateries but also the cheap student prices. Try the award winning Nova Cafe for smart bistro fare or head down Stuart Street to Best Café for old fashioned fish and chips with a charming retro vibe. If you’re after something a little fancier with a great wine list there is Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant or Gaslight which serves excellent house-made pasta. With its unique combination of youthful vibrancy and old world charm, Dunedin offers something for everyone.
Disclosure: Dunedin is one of the writer’s favourite towns in New Zealand.