SOUTH­ERN COM­FORTS

HERE ARE THREE EX­CEL­LENT REA­SONS TO LOOK BE­YOND THE OB­VI­OUS CAN­DI­DATES FOR YOUR NEXT CITY BREAK

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: CHAN­TAY LO­GAN

If you’ve al­ready shopped out Syd­ney and gorged on Mel­bourne, there’s an ur­ban play­ground across the ditch just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

New Zealand’s Dunedin is a rare bal­ance of city cul­ture and nat­u­ral beauty, where a well-pre­served past is tem­pered by youth­ful cre­ative en­ergy.

The South Is­land city is com­pact and log­i­cally laid out, so easy to nav­i­gate — even as a solo trav­eller — but its at­trac­tions be­lie its size. While you’ll have your work cut out do­ing Dunedin jus­tice in a week­end, these at­trac­tions are a good place to start:

MAKE TRACKS

They say it’s not the des­ti­na­tion, it’s the jour­ney. At Dunedin, it may well be the rail­way sta­tion (pic­tured above). You don’t need a ticket to ride to ap­pre­ci­ate this rich rem­nant of a grander era. Heels click­ing on the mo­saic floor — made of al­most 750,000 tiles of Royal Doul­ton porce­lain — and neck cran­ing to squint at or­nate ceil­ings and white Oa­maru lime­stone, you’ll be whisked back to the op­u­lence of 1906. Of course, a ticket is a bonus — mine’s on The Seasider. Kind of like a scenic hors d’oeu­vre, the 90-minute jour­ney skirts spec­tac­u­lar clifftops to hover over the har­bour, loop­ing down to pretty port­side pocket Port Chalmers. I’m yet to sam­ple the main event — Dunedin to Taieri Gorge — but ap­par­ently both the jour­ney and des­ti­na­tion are well worth it.

FIND THE FLAVOUR

The brick-clad HQ of Dunedin born and brewed Emer­son’s tops the city’s ale at­trac­tions. Founder Richard Emer­son’s fa­ther worked on the Taieri Gorge rail and that con­nec­tion is echoed ev­ery­where from wooden rail­way sleep­ers in the booths to a Taieri trib­ute in beer form. Hap­pily, the food is equally good, es­pe­cially if you chance upon a batch of freshly shucked Bluff oys­ters (as an aside, the Bluff Fes­ti­val is on May 25 and well worth the di­ver­sion south to the tiny town). While Emer­son’s is hardly a se­cret, it’s worth for­ag­ing fur­ther afield for lo­cal favourites. Fo­cus your ef­forts on the re­vi­talised Ware­house Precinct where you’ll find New, New, New Brew­ery bunk­ing in his­toric brick sta­bles and Vo­gel St Kitchen.

WALK WITH THE WILD THINGS

The most sur­pris­ing thing about Dunedin’s wildlife isn’t the seals that lan­guish on sun­warmed rocks or the al­ba­tross that surf the wind on gi­ant wings, it’s its prox­im­ity. The windswept and in­ter­est­ing Otago Penin­sula is hard to beat for both con­ve­nience and crit­ter con­cen­tra­tion. Elm Wildlife Tours’ con­ser­va­tion area serves as a pri­vate por­tal into the world of pen­guins, sea lions and fur seal and the Royal Al­ba­tross Cen­tre of­fers ring­side seats at the world’s only main­land royal al­ba­tross breed­ing colony, or take a DIY de­tour to ex­plore the in­trigu­ingly named Lovers Leap and The Chasm.

IF YOU GO

Di­rect flights op­er­ate from Bris­bane to Dunedin and take around 3 hours and 40 min­utes. I stayed in the Dis­tinc­tion Ho­tel, the 1937 for­mer Chief Post Of­fice trans­formed into a lux­ury ho­tel. It’s within an easy walk of both the Oc­tagon (Dunedin’s CBD) and Ware­house Precinct, so you may not even need a hire car. For more in­for­ma­tion go to dunedinnz.com

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