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