Among New Zealand’s four main centers, Dunedin is perhaps the most important in the history of the European settlers. A gold rush in the 1860s brought thousands of people looking for riches. Many of them stayed, becoming the backbone of the region’s culture.
A large part of that backbone is Scottish. In fact, the city is named after the Gaelic word for Edinburgh. You can see the Scottish heritage in the buildings that dot the city. The center of the city is the Octagon, an eight-sided plaza surrounded by elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Tall trees give pedestrians some cool shade, and you can admire the statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns. The First Church of Otago is a popular attraction, with its tall sharp spire.
From the Octagon, you can see Dunedin Railway Station, just a short walk away. It’s a grand building, with warm stone stripes and plenty of admirers.
The best way to enjoy the city’s heritage is on a walk. Pick up a map or let a guide take you around.
Take a short drive to Larnach Castle, which calls itself “New Zealand’s only castle.” The gardens alone are worth the visit, but you can also tour the castle. Don’t forget to enjoy the grand view of Otago Harbour.
Much of Dunedin was designed by planners in faraway rooms who didn’t know the lay of the land, and that led to some odd results. For example, Baldwin Street has a grade of 35 percent, making it the world’s steepest street. Several steep streets around the world disagree about that, but your legs won’t. Take your time climbing it and live to tell the tale. (T)