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Dunedin: New Zealand’s hip winter playground just hours from Queenstown

Reachable in under four hours from the ski slopes of Queenstown, there’s no better place to finish off a winter trip than Dunedin. Aleney de Winter discovers the best things to see and do in New Zealand’s hippest city.

What do you get when you fill a small city crammed with history and a gothic-style urban landscape reminiscent of Edinburgh, with world-class street art, a flair for fashion, an ever-evolving food and wine scene, an abundance of rare wildlife and vistas that will leave jaws scraping the floor… and all just a few hours’ from Queenstown’s snowy slopes?

The answer, of course, is Dunedin – New Zealand’s capital of cool.

Dunedin: A winter playground for the creative and curious

Dunedin is a city of style and substance with a unique cultural edge. Its majestic heritage buildings house a plethora of art galleries, award-winning museums and treasured second-hand bookstores. But one need only walk the streets to soak up Dunedin’s dedication to art. The city’s walls double as a vibrant gallery of works by local and international street artists alike.

Art gallery Dunedin New Zealand
The city is a hub of creativity and culture

Dunedin’s culture of creativity also extends to its world-class fashion scene. In fact, several of New Zealand’s most iconic fashion labels hail from Dunedin, including Charmaine Reveley. This makes swapping your ski gear for sartorial splendour among the city’s lauded boutiques a breeze. Meanwhile, lust-worthy designer homewares blur the line between fashion and art in Dunedin’s chic stores.

Immerse yourself in Dunedin’s natural splendour

Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula is a world-renowned eco-tourism destination and home to some of the rarest and most photogenic wildlife around. It’s a haven for endangered species, including the yellow-eyed penguin. It also happens to be the world’s only mainland breeding colony of royal northern albatross, you’ll also find blue penguins, New Zealand sea lions and more.

A day here will take you to remote and romantic beaches, quaint harbourside hamlets and New Zealand’s only castle. At the magnificent Larnach Castle, you can enjoy high tea in the gardens or simply soak up the history and ambience.

Olveston Historic Home Dunedin
Dunedin has a wealth of historic sites to explore

Next up, take a private night-sky tour you’ll never forget with Horizon Tours. During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll venture to the wild reaches and beaches of the peninsula as dusk falls. Sit back as the skies reveal an interstellar show of stars and often, the neon-liquid colours of the Aurora Australis. Sitting in comfort with anti-gravity chairs and blankets, you’ll be plied with refreshments and tales of the celestial bodies. These stories are woven through Māori legends and songs.

If natural wonders are on your hit list, there are around 25 beaches surrounding Dunedin city, including spectacular Tunnel Beach. In addition to sandy shores, a visit to the breathtaking ancient volcanic formations of the Pyramids of Okia reserve is well worth a trip.

Stay in one of Dunedin’s Baroque beauties

With its grand gothic architecture and spectacular scenery, Dunedin is a city like no other with boutique accommodation to match.

Inspired by the land, sea and sky that surrounds Dunedin, Ebb Dunedin is New Zealand’s first modernist boutique hotel. The adult-oriented hotel’s 27 unique rooms and penthouse suite offer contemporary luxury. The artistically inclined will love its four-level atrium, resplendent as it is with themed artworks.

The elegant Fable Dunedin, originally constructed in 1862, offers a bespoke boutique experience. Think carefully curated hospitality and beautifully appointed five-star accommodation. Plus, a chic restaurant and bar augmented by artful details and contemporary touches.

A touch of Scotland at the Fable Hotel © Tessa Chrisp
A touch of Scotland at the Fable Hotel © Tessa Chrisp

Discover the unique flavours of Dunedin’s dining scene

One of the brightest stars of New Zealand’s dining scene, Dunedin is spoiled for culinary choice. From flash degustation dining to funky cafes, an emerging boutique distillery scene and exceptional craft breweries, visitors should factor in plenty of time for epicurean exploration.

Dunedin's dining scene is making a name for itself
Dunedin’s dining scene is making a name for itself

The city has no less than five eateries on the latest Cuisine New Zealand Top 100 list. Meanwhile, plenty of gorgeous food and drink destinations are tucked away in grand Baroque buildings. Others can be found hidden down alleyways and in thriving urban neighbourhoods. It’s a journey of dining discovery.

A stop at the Saturday Otago Farmers’ Market is a must. However, committed foodies should also make time to visit Bracken, Moiety, No. 7 Balmac, Nova, Prohibition Smokehouse, tītī, and the Press Club too.

Adventurous Dunedin: Explore the city’s scenic surrounds

Still have some energy left after hitting the slopes? Not to worry, Dunedin has plenty to keep the adrenaline going long after you leave Queenstown. For example, the area has an abundance of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails.

Just 20 minutes north-east of the city is Hare Hill, where Dunedin’s premier horse-riding experience can be found. Treks vary from incredible views of the harbour to epic beach rides, with trails available for all levels of riders.

Explore one of Dunedin's scenic hiking trails
Explore one of Dunedin’s scenic hiking trails

Keen hikers will want to make sure they pack their boots for Dunedin. Start with a trek up 393m Signal Hill for impressive views of Otago Harbour and the city beyond. Meanwhile, for something a little more strenuous, try the 5k Pineapple Track or Tunnel Beach Walkway.

Twice named in the Top 10 Rides in the World by Lonely Planet, Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula is a haven for cycling enthusiasts. Moreover, the city itself is incredibly easy to see by bike – with a dedicated network of cycle paths and lanes. Finally, for those who prefer to go off-road, there’s a wide range of mountain biking trails within easy distance of the city.

This article was created in partnership with Enterprise Dunedin and originally appeared in volume 41 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.


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