When researching a trip to New Zealand, you will inevitably hear a ton being made of the eternal North Island versus South Island debate. In this discussion, many online experts – and I use the term loosely – will mention that the North Island is more urban and better for those who prefer cities, while the South Island is better for those outdoorsy types that prefer rural environments and dramatic mountainous scenery.
While there is certainly a touch of truth in this simple assessment, we found both city and country thrills on both islands, and in my opinion, one of the best cities to experience urban thrills on the South Island is Dunedin. We stayed there twice as along as we expected because we loved it so much, and while being the second biggest city on the South Island, it still seems to slip under the radar of many travelers to New Zealand.
Well, I say don’t skip Dunedin, because it would probably be the biggest mistake of your life if you did. Well, easily in the top 10.
Terrific Train Station
An excellent example of Renaissance Revival architecture, or to dumb laymen like me “Candyland Castle”, The Dunedin train station is truly a sight to behold. Opened around the turn of the 20th Century I think, this unique building was once New Zealand’s busiest train depot, but now is home to scenic tourist trains, most notably a line to Taieri Gorge. A trip out on one of these is certainly a great day out, but if you don’t take a day trip, make sure to swing down on a Saturday where there is a farmer’s market in the parking lot and get yourself a bacon sandwich like we did.
Dunedin is home to not one, but two delicious guided tours you shouldn’t miss. The first is the Cadbury Factory, which is home to a thrilling stroll through the place where creamy milk chocolate magic is made – plus plenty of free samples. Just a few blocks away is the Speights Brewery, where the beer that calls itself the ‘Pride of the South’ has been made since the late 1800s. A tour is a great way to learn about the history of this beer and sample some fresh brewed pints. And if you’re worried that chocolate followed by beer is a bit unhealthy: don’t, because you’re on vacation and calories don’t count.
Dunedin sprawls out spectacularly from its hard-working harbor, cascading up the surrounding hills providing fantastic vantage points down on the town below. The fantastic views of the twinkling city lights make the treks up the hills well worth it and many restaurants feature million dollar views. One street in particular, Baldwin Street, is the world’s steepest residential street in the world according to Guinness and definitely worth scaling – you know, so you can say you did.
Safety tip: As tempting as it may be, it is not recommended to attempt to roll down the concrete street end-over-end.
Cheap (and Delicious) Street Eats
Being home to the oldest university in New Zealand – Otago University – Dunedin is awash with cheap and delicious food, many of it Asian-influenced. We used to eat ‘rice balls’ for lunch religiously on George St. A ‘rice ball ‘ is basically the best bits of sushi all rolled into one large sphere, and these bad boys would keep us full until dinner, for only a few New Zealand Dollars.
Due to its location directly on the coast, Dunedin is directly near some beautiful beaches, and while the water can be a little bit on the chilly side, they are well worth the shivers. St. Clair Beach is home to a great stretch of sand surrounded by hip cafes and a heated pool (if you prefer freshwater swimming) and slightly further down the coast you will find Tunnel Beach, a hauntingly windswept gem often referred to as the most romantic in the New Zealand.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse