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Home Destinations Australasia New Zealand Dunedin and Southland

Dunedin and Southland Holidays

With an abundance of natural wonders that includes some of the best wildlife viewing in the country, the South Island’s southern tip can also lay claim to the most interesting architecture in the elegant and stately city of Dunedin.

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Boosted by riches from the 1861 gold rush, Dunedin grew from an isolated outpost to a bastion of European culture, retaining close links to its Scottish heritage. The Victorian and Edwardian architecture would be equally at home in Edinburgh, the city from which Dunedin draws its name.

A neo-Gothic cathedral, several galleries, theatres and museums are clustered around the Octagon, the unusual grid of streets and historical buildings that form the heart of the city. With New Zealand’s oldest university, and a thriving youth culture and rock music scene, abundant pubs, cafes and bars, this is the place for lively night life as well as discovering the history of early European settlement. This fascinating city can also lay claim to having the steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street – at a gradient of 1:2.86.

The scenic Otago Peninsula, which juts out east of the city, boasts dazzling rhododendron gardens at Glenfalloch, at their best in September and October, and the folly-like Larnach Castle. The wildlife is the star attraction here with the world’s only mainland breeding royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head and colonies of the rare yellow-eyed penguin frequenting the white sand beaches. For rail enthusiasts, the 77km Taieri Gorge Railway ranks among the world’s great rail journeys, heading inland from Dunedin towards the gold fields of Central Otago.

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Effectively covering the area from Dunedin to Fiordland, Southland is one of the lesser explored regions of the country and incorporates the wildlife and coastline of the Catlins, the southernmost city of Invercargill and New Zealand’s newest hiking trail, the Tuatapere Humpridge Track.

An abundance of wildlife can be found in the Catlins, amidst habitats of stretching beaches, towering cliffs, waterfalls, estuaries and native forest. Dolphins, sea lions, fur seals and penguins are the major attractions, but further bird life is also prolific in the area. From a scenic point of view, highlights include Nugget Point, where jagged islands jut out from a lighthouse and the fossil forest of Curio Bay.

Invercargill also has a marked Scottish character and its streets echo the names of highland rivers. It is less cosmopolitan than many other South Island cities, being built very much around a farming community and featuring far less prominently on the tourist trail. However, this is beginning to change as more and more visitors stop en route to Stewart Island and the Catlins. The city has many historic buildings and the main attraction is the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Ferries depart from the nearby port of Bluff for the hour long crossing to Stewart Island.

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Stewart Island

The country’s third largest island, Stewart Island contains some truly untouched wilderness, and operates at a far slower and simpler pace than the rest of New Zealand. In order to maintain this unspoiled status, most of the island now comprises the Rakiura National Park. Lush rainforest and sandy beaches form the landscape, and provide the natural habitat of the kiwi, rendering Stewart Island one of the best places to observe this bird in the wild. There are terrific walking trails and the Ulva Island Wildlife Sanctuary just offshore is a naturalists dream. Oban is the main centre and port for the ferries from Bluff.