Dunedin, New Zealand
Edinburgh of the South
By Linda McClain, CTA
If the value of the US dollar has delayed your dreams of visiting Scotland, why not consider a unique vacation to the South East region of New Zealand?
New Zealand is a South Pacific destination near Australia. It mainly consists of two large islands, North and South, and is similar to the size of Colorado. New Zealand is so diverse it would be impossible to experience it all in one visit.
Dunedin is the South Island’s second largest city. Population is roughly 158,800 and is the main city in Coastal Otego. Surprisingly, there are more sheep than people in New Zealand.
Dunedin has temperate weather conditions. Summer season is December-February. Weather can be warm and dry. Average high, 85. Average low, 60.
Winter season runs from June-Augustand is dry and cool with occasional frost. Average high, 59. Average low, 41.
How do I get there?
From Albany, connect to Los Angeles. Fly non-stop to Auckland, New Zealand, located on the North Island. Connecting flights to Dunedin, on the South Island, are just two hours away.
Two countries–one cruise
Want to pack and unpack once while visiting both New Zealand and Australia? Large cruise ships like Holland America and Celebrity Cruises sail to New Zealand in December, January and February and offer 14-night itineraries.
You’ll anchor at beautiful Port Chalmers, the main port of Dunedin. Local Scottish bagpipers, eagerly share Scottish melodies with arriving and departing cruise passengers.
In 1848, over 200 Scots sailed for over four months to reach their new settlement. They arrived in the Otago region, not knowing it was well established with Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Maori are thought to have arrived from Polynesia by large wakas (hand-crafted wooden boats) hundreds of years before the Scots.
When an Australian prospector discovered gold in 1861, a booming economy evolved. Dunedin’s beautiful buildings are a fine example of architecture that was made possible because of gold rush prosperity, which lasted several years.
What can you do here?
Scottish heritage or not, you can expect a palate of picturesque perfection, as well as a kaleidoscope of activities to choose from.
The heart of the city is designed around The Octogon, the city’s tree lined hub. At the I-site, you can arrange a 90-minute guided walking tour.
• Enjoy retail therapy and great dining choices.
• Educational opportunities: Interested in international studies abroad? The University of Otago is the oldest and largest New Zealand college. Over 25,000 students attend the university.
• Fine arts to fine wine: Visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery or The Otago Museum, one of New Zealand’s largest and oldest museums. Otago is a leading wine region that manufactures award winning pinot noirs.
• Take the Cadbury World Chocolate Factory Tour.
• Architectural dream: Dunedin remains one of the best preserved examples of Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Distinctive examples of Gothic, Italianate, Palladian and Georgian architecture can be seen throughout the Otago region.
• Time flies, so take tours!: Local tour guides drive anything from vintage jaguars, limos or sedans, ready to whisk tourists to the highlands or among the area’s rare coastal wildlife. Before leaving town, ask for a ride up Baldwin Street. It has the steepest hill in the city and is the spot for the annual Gutbuster Race each year. You can test your fitness by walking down the hill!
The Dunedin Rail Station is a stunning structure. Much of the interior was originally tiled in Royal Doulton and stained glass, exclusively designed for New Zealand. Take passage on the Taieri Gorge Railway for a scenic excursion around the region.
Unique wildlife/marine life
The Otago Peninsula is within an hour’s drive from Dunedin. It is one of the best examples of eco-tourism in the world. Examples of great activities include:
• Royal Albatross Centre-Taiaroa Head. The only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross in the world. Albatross have an average wing-span of over 9’.
• Observe yellow-eyed penguins in their natural state at the penguin colony.
• Catch a nature cruise and see exhilarating scenery while watching a variety of unique birds and marine life, including fur seals and sea lions.
Visit New Zealand’s only castle
Larnach Castle is a half-hour drive from Dunedin City and offers magnificent views. It took three years to complete the exterior and over 11 years to complete the interior. Its’ owner, Sir William Larnach was a member of parliament when he commissioned the castle for his first wife, Eliza, who died before it was completed. His second wife died of blood poisoning, while his third wife had an affair with his son, who later committed suicide. His daughter died of typhoid fever. William Larnach later killed himself, due to financial fall-out.
Visit the castle and learn more about its’ scandalous past and resident ghosts.
Where to go next?
Christchurch – a 41⁄2 hour drive North of Dunedin is the most English City in New Zealand. The spectacular gardens attract visitors worldwide.
Queenstown – a 41⁄2 hour drive South of Dunedin is the extreme adventure capital of the world. Enjoy bungy jumping, river rafting, jet boating and alpine splendor.
Also home to Lord of the Rings country.
Today, over 14 percent of New Zealand’s population is of Maori descent. Their traditions, culture, music and lifestyle have earned significant respect and enrichment within the diverse population of New Zealand.
Mark Twain visited Dunedin in the 1890s. and is quoted as saying, “The people here are Scots. They stopped here on their way to heaven, thinking that they arrived.”
Linda McClain, CTA, is owner of Capital Region based Linda McClain Travel Services “From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!” For more information call 372.7657 or visit www.lindamcclaintravel.com.