Dunedin: An Outdoor Adventureland
Dunedin city is perfectly positioned to offer the best in nightlife as well as being an exciting adventure sport destination. Mountain biking and surfing are particularly suited to the coastal city’s environment.
Dunedin is a mountain biker’s playground and single track trails can be found in every direction. The summer climate is perfect for mountain biking and surfing expeditions, with mild temperatures and a late setting sun.
From Swampy Summit and Bethune's Gully, to the Redwoods and Snakes & Ladders, Dunedin has a well established mountain biking scene. Cyclists gather in the Octagon after work to make the most of the trails in summer, many of them sporting head lights on their helmets so they can continue to ride once the sun has set.
Trails are well suited to most abilities and while there are lots of hills to climb, the rider is rewarded with some fantastic downhill. Numerous bike shops offer bike hire and bike touring packages.
New Zealand has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world and Lonely Planet declares the Otago Peninsula to be the world’s Number 1 cycling destination. Cycling allows you to experience a close proximity to New Zealand’s wildlife and Lonely Planet applauds the peninsula for its mix of “scenery and sweat.” On a two to three hour ride, a cyclist on a round trip from the city has the opportunity to encounter albatross, penguins and fur seals in their natural environments.
Lonely Planet also placed Dunedin in the Top Ten places in the world for bird watching and dog walking.
Dunedin’s peninsula extends into the Pacific Ocean and is peppered with respected surf beaches whose names are rugged like the shoreline - Blackhead, Aramoana and Tomahawk. Allan’s beach is thick with white sand and one long tussock-filled dune. It’s not unusual to come across sun-bathing sea lions and fur seals, their long bodies lolling side to side and their sleepy eyes half-closed.
The best way to explore these places is to hire a car and enjoy the drive along roads that are narrow and scenic.
On exposed beaches the sea wind has whipped trees of their bark making their flesh gleam silver and white, like skeletons amongst the dunes. Walking along the sand, your skin feels stretched from the salt and your hair tangles in a birds nest.
Surfers are slick in their black full-length wetsuits. They’re in groups of two or more, yet they’re dwarfed by the immensity of the sea. They rise out of the top of waves and slide along the water, legs bent and body twisting.
Vans with surfboard racks and board shorts drying on the windscreen decorate the Esplanade at St Clair Beach. The surf school runs group and private lessons through the summer months and pupils’ laughter travels over the water.
When it comes, the sun is thick with heat. Red and yellow flags mark the safe swimming area at St Kilda beach as children and adults ride boogie boards and body surf. Exposed bellies and shoulders turn red and the beach is enlivened with games of touch rugby and frisbee.
Populated for most of the year by students and University staff, Dunedin offers a large mix of after-dark entertainment. From Carousel, a sophisticated lounge bar, to the eclectic Irish Al bar (with live Irish music every Tuesday night), Dunedin’s nightlife is culturally rich and vibrant. Alibi Bar and Restaurant regularly hosts Salsa dancing and Wine and Food Tasting evenings and The Terrace Sports bar, in the Octagon, screens all major sporting events on the largest big screen television in the city.
Visitors to Dunedin are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Plato is a retro-themed sea-side eatery which changes its menu daily. Famous for fresh fish meals and been in New Zealand’s Cuisine magazine’s Restaurant of the Year four times. Bacchus Wine Bar and Restaurant, located in an historic building overlooking the Octagon, is a premier dining destination known for its quality, imaginative food and its extensive list of New Zealand wines. Pier 24 is one of Dunedin’s newest restaurants and along with its stunning views of St Clair beach, Pier 24 is growing a reputation for excellent dining.
One of Dunedin’s main outdoor attractions is the Otago Farmer’s Market held every Saturday at the Railway Station. The Railway Station itself is an architectural icon and heritage site. The market sells fresh garden produce along with plants, artisan breads, organic meat and coffee. Musicians entertain the crowd as they eat hot bacon butties and butterscotch crepes.
As for shopping, Dunedin’s scene is creative and inspired. As well as New Zealand designers like Tanya Carlson and NomD who have shops on Dunedin’s main thoroughfare, Dunedin has a great collection of second hand shops which are layered with history and quirkiness. Amongst aisles of vintage dresses and bathing suits from the 1950’s, you can find worn suitcases with their travel tags still attached and cake tins decorated with photos of Princess Anne and gerberas.
Dunedin has the perfect balance of outdoor adventure and cultural attractions and summertime allows you to make the most of it.
A free Dunedin city cycling map is available from the Dunedin i-site Visitors Centre.