Who needs theme parks when Dunedin has so many amazing activities and attractions for families to explore. Wild things, hands-on science fun, a castle and loads of fresh air… need we say more? But don't just take our word for it, we've asked the local kid-experts to give us the inside scoop on top activities in Dunedin, see their recommendations on Kids Insiders.
A fun activity for kids and adults alike, the Otago Museum’s Tūhura science centre has over 45 hands-on interactives, including a giant DNA-inspired helical slide, and a three-tier tropical butterfly enclosure, plus a multi-screen, laser-activated Beautiful Science gallery. There's more to explore throughout the rest of the museum's fascinating galleries, with all manner of exhibits including the Animal Attic, a throw back to the Victorian days when taxidermy was in vogue.
Let little imaginations run wild at New Zealand's only castle, where the magical buildings and grounds are full of hidden places to explore. A great day out for the whole family, the kids will love climbing up the turret and spying the wondrous views out over the Otago Peninsula, followed by a sweet treat in the Ballroom Cafe.
*During the school holidays kids go free with a paying adult, with no limit on the number of children, as long as they are part of the same family.
A one-stop family entertainment destination in Mosgiel, Wal's Plant Land is an easy place to spend an entire day between the hedge maze modelled off the famed Leeds Castle maze, mini-golf, mini-train (on Sundays), real fruit ice-creams, cafe and nursery.
Another great family-friendly option to spend half a day exploring the interactive exhibits kids can climb aboard a vintage tram or trolleybus, wander around a replica sailing ship cabin and dress up in period costume, top tip: the cafe does a great line in cheese rolls and lolly cake.
*During the spring school holidays the museum is celebrating te reo Māori. Explore museum artefacts, learn about important places in Otago and see traditional Māori designs. Daily from 10am - 4pm. There's also a kids trail booklet which challenges them to find items tucked away in the displays.
Dunedin has many parkland gardens with peaceful surroundings and fun playgrounds. Closest to the central city, you’ll find the Dunedin Botanic Garden, with its fairy-tale statues, fountains and aviary, and Woodhaugh Gardens which has a paddling pool, a babbling stream and a small network of bushwalks.
The Dunedin Ice Stadium offers year-round indoor public ice-skating sessions with full equipment hire, that are always a hit with the kids. Wobble, stumble or glide around the rink to upbeat tunes and disco lights and for absolute beginners there are skating aids available to hire. The new ice-bumper cars are especially fun, yet deceptively tricky to manoeuvre.
As the sun begins to go down, find Leith Valley Road and a delicate Dunedin treasure. A fifteen-minute walk through darkening native bush will bring you to the Nicholls Creek glow worms. There is a little creek to cross at the top and the drop to the right gets steeper as you walk up, so take a torch and sensible shoes, and a close eye on any small adventurous types. Be respectful and peaceful while visiting the glow worms as they are easily disturbed, and turn off your torch or they’ll sulk and stop shining.
Find your way to Leith Valley Glow Worms
Dunedin has a rich history in the arts and in making art freely available for all to enjoy. It is unsurprising, then, that the city is now embracing street art, with an increasing number of blank walls being transformed into works of art by local and international artists. Experience these vibrant, whimsical artworks by following the self-guided Dunedin street art trail.
Currently there are over 50 walls across the city, mostly concentrated around the Warehouse Precinct and CBD with plenty of cafes along the way for tasty pit stops for the family. The most comprehensive guide is the Street Art Cities map
Still the world's steepest street despite nearly losing the title to a small town in Wales. Baldwin Street's famed incline, is tucked away in suburban North East Valley and runs up the northern side of Signal Hill. Challenge the family to race to the top and stop for a selfie to prove you made it. Try counting the steps; it takes about ten minutes, just to walk about 350 metres! But don't worry, there's a drinking fountain at the top. Insiders tip - walking backwards is heaps easier!
Fun whanau dining
Teleport your family’s taste buds with North Dunedin’s Beam Me Up Bagels – there’s a flavour to fit everyone and it's so popular a second outlet has opened up in Great King Street. Mama’s Donuts take away on Vogel Street is a sweet treat for everyone. Good Good serves up doses of happiness in the form of delicious burgers, chicken tenders and tator tots in their groovy neon lit eatery, a sure-fit hit with the kids every time. If all you need is an awesome feed of fish and chips, stop by the retro Best Cafe for a dine in treat or grab some to go and head out on an adventure.
Check out Deliver Easy for the many restaurants and cafes that will take your favourite foods right to your doorstep or even to your picnic blanket.
Every neighbourhood in Dunedin seems to have a playground and some are swinging, sliding, twirling gems that get you literally climbing the walls with excitement.