Summer is the perfect season for families to travel to Dunedin. It has plenty of #dunnerstunner days to get out and enjoy spectacular trails and scenic waterholes. Think you’ve done it all or looking for some inspiration for an upcoming visit? Try out some of the suggestions below:
Creeks to paddle in and pools to splash in
Dip your toes in the cooling waters of Outram Glen, tucked into the hillside of the Taieri Plain a popular spot to idle away the hours of a sunny day, with river-side trees for shade and plenty of pebbles to build cairns and castles. Nip out to grab real fruit ice creams for the whole family at the nearby Outram Berry Farm fruit and vege shop.
Evansdale Glen is a picnic area just north of the city, with several shady swimming holes and a big undulating playing field to roam in. Wander the track to a nearby waterfall and stop for a lemonade at Arc Brewery on the way home.
Ross Creek entices you with waterfalls to admire and waterside trails to follow from one reserve to another. Start with the circuit of Ross Creek Reservoir and follow the track map along to the Upper Leith track and on through Woodhaugh Gardens where you’ll find a paddling pool, playground and a nearby dairy on George Street, for that essential ice cream fix.
Staying up late? Then pop on your headlamps and seek out Nichols Creek in Leith Valley. Follow the track upstream for 15 minutes, switch off your torch and see the night fade as glow worms do what they do best. Pick a cool night, as these mysterious creatures shine brighter when it’s chilly – so wrap up warmly, too.
Cool off with watery fun at Moana Pool, which has a number of pools for little swimmers and adults alike, include a wave pool, lazy river and hydroslides. Endless hours of indoor entertainment on a summer’s day.
Head beachside to take a family dip at the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, a long-time favourite which overlooks the beach and city beyond.
Playgrounds and family fun activities
From towering climbing nets and flying foxes to wooden forts, classic slides and swings Dunedin has playgrounds aplenty. Take you choice of fun-filled action in spots that also offer breath-taking views, nearby beaches, stylish cafes and shops or rolling rural vistas.
Our picks include Arthur Street Playground for its slide that fits three children (of any age) side by side. Marlow Park and it's dinosaur slide is a Dunedin classic right next to St Kilda Beach. Make a day of it and add in a round of mini-golf or a ride on the Ocean Beach Railway.
If you like flying foxes Arthur Street has one of those, too, as does Woodhaugh Gardens and Navy Park in South Dunedin has a real old-school version for your enjoyment. Delta Drive Playground in Waldronville has a Spitfire plane alongside a large rocker, slide, climbing frame and swings. For a play with a view, try Mornington Park’s vista over the inner city and harbour. Its spacenet, spinner, see-saws sit next door to a cable car display and just over the road from Patti's and Cream Scoop Shop for delicious handmade ice-cream.
For inside days, Timezone indoor entertainment centre at the back of the Golden Centre will be a sure fire hit with the kids, giving the grown-ups a great excuse to do a little shopping while in the area. Otherwise pretend like you're in the northern hemisphere with a day of ice-inspired fun at the Dunedin Ice Stadium and try out the ice-bumper cars.
Head out to Mosgiel's Wals Plant Land and make a day of it between the mini golf course, miniature train rides, cafe, garden centre and maze. Make sure to grab a real fruit ice-cream too.
Biking –best starts, great finishes
Dunedin has loads of great off-road places where you can have fun on your bike and improve your skills. Here are some of the best ones for young families.
Marlow Park, St Kilda, has a modular pump track which can be used by all ages and abilities and by bikes, scooters, skateboards and roller blades.
The gloriously flat Otago Harbourside cycling/walking shared pathway is ever-growing. For shorter harbourside rides, head to Otago Penisula’s Macandrew Bay, or further around to Portbello and grab an ice cream from local dairies on the way.
Excite the kids and head to Forrester Park, at the end of Northeast Valley, with its excellent BMX track and the Forrester Loop mountain biking track, rated ‘easy’. The Redwood Loop in the suburb of Wakari is nicknamed the ‘kiddies track’ – it’s so fun swooping through the trees. (For skill ratings and directions to most Dunedin tracks see Mountain Biking Otago’s map.)
Walk yourselves wild
Dunedin Botanic Garden’s play trail entices families with its range of free physical and restful activities encouraging you to ‘walk like a hunter’, ‘spy on a gardener’ find the ‘secret lawn’ and the ‘secret hut’ all encouraging you to listen, learn, feel and explore.
Just to show how much the Orokonui Ecosanctuary loves children, those under five can go on guided tours for free. It also has self-guided walks and offers heaps of information about the area and precious the native wildlife it exists to preserve.
For something different, enter the glistening, 315-hectare world of Sinclair Wetlands - Te Nohoaka O Tukiauau, regarded as New Zealand’s largest and most important privately-owned wetland. Attracting up to 60 species of birds, its walking trails take you past ponds, swampland and landmarks like Lonely Island and a former pa site.
Dunedin has so many walking trails; some lasting a few minutes, others could last two days. They give access to diverse natural wonders, including ancient forests, young plantations, tussock-clad summits, rolling farmland, spectacular coastal scenery, and rare wildlife.
Go on epic family adventures guided by this activity programme for kids. It will lead you to explore a wide variety of Dunedin highlights, such as Woodhaugh Gardens, Sandfly Bay, Aramoana or Jubilee Park.