My Dunedin Itinerary

Museum trail

For days that call for culture or shelter from the sunshine, let Dunedin’s museums take you from mysterious connections of art and nature to astronomical encounters, below-decks ocean adventure and dedications to settler tenacity.

Weave the stories of Dunedin’s past, present and future into your exploration of the city by visiting its excellent range of museums. From historical and educational to new and edgy, you will find all kinds of fun and fantastical sights and activities. Here’s a selection of the many museums the city has to offer.

At Toitū Otago Settlers Museum trace the fascinating journeys of this area’s earliest settlers, Kāi Tahu and their ancestors, to the most recent arrivals. The 14 free galleries feature interactive displays with stunning visuals and powerful narratives.

Otago Museum opens up the natural, cultural and scientific worlds of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand and the planet. Its many layers allow you to discover the most Victorian of Animal Attics echoing the age of exploration, a stunning new science engagement space full of light and action and natural history exhibitions bringing you face to face with the area’s unique creatures. Over the summer, Otago Museum is hosting a number of interesting visiting exhibitions including James Cameron – Challenging the Deep which celebrates his adventures as a film-maker (Avatar, Aliens) deep-sea explorer, innovator, and environmentalist.  The Museum of Broken Relationships exhibition launches on 21 December and showcases a collection of locally and internationally sourced mementos of people’s intimate history, telling stories of Dunedin heartache.

The pop-up Tribal Warrior Museum is a surprising and completely fascinating must see, with 35 life-size sculptures by artist Frank Varsanyi. Authentic and rare armour, weapons, clothing and jewellery adorn the impressive individuals, many of which are tattooed with outstanding historical accuracy. The largest of its kind in the world, the exhibition highlights the ongoing plight of the indigenous people of the world.

Enter a classic Dunedin villa to immerse yourself in the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery. A collection of skulls, bones, biological curiosities, and unusual cultural artifacts collected over a life-time by Dunedin mural artist and sculptor, Bruce Mahalski, and displayed in his home.

The Port Chalmers Maritime Museum is a window into the area’s nautical past, with collections covering commercial fishing, shipping, Antarctic exploration and social history. Across Otago Harbour sits the small Otago Peninsula Museum, dedicated to celebrating the people, places and history of this bustling community. Head north and discover the Waikouaiti Heritage Centre, East Otago’s leading regional museum, with information about the area’s iwi, families and farmers who dedicated their lives to the area.

Out in Outram the Taieri Historical Museum is another gem waiting to be discovered. Amongst the heritage buildings you’ll find a courthouse, jail, school, church and steam engine shed filled with fascinating artefacts from early settler life on the Taieri Plains.

On a different tangent, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame introduces you to the sheer range of Kiwi sporting success. First class sports people are celebrated, and their stories told through exhibitions of memorabilia and imagery of moments and people idolised by the nation.