Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dunedin with a toddler - lots to love

We’ve just spent the first week of our three month New Zealand tour in Dunedin. It turned out it wasn’t enough time to experience all that the small city in the South West corner of the South Island has to offer, but realistically our budget wouldn’t have run to it all anyway, and we gave it a pretty good run for our money. Here’s a few highlights that helped to make our time there a great experience.

Sleepy Dunedin International Airport is 28km from the city centre with spectacular views over the mountains as you come in to land, what an exciting start to our trip! It’s quite a small airport so it’s quick to pass through and get on your way, and better still, we got a direct flight from Brisbane with Virgin Australia.

I hooked up with Sarah Bond Travel Writer through the travel community on Facebook and Twitter, and she gave me a personalised tour of Dunedin, meaning that I saw some of the hidden gems that other tourists would miss, we went at our own pace, and I got loads of history and info thrown in on the way. If you’re heading to Dunedin, and you know Sarah through the online travel community, I’d definitely give her a shout out!

I drank some really tasty coffee in a gloriously groovy environment at Strictly Coffee, hidden down a dingy back street. In keeping with it’s location, the façade is unassuming, but inside is a treasure trove of delights and the constant queue of locals is reassuringly welcoming. 

Discovery World and the butterfly house at the Otago Museum is an absolute must for anyone with a child in Dunedin. There are loads of cool science experiments that are fun and educational, even when you’re knee high to a grasshopper, then you enter the butterfly house where you’re surrounded by a veritable flutter of foreign butterfly species, as well as a resident lizard, birds and some turtles.. The littlest hobo and I spent a good hour and a half in there and could have spent longer, had we not been heading off to reconvene with the third member of our travelling trio. 

Moana pool, set high on the hill overlooking the city and the harbour below it, is the most fantastic swimming pool for toddlers. There is a leisure pool with a sloped entrance, a lazy river, sprays, and a wave machine, and a separate ‘learners pool’ aside from the other non-little person focussed areas. We really enjoyed spending a rainy morning here, getting wet inside rather than outside.

We loved the views at Tunnel Beach, even though the tide was so high when we visited that there was no beach to be seen (cue disappointed little girl…). The walk back up is a little steep for small legs (and unfit adults, ahem) which meant tired arms for Mr T by the time we reached the top, but it was a beautiful clear sunny day and gave us a great introduction to the local coastline.

We stumbled upon Allan’s Beach on the Otago Peninsula when we went for a drive on a rainy afternoon. The rain cleared as we were driving and we found ourselves in Portobello. A quick consult with the guide book pointed us in the direction of nearby Allan’s Beach, and after a short walk over Lord of the Rings-esque farmland we were really excited to find ourselves on a beautiful expansive beach along with a handful of other tourists and 5 sea lions, lazing in the sunshine. The wind blew away the earlier rain clouds, making for a blue sky afternoon and some interesting shapes being blown in the sand as we played on the shoreline.

The suburb of St Clair had lots of things we liked too - the heated salt water pool was a big hit with Mr T and the littlest hobo, and coffees in the adjoined coffee shop afterwards, with views of surfers scattered along the curved sandy bay to top it off. Mr t also attended one of Judith Cullen's cookery classes here (somebody bought him a really thoughtful valentines present this year!).

We loved getting breakfast then schmoozing around the farmers market a the station on Saturday morning. We picked up some tasty local produce at great prices and there was a great atmosphere to soak up as we made our way through the throngs of locals and tourists alike. Then we headed along the platform and checked out the inside of the station which is rumoured to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.

Music to buy produce by, at the farmer's market

Our visit to Penguin Place was a real treat; we were able to see endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguins up close in their natural habitat while leaving them relatively undisturbed. We were also lucky enough to see a group of young male seals lazing around on the rocks and grassy verges, doing what teenage boys do best!

There are so many things we didn’t fit into our visit, such as a wildlife trip out on the water, a ride on the Taieri Gorge railway, Speight’s Brewery and Cadbury’s World, but everything we did do made it a fun filled week, and it’s good to know that we have plenty to go back for next time too. 


  1. Great post. You might be interested in the ten best places I have visited in New Zealand

    1. Thanks for sharing your list Carole - I think everywhere on your list is somewhere we have been, or somewhere we're planning to go, so it was good to see what you had to say about them, and I love your photography! You have a new follower now :)

  2. Oh I have just found your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. Hubby and I did a 4 week NZ campervan trip back in 2007 and I so desperately want to do it again, this time with the kids. Hubby is a Kiwi himself and I loved having him show me his country. I look forward to exploring your blog further!

    1. Hi there! thanks so much, glad you are enjoying it. I'm having some serious campervan envy at the moment - that was our original plan, but it proved a bit expensive, so we've hired a cheap car and we're staying in bach's. Just had a quick look at your blog too - looking forward to reading some more :)