The University of Otago is New Zealand’s largest, and oldest, university, with an incredible range of courses and programs. It’s located in the student city of Dunedin, there are heaps of free activities to keep you busy during your time abroad, because let’s be realistic, money tends to get a little tight by the end of the semester. These are some of my favorite sights and activities from my semester abroad in Dunedin. All of them amazing in their own way, and best of all…FREE.

There is so much to see and do around Dunedin. Photo by Janelle Holte taken at Cargill Lookout near the city.
There is so much to see and do around Dunedin. Photo by Janelle Holte taken at Cargill Lookout near the city.

1. Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Conveniently located in central Dunedin, near all the student flats, and on the way to the grocery store for many, a person could wander through these gardens for hours on end. With 69 acres of gardens in the middle of the city, the sights, smells, and different garden beds are seemingly endless. There are also a café, duck pond, playground, streams, aviary, and walkways to explore, and not to mention an incredible view of all of Dunedin.


2. The Otago Museum

Thanks to their frequently changing exhibits, multiple trips to the museum over the semester could be in order. When the weather starts to get cold (which it does get very cold) this is an ideal place to come. Not to mention, you might bump into your local TEAN Resident Staff member, the lovely Alice.

3. Dunedin Railway Station

The railway station in Dunedin is absolutely beautiful, with gardens in front, and incredible architecture, it is worth the walk down. Train rides leave here each day, but just visiting the station itself is a great afternoon. Each Saturday, the Otago Farmers’ Market is located here. It is free to get into, but you won’t want to leave without having bought something local. I suggest the bacon buttie, or the garlic bread.


4. Ross Creek Reservoir

This spot is a lovely and historic parcel of land tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The oldest reservoir still in use in New Zealand, it also has a “historic places” trust in place for it. There is a tower, walkways, native birds, and the artificial lake, where Dunedin’s water comes from. You could easily spend a few hours wandering about here, or just take a quick walk around the lake.


5. Royal Albatross Colony

A short drive from Dunedin will lead you to the Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head. Here there are piers leading out over the ocean near large cliffs where the native Albatross live. It’s free to stop here, or there are options for paid tours. You can walk the piers between cliffs and see the magnificent, and huge, birds fly overhead. The wingspan of an Albatross is 8-11.5 feet across.

6. Moeraki Boulders

Another short drive from Dunedin leads you to the Moeraki Boulders. An amazing natural phenomenon, these perfectly spherical boulders are worth exploring, and the beach they sit on is lovely. Hermit crabs, seagulls and other beach creatures will greet you, and the rocks are great for climbing on and sliding down! Just make sure to visit while the tide is low.


7. Baldwin Street

Dunedin boasts Baldwin Street to tourists; the steepest street in the world. It is a project and an adventure in itself to climb up (or opt to take a taxi if need be). Just a regular residential street, it is totally free to walk up and down!

25,000 candies rolling down Baldwin Street as part of the Cadbury Festival. Photo by Michelle Kozminski who studied abroad in Dunedin.
25,000 candies rolling down Baldwin Street as part of the Cadbury Festival. Photo by Michelle Kozminski.

8. Signal Hill

If you’re looking to get to the top of Dunedin, Signal Hill is the place to go. With statues and history to see, you can also view all of Dunedin and the surrounding area up here. You can venture to walk up the trail, or drive up the road.


9. Sandfly Beach

Dunedin has gorgeous beaches worth exploring, even if the sun is shining bright. Sandfly Beach is a great spot to see wildlife, such as sea lions, seals, and maybe even penguins. You will want your sneakers for this beach adventure, climbing a steep hill down to get there, and with a long stretch of beach, or bush type trails to follow.


10. Long Beach

Last but not least, another beach in the Dunedin area, Long Beach. I have to admit, this was on of my favorite spots in all of New Zealand. With natural caves on the sand, an incredible hidden forest, cliffs, and views of nearby sheep. This is one of the only beaches that allow fires. People camp out in the caves, come to rock climb on the cliffs, walk the forest paths or enjoy the ocean. Camping in the caves was one of the most incredible experiences, which you have to experience for yourself.


Nicole Bowley-LeBrun is a TEAN Alum and Global Ambassador at Southern New Hampshire University. She studied abroad with TEAN at the University of Otago in DunedinNew Zealand