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7 Summer Dunedin Day Trip Destinations

Long daylight hours and warmer temperatures mean summer is the perfect time for new adventures and exploring further afield with fun day trips for the whole family. Dunedin is one of those lucky places in New Zealand that provides a varied range of experiences all within easy driving distance.

Pile up with friends and family in a rental van (a great way to cut down on petrol costs and to share the work of driving) and hit the road there are some fantastic locations nearby for you to explore!

1. Taiaroa Head And The Royal Albatross Centre

The location of the only Albatross colony on the mainland, the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Centre is a charitable trust dedicating to protecting these special birds and promoting the welfare and awareness of the environment they live in. 

As a nature reserve, the place offers walks that will take you near to the birds themselves, and in nesting seasons you may even be able to see chicks. There’s also a cafe and souvenirs for a pitt stop on your journey. Tours range from around $30 through to $60.

2. Olveston Historic Home

Many people know of the famous Larnach Castle, but there’s another historic building full of grandeur that’s well worth the visit – Olveston Historic Home. Built in the early 1900’s, it’s a perfectly preserved time capsule that gives you a glimpse into the life of the Dunedin businessman David Theomin.

Having been since gifted to the public, it’s filled with antique furniture and trimmings, and surrounded by expansive landscaped grounds. There are hour-long guided tours that take you through the house, and booking is highly recommended as only 15 people at a time may enter. Regular tours cost $22, private tours are available at an extra cost.

3. Taieri Gorge Railway

The Taieri Gorge Railway is a functioning historic train line that runs through picturesque mountain valley scenery. Constructed over 100 years ago, it’s a testament to the old mining history of the area and offers commentary on the land.

There’s a return journey with a stop to explore Pukerangi or Middlemarch, or you can even cycle back. If arriving by cruise ship there are special tours bookable through your cruise company also. The journey lasts between 4 and 6 hours and prices range from $105 to $134.

4. Oamaru

You may want to go as far north as the small coastal town of Oamaru, which is home to a steampunk museum along with fun artistic cafes and galleries. The very scenic drive along the coastline has many opportunities to stop and explore the beaches and peninsulas along the way. Be sure to stop off at Moeraki and take a look at the famous Moeraki Boulders.

Oamaru is just an hour and a half from Dunedin and is the largest town in the North Otago region. Don’t miss taking a walk around the Victorian Precinct for a touch of tradition, art, shopping and fun all rolled into one!

5. The Caitlins

Situated on the lower south east coast of the South Island, the area known as the Caitlins is home to a wide array of things to see and do. Head on out to Nugget Point and check out the lighthouse, Yellow Eyed penguins or the resident fur seal colony. Or take a drive out to the iconic Purakaunui Falls, check out the Cathedral Caves or spend some time at Purakaunui Beach.

At around 1 to 2 hrs drive from Dunedin the Caitlins are the perfect day trip option for those who love the outdoors and getting back to nature. Find all the information on the Caitlins you need here.

6. Waikouaiti And Karitane

Fishing, surfing, boating, kayaking or tramping sound like you? Then Waikouaiti and Karitane are the place to be. Discover this historic little place just over 30 minutes’ drive from Dunedin. Enjoy the peace and natural beauty of the area along with the beautiful remote Waikouaiti Beach with its historic Matanaka Farm buildings at one end and an old fortified Maori pa at the other.

On the way there (or back) make time to visit the Orokonui Ecosanctuary located roughly half way. The sanctuary provides a safe haven for the wildlife and birds of the area including Pied Stilts, White Herons, Royal Spoonbills, Shags, Geese, Black Swans and various breeds of ducks.

7. Middlemarch

A good one for the Lord Of The Rings fans out there, Middlemarch is home to the Sutton Salt Lake – New Zealand’s only inland salt lake – and is the setting for the schist pillars that were featured in the famous Peter Jackson films known as the Rock and Pillar Ranges.

Middlemarch is also the perfect place to take part in some hiking or biking. The official start of the ‘Otago Central Rail Trail’ this offers visitors the chance to take to the trails that weave their way through the epic central Otago landscape. Looking at staying more close to home then check out the local museum, golf course or try your hand a trout fishing in the Taieri River.

Taking a day trip from Dunedin is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family. Family car a bit too small? Have you thought about hiring a rental van so you can all travel together or just to fit in all those extras bits and pieces for the trip?

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