Family friendly things to do in Dunedin | Apollo NZ
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Dunedin & Central Otago

A New Zealand campervan holiday to Dunedin and Central Otago offers a truly unique travel experience. Situated on the southeastern coast of the South Island, Dunedin is known for its Scottish heritage and Victorian and Edwardian architecture, while Central Otago, a short drive inland, offers dramatic landscapes characterised by rugged mountains, rolling plains, and crystal-clear lakes. Dunedin is a city that prides itself on its educational and cultural richness, home to the prestigious University of Otago and an array of museums and galleries. Dunedin’s weather can be cooler than other parts of New Zealand, with crisp, clear days perfect for exploring the historic streets or nearby natural attractions.

Central Otago offers a stark contrast with its semi-arid terrain, making it perfect for outdoor activities such as biking along the Otago Central Rail Trail and wine tasting at some of New Zealand's highest altitude vineyards. The region's dry climate and dramatic seasonal changes serve as a stunning backdrop for adventure and relaxation alike. Park up overnight in a Dunedin holiday park or find a secluded spot near one of Central Otago's picturesque lakes. With the convenience of your campervan, you can comfortably switch between urban exploration in Dunedin and remote escapes in the wilds of Otago. Whether you're drawn to Dunedin's cultural scene or the rugged beauty of Otago’s outdoors, this region promises a memorable experience.

 

Why explore Dunedin & Central Otago by campervan

Exploring Dunedin and Central Otago by campervan is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the region's unique blend of cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. With a campervan, you dictate the pace and path of your journey. In Dunedin, you can easily navigate from the bustling shopping centre to quiet, windswept beaches along the Otago Peninsula. In Central Otago, the freedom to roam allows you to discover hidden gems, from secluded vineyards to historic gold mining towns, all at your own pace. The ability to spontaneously decide where to go next, from a morning exploring Dunedin’s architectural marvels to an afternoon tasting pinot noirs amidst the hills of Central Otago, is a true luxury.

Travelling by campervan not only offers all the comforts of home, including your own kitchen, bed, and living space but also saves you the hassle of packing and unpacking at each new destination. Plus, having your own facilities means you’re never far from a homecooked meal or a comfortable bed, even if you find yourself in the remote reaches of the region.

 

Things to do in Dunedin & Central Otago

Dunedin and Central Otago abound with diverse attractions, blending rich history with exhilarating outdoor pursuits and gourmet experiences. In Dunedin, discover the opulence of Larnach Castle or engage with local history at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. For wildlife lovers, the area offers close encounters with unique species like the yellow-eyed penguin. Moving inland to Central Otago, you can hit the scenic cycle trails, savour exquisite pinot noirs at local vineyards, or try gold panning in Cromwell. Activities like water sports on Lake Dunstan also offer plenty of thrills, ensuring every traveller finds something to cherish.

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Family friendly things to do in Dunedin.

Planning to book a campervan hire for a family holiday in Dunedin? From the world's steepest street to beautiful beaches and unforgettable wildlife experiences, Dunedin is an outstanding New Zealand road trip destination. 

With its distinctive blend of history, nature, and culture, there are loads of great family activities in Dunedin to suit every age and stage. So to help you plan the ultimate campervan travel itinerary, we’ve put together this helpful guide to some of the best family friendly things to do in Dunedin. 

 

What’s Dunedin known for?

Celebrated for its Scottish heritage and Victorian architecture, Dunedin presents a striking contrast in scenery for those on a New Zealand road trip. It's a place where history and nature converge, offering a unique experience for motorhome travellers. Renowned for the iconic Dunedin Railway Station and the University of Otago, New Zealand's oldest university, the city exudes a blend of historical charm and vibrant student energy. 

Beyond its architectural marvels, Dunedin is known for its wildlife spotting opportunities, with the Otago Peninsula being a haven for rare species like the yellow-eyed penguin and the royal albatross.  From exploring the lush landscapes of the peninsula to delving into the rich cultural tapestry of the city, Dunedin brings together a fantastic and fun travel itinerary for families.

 

The best way to explore Dunedin?

When it comes to family holidays, it's all about having fun, making those unforgettable memories, and spending quality time together. And what better way to do all that than travelling by campervan? It's a perfect fit for families looking to blend adventure with comfort. 

Your camper is like a cosy, mobile home. It’s a game-changer for family holidays, especially when travelling with kids. Fancy a quick snack? The fridge is waiting wherever you are. Kids getting irritable? Pop back to the camper so they can have some quiet time or a nap while you take a breather with a coffee. 

When you travel by campervan, you can enjoy all of Dunedin’s activities without lugging around all those ‘just in case’ bits and pieces. Everything you need is nice and handy in your motorhome, whenever you need it. That extra jacket, the pushchair, a drink bottle – it’s all at hand. And, with your motorhome close by, there’s always a private, clean bathroom or baby changing room whenever you need it – something every parent will be grateful for! 

 

Family-friendly things to do in Dunedin

Ready to start planning the ultimate family holiday? Here’s our list of the top 10 things to do in Dunedin.

 

1. Take an Iconic Farm Tour

For a truly fun family activity in Dunedin, the Iconic Farm Tour is a must-do. Located in Sawyers Bay near Port Chalmers, this charming little farm offers a delightful encounter with nature. Here, you can get up close with adorable Swiss Valais sheep, miniature cattle, and even lead alpacas around the paddock. Kids will have the chance to pet these friendly animals, feed the ducks, and immerse themselves in all the best parts of farm life.

The tour, lasting about an hour, includes guided walks around the farm. It's an educational and fun experience, perfect for children and adults alike. And at the end of the tour, adults can enjoy a complimentary coffee or tea while the kids continue to play. With a special family price available during school holidays, it's an affordable and memorable addition to your list of must-do places to visit in Dunedin.

 

2. Get up close to a royal albatross

Always wanted to see a majestic albatross up close? A campervan road trip in Dunedin offers that chance. A visit to Dunedin’s Royal Albatross Centre is an unforgettable experience for kids and adults alike. Located at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, this centre is home to the world's only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross. Here, you can witness these magnificent birds with their impressive three-metre wingspan, a sight that's both awe-inspiring and humbling.

The centre offers a range of tours, including the popular Albatross Classic, a 60-minute guided experience. It starts with a short film and a presentation on the albatross breeding cycle, followed by a walk up to the exclusive glassed observatory for up-close views of the albatross and other wildlife. On breezy days, you might even see these magnificent birds soaring in the wind, an unforgettable display of nature's grandeur. Booking a tour is highly recommended to ensure you don't miss out on this remarkable Dunedin activity.

 

3. Wander the Dunedin Botanic Gardens

As New Zealand's first botanic garden, Dunedin Botanic Garden is a treasure trove of diverse plant collections. But these great gardens offer more than just roses and rhododendrons, with a variety of trails to explore. Take a wander along the Dunedin Volcano Trail, a fascinating one-hour walk up an extinct volcano, offering both education and stunning views. Children will have fun along the Play Trail, designed specifically for young explorers, while adults can appreciate the Silent Spaces Trail. 

Keep an eye out for the local birdlife while you’re here. There are around 40 species that call the gardens home including kererū, tūī, finches, and tomtits. With over 50 trees on the Tree Trail and various statues and structures to discover, the Dunedin Botanic Garden offers a rich and varied experience for all ages. It’s an ideal place to unwind and reconnect with nature, offering a peaceful break from the excitement of a New Zealand road trip. 

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

4. Try out an awesome playground

Every kid loves a fun playground, and Dunedin has loads to choose from, each offering something different. From swings and slides to more adventurous climbing structures and interactive games, there's something to keep kids of all ages entertained. Many of these playgrounds are situated in picturesque locations, offering beautiful views and a relaxing atmosphere for parents to unwind while the kids play.

 

5. Learn new things at Otago Museum

Rainy day? A visit to the Otago Museum is one of the best Dunedin activities when you’re ready to head indoors. The museum, located on Great King Street, is open daily and free to enter. The museum's collections are vast and varied, providing insights into the rich cultural and natural heritage of the region. From historical artefacts to contemporary exhibitions, there's always something new and intriguing to see. 

One of the highlights for families is the Tūhura Science Centre. This interactive science centre is perfect for curious kids with hands-on exhibits that make learning fun and engaging. Don’t worry, there are no boring charts or dull videos. We’re talking a three-story indoor slide, a skeleton riding a bike, a tropical forest full of exotic butterflies, and loads more!

 

6. Discover Larnach Castle

Proudly standing on the picturesque Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is one of the unmissable places to visit in Dunedin. As the country's only castle, it has been beautifully restored to become a standout highlight on any Dunedin travel itinerary.

Kids will love exploring the castle, including the tower and the ballroom café, as well as the gift shop, historic stables, and outbuildings. The self-guided tour allows you to delve into the history and architectural beauty of the castle at your own pace. The gardens of Larnach Castle are a spectacle in their own right, having been rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a Garden of International Significance. 

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

7. Make a splash at Moana Pool

Looking for the perfect spot to dive into some fun, splash around, and create happy family memories? Dunedin’s Moana Pool is the place to do it. Located on the hills above the Octagon at 60 Littlebourne Road, the pool offers a variety of swimming areas to suit all ages and abilities. 

The kids will find plenty to keep them entertained, with slides and dedicated kids' areas ensuring a fun-filled visit. The pool's environment is safe and welcoming, making it a perfect family-friendly destination. 

 

8. Test your skills at Dunedin Ice Stadium

Ready for some cool fun? The Dunedin Ice Stadium is where it’s at. Known as the ‘coolest place to play in Dunedin’, this winter wonderland is all about ice-skating thrills and chills. Located in St Kilda, it's a place where you can glide, spin, or even stumble a bit on the ice – all in the name of fun!

From pro skaters to total novices, the Dunedin Ice Stadium has something for everyone. Fancy a bit of disco while you skate? Their DISCO sessions are super popular and heaps of fun. If the kids are into sports, catch a live ice hockey game and get swept up in the excitement. Or, for something a bit different, why not try a family curling challenge? It’s great for a laugh and sure to add some awesome memories to your New Zealand road trip.

 

9. Take on the world’s steepest street

Park up your campervan and get ready for a unique challenge on foot – taking on Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street! This 350-metre stretch of road boasts a staggering gradient of 34.8 per cent, making it an extraordinary landmark. The street previously held the record for over a decade until 2019, when it briefly lost the title. However, following an appeal, Baldwin Street was rightfully reinstated as the steepest.  

 

10. Swim at St Kilda Beach

Soak up some sun and enjoy the fresh sea air at St Kilda Beach. This beach is a favourite among locals and visitors alike, and for good reason. It's the perfect place to unwind, take a dip in the ocean, and enjoy the beautiful New Zealand coastline.

St Kilda Beach offers wide stretches of soft sand, making it ideal for beach games, sunbathing, or just kicking back. The beach's gentle waves are great for swimming, and on a sunny day, the water can be incredibly inviting. It's a fantastic spot for families, with plenty of space for kids to play and build sandcastles.

 

Family friendly holiday parks in Dunedin

Now you’ve got some great ideas for family activities in Dunedin to add to your New Zealand itinerary, let’s take a look at where to stay in your campervan hire.

 

Dunedin Holiday Park and Motels

Located adjacent to the beautiful St Kilda beach, Dunedin Holiday Park and Motels is Dunedin’s largest quality holiday park. It's a fantastic spot for families, offering over 65 powered sites to park your motorhome. The park is equipped with free unlimited WiFi, ensuring you stay connected during your holiday. For family fun, there's a children's playground and free BBQs, perfect for enjoying those sunny days. The park's location also serves as a gateway to the Otago Peninsula, making it an ideal base for exploring the local area.

 

Leith Valley Holiday Park

Nestled on the banks of the lovely Leith Stream, Leith Valley Holiday Park is just 1 km from Dunedin's main street. The park provides a range of powered sites for campervans, surrounded by natural beauty and with access to bush walks and glow worms. It's a quiet spot but also close to many popular Dunedin activities, including Baldwin Street, Otago Museum, and the Botanic Gardens, making it perfect for families looking to explore Dunedin.

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Ready to explore Dunedin?

Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Dunedin has something for every family. And the best way to experience it all? By exploring in the comfort of a campervan. Ready to create lasting memories with your family? Book your campervan hire online today and get ready for the ultimate New Zealand road trip.

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Popular Dunedin & Central Otago road trips & itineraries

Dunedin and Central Otago, situated in the southern part of New Zealand's South Island, are regions steeped in natural beauty and cultural richness. Travelling by campervan allows you to freely explore the varied landscapes – from Dunedin’s rugged coastline to Central Otago’s golden hills – and discover a network of routes dotted with historical sites, quaint towns, and scenic camping spots. Whether cruising through Dunedin’s architectural marvels or winding through the vineyard-clad valleys of Central Otago, each journey is an invitation to delve deeper into the heart of the south. 

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Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 

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Apollo Campervan branches

Christchurch

Setting out from Apollo's Christchurch branch, the road trip through the Canterbury Plains and alongside the Southern Alps is breathtaking, with stops like Lake Tekapo and the historic town of Oamaru enriching your travel experience. 

Queenstown

Departing from Apollo's Queenstown branch, you're perfectly positioned to explore both the adventurous heart of the South Island and the tranquil beauty of Central Otago before reaching Dunedin. 

Auckland

From Apollo Auckland, the multi-day trip to Dunedin and Central Otago – we suggest 10-14 days – offers a comprehensive tour of the North and South Islands, including crossing the Cook Strait by ferry

Auckland City Skyline

Auckland

New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.

 

Helpful tips for visiting Dunedin & Central Otago

 

Climate and seasons in Dunedin & Central Otago

Dunedin and Central Otago offer distinct climate experiences that reflect the diverse landscapes of the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island.

Dunedin enjoys a temperate maritime climate with mild summers and cool winters, tempered by its coastal position.

  • Summer (December to February) are generally mild, with temperatures hovering around 15°C to 22°C, ideal for enjoying outdoor activities along the city’s beaches and exploring the lush Otago Peninsula.

  • Autumn (March to May) sees cooler temperatures and is a great time to witness the changing colours of the city's abundant foliage.

  • Winter (June to August) in Dunedin can be chilly, with temperatures dropping to 5°C to 10°C, but the city’s historical and cultural sites continue to draw visitors.

  • Spring (September to November) rejuvenates the city with mild weather and blossoming gardens, perfect for outdoor adventures before the colder months set in.

Central Otago contrasts sharply with a more continental climate, characterised by hot dry summers and cold winters.

  • Summers see temperatures that can climb above 25°C, making it an excellent time for exploring the region’s famous vineyards and outdoor recreational activities.
  • Autumn brings a dramatic change in landscape colour, particularly vivid in the vineyard areas, with cooler but still pleasant temperatures.
  • Winter sees temperatures often falling below freezing, blanketing the region in snow, which transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland, popular for photography and winter sports.
  • Spring slowly warms up the land, thawing lakes and rivers, and ushering in a season of growth and renewal.

 

 

 

What to pack

Preparing for your campervan adventure in Dunedin and Central Otago requires thoughtful packing to accommodate the varying climates and activities these regions offer. Here’s what to consider bringing along to make the most of your trip:

  • Outdoor gear: Given the diverse environments in Dunedin and Central Otago, versatile outdoor gear is essential. For Dunedin's coastal walks and city explorations, lightweight, breathable clothing will serve you well, complemented by a waterproof jacket for unpredictable showers. Central Otago's more extreme temperatures call for sun hats and high SPF sunscreen in summer, and warm, insulating layers in winter, especially if you plan to engage in snow sports or explore the frosty landscapes.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan with a few extras can significantly improve your comfort and convenience. A portable heater might be necessary for chilly Central Otago nights, while a fan can keep you cool during the dry summer heat. Additionally, outdoor chairs and a table will expand your living space, perfect for enjoying the scenic views at your leisure.

  • Sun protection: Sun protection is crucial year-round due to New Zealand’s strong UV rays, particularly in the exposed and high-altitude areas of Central Otago. Pack broad-spectrum sunscreen, UV-protective sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. Insect repellent will also be useful, especially in the warmer months when sandflies and mosquitoes are more prevalent.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

 

Nearby attractions and day trips from Dunedin & Central Otago

 

  • The Otago Peninsula tretching along the southern edge of the Otago Harbour, is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery and incredible wildlife. This area is a haven for nature lovers, offering opportunities to see rare yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, and the only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross in the world. The peninsula’s rolling hills and rugged cliffs provide perfect vantage points for breathtaking views and photography.
  • Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, offers a glimpse into the country’s colonial past, set against the backdrop of expansive gardens and the scenic Otago Peninsula. Built in 1871 by William Larnach, a merchant and politician, the castle features beautifully restored Victorian-era rooms and a unique collection of New Zealand antiques. The gardens are a highlight, recognised as a Garden of International Significance, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
  • Baldwin Street in Dunedin is famous for being the world's steepest residential street, attracting visitors from all over the globe. The street offers a challenging but quirky walk, rising significantly over its short 350-metre length.
  • Dunedin Railway Station is a stunning architectural marvel, known as the ‘Gingerbread House’ because of its ornate Flemish Renaissance style. Completed in 1906, the station is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Visitors can admire its detailed mosaic floors, stained glass windows, and grand booking hall. The station also serves as the departure point for scenic railway journeys that explore the spectacular landscapes surrounding Dunedin.
  • Tunnel Beach, just south of Dunedin, offers dramatic coastal scenery with sandstone cliffs, arches, and headlands. Accessible through a short walk that includes a tunnel down to the beach – hand-carved in the 1870s – this spot is perfect for those looking to explore a more secluded part of the coastline. The beach is particularly striking at sunset and is a popular location for romantic walks and picnics.
  • Otago Harbour is a long, narrow inlet associated with the bustling city life of Dunedin and the tranquil beauty of the Otago Peninsula. It's a hub for water activities, including sailing, fishing, and kayaking. The harbour is also a vital part of the local ecosystem, supporting a variety of birdlife and marine species, making it an excellent spot for wildlife watching.
  • Moeraki Boulders, located on Koekohe Beach along the Otago coast, are huge, almost perfectly spherical stones. These natural wonders were created by the cementation of mudstone over millions of years, with some over two metres in diameter.
  • The Catlins Coast, stretching between Balclutha and Invercargill, offers a remote and rugged landscape with a wealth of natural attractions. Visitors can explore dense rainforests and meet unique wildlife. Highlights include Nugget Point with its iconic lighthouse and the dramatic Purakaunui Falls.

For more inspiration, check out our guide to family friendly things to do in Dunedin.

 

Where to stay in Dunedin & Central Otago with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Dunedin & Central Otago, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:

Dunedin

 

 

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