Located on the East Coast of the South Island, Dunedin is an adorable city filled with students, backpackers, adventures and the almost mythical New Zealand Nightlife. I spent a few months living here and loving every minute of it, and so, to be courteous to my fellow travellers, I have complied a list of things to do and see to ensure a fantastic stay in the city.
1 – Let’s get our priorities straight here; here’s where you will find the best coffee, at least in my opinion. Vanguard Coffee which is on Princes Street not only know their shit, but they smile when they serve you and they roast their own beans. The Good Oil Cafe, also on Princes Street but much further down is also pretty fantastic, and with excellent wifi for abusing your family over Skype with. There’s also The Dog With Two Tails on Moray Place, but more on that later.
2 – Straight after coffee comes the beer; as I like to say – “9 to 4 coffee, 4 to 9 beer”. Yes, there’s a massive fucking brewery for Speights on Rattray Street, and while drinking copious amounts of alcohol in an athletic style event is quite awesome (link), it’s just not good beer. My favourite little pub is located on Stuart Street and is called Albar, where they rotate different ales on tap and, at least while I was there, actually have Bavarian Weizen which, upon request, they would serve in a maß (much to any true Bavarian’s disgust (sorry Axel, München is not really Bavaria, let’s be honest, but isn’t a groß Bier just ubergeil? Albeit in the incorrect vessel)). They also do good local craft beer at The Dog With Two Tails, but more on that later.
3 – After hydration comes sustenance. Oh yes, I found the food alright, because I’m like a dog who only thinks about food and fun. Etrusco in the Savoy do a fucking good pizza – I would know, I worked there, and I am well acquainted with the entire menu – and I highly recommend it. If Makoto or Devon serve you, give them a big cuddle and a slap on the ass from me. There’s a small burger chain called Velvet Burger, the main one on Stuart Street where they do a rather good burger at a reasonable price, at least by New Zealand’s standards, and plenty of other little eateries all over the city to try. They also do good food at The Dog With Two Tails, but more on that later.
4 – Get drunk. I mean it; this is the only place in New Zealand you can have a classy night out without ending up sleeping with ten people in one night, naked and face down in the lake by Queenstown. Here’s what I recommend; get a beer with your pizza at Etrusco and slap Makoto and Devon on the ass, head downstairs to Pequenos where Chris will be sure to look after you for a few hours in the world’s cutest cocktail bar. When you are feeling justifiably tipsy, waddle your way over to Carousel on Stuart Street for some alternative electro music where the night will take one of two directions; either Chris treated you too well in Pequenos and the alcohol is starting to set in, Devon will apparently try to teach you how to Tango and then dissapear into the night as Makoto stumbles after her down the stairs and nobody will recall any of this or indeed how they got home, or you will be sober enough to continue the general debauchery at Suburbia next door.
5 – Wednesday nights are a special night in Dunedin, because they have jazz nights for all you hipsters, musicians and dancers. The place to be is The Dog With Two Tails where Simon and his ever changing band will keep you occupied all night. If you’re feeling musical you can even participate and jam with the band. If you want to dance then put on your swing shoes and show everybody that backflip spin you’ve been practicing with your partner and toss them into the drumkit. If you want to drink and relax, you can get exhausted watching everybody else show off throw each other at drumkits. It’s a beautiful night that, if given the opportunity, must absolutely not be missed. The cafe itself is wonderfully quirky and the food and drinks are awesome, so if you turn up on the wrong night you’re still going to be well looked after, most likely with live music as well.
6 – Keeping up with the hipster theme, Dunedin displays an ever expanding collection of street art. You can grab a map from the i-site and spend an afternoon unwrapping little pieces of hipster happiness all over the city.
7 – Yes there’s a chocolate factory. It’s expensive but you can consume a lot of melted chocolate if you stand next to the dispensers while they demonstrate the tempering and subtly pour yourself another few cups. I recommend taking some water with you if you intend to do this because the dehydration was not pleasant.
8 – Spend the afternoon like an Indie Road CEO. Let me talk you through this; you find a tall and handsome Bavarian boy with long flowing hair and suggest going for a walk. You waddle down to Dominos while discussing louche topics like what kind of dinosaur you would be and the name of your potential future bar and buy yourself a cheap, shitty $5 pizza. While it’s still hot you run across a couple of roads into the botanical gardens and then proceed to scald yourself on BBQ sauce and cheese before taking a stroll around the pleasant arrangements of plants while nursing your third degree burns. On the way back, you take a tour through the student housing and have a giggle at all the provocative and ridiculous names such as “Hoe-tel” and possibly grab a beer at any random craft beer pub en route. Then repeat step 4 until you wake up the following day craving shitty $5 pizza and a discussion on dinosaurs.
9 – Go to Baldwin Street. And while you’re there take a hike up Signal Hill because you’re close enough and they’re both fucking far away from everything. Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world, and it’s fun to throw stuff down but otherwise somewhat disappointingly anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong, you will get some satisfyingly concerned looks from the package tour asians as your slinky rolls betwixt their unsuspecting legs, but I can only imagine how much fun we could have had if we had returned with a rubber bouncy ball. Some idiots actually cycle up this. Others just like to gleefully skip down it.
10 – Do the Peninsular. Do it. Fucking do it. If you don’t I will cry. It is possible to cycle, but as Axel and I will tell you, coming back up from Sandfly Bay (which you also must see) will probably kill you from cardiac arrest, and cycling against the wind (which by pure physics of having to go back in the direction you came from, should theoretically happen) is disheartening, painful and soul destroying. The best, cheapest and most efficient way to see such a beautiful place is to be kidnapped by some Germans with a car. From the end you can see albatrosses and blue penguins. From Sandfly Bay you can see yellow eyed penguins at sunset, and for bonus points there are luckily no sandflies. There are seals and sea lions which you shouldn’t poke and I DEFINITELY DID NOT DO to be found on several beaches. Allans Beach is very pretty and quite good for surfing if you feel like almost drowning. I personally recommend catching the sunset at Sandfly and then driving the high road back to Dunedin so you can see the city lights flicker on one by one against the darkening skies. Then you can drag your German kidnappers to The Dog With Two Tails, get complained at by a grumpy ginger British guy and then meet them at a party several months later dressed as a Heinz Ketchup Bottle.
In terms of places to stay for backpackers, I recommend Hogwartz Hostel. It’s not very Harry Potter themed, but the showers are straight from heaven, and the rest of the hostel is well above your average experience. I also recommend Manor House Backpackers if you want something a bit cheaper, but it’s further out of town and less fantastic, however they will let you stay in your car on the driveway or in your tent in the garden at a reduced rate where Hogwartz won’t. There is a free camping ground just out of town but it’s very small and you’ll need a car to get there.
Dunedin very quickly became a home away from home and I cannot wait to go back and to see how everything has changed and developed. Please note that I haven’t been there since April this year and some places/people and things could well have changed, but I don’t know because I’m a fucking gypsy backpacker whose only home is the pair of shoes that I smell out every single day. Peace out.
– Tom @ indieroad