Dunedin is hands down one of the most charming cities in New Zealand.

It is the second largest city on the South Island (after Christchurch) and lies in the heart of the Otago region.

Beyond the natural beauty of the Otago Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean, Dunedin is known for its rich Scottish heritage and bustling student culture.

Victorian architecture and Edwardian homes line the streets, while the University of Otago attracts young people from all over the world.

Dunedin is also one of the few places in New Zealand where you can spot rare colonies of yellow-eyed penguins in their natural habitat.

Despite all that Dunedin has to offer, its small size makes it totally doable to explore in just one day.

Continue reading for 16 fun things to do in Dunedin in 1 day.

1. Iconic Dunedin City Tour

With only one day to explore this New Zealand city, you better make it count.

This tour of Dunedin’s top attractions allows you to do just that.

This small group tour will take you to all the top sites, such as Baldwin Street, Dunedin’s Grand Railway Station, Otago Harbour, and the University of Otago.

Pick ups are available directly from your cruise ship port or from any of the city’s downtown hotels.

As you explore the city, a professional local guide will fill you in on everything there is to know about Dunedin’s history and culture.

Full and half day tours are available to suit all travellers.

Tour details

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Inclusions: Professional guide, hotel pick up and drop off, light refreshments, all taxes and fees, bottled water

Half-Day Tour Full-Day Tour

2. Larnach Castle Tour

Get the royal treatment in Dunedin!

This tour will have you exploring Larnach Castle, a castle located on the Otago Peninsula.

It is one of only a few estates of this kind in all of New Zealand.

Larnach Castle is a must-visit for all history buffs and Will & Kate fanatics.

In addition to the period architecture and decor, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the water down below.

All trips include a guided tour of the castle and a brief city tour in Dunedin.

Tour details

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Departure Time: 10:00 am
  • Inclusions: Guided tour, entry fees, hotel pick up and drop off, light refreshments

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3. Signal Hill

The Signal Hill lookout in Dunedin is not to be missed.

This 1,289-foot forested promontory rises high above Otago Harbour, and offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and its surrounding hills.

There is truly no spot more picturesque in all of Dunedin.

From the summit, you can also see the city lit up down below.

Visitors are able to walk to the summit or drive to the top.

Don’t miss the memorial dedicated to New Zealand’s 100th anniversary, not far from the Signal Hill summit.

Inclusions for most tours

  • Bottled water
  • Entry fees
  • All taxes
  • Hotel pick up and drop off
  • Local guide

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4. Taieri Gorge Railway Trip

Whether you’re a train enthusiast or just love scenic views, the Taieri Gorge Railway is for you.

This unique train trip is surely like nothing you’ve experienced before.

The Taieri Gorge Railway is one of the most spectacular train rides in the world, making it a must-see Dunedin attraction.

Trains depart daily from Dunedin’s city centre.

They travel from downtown Dunedin through the gorge, which offers views of gorgeous hills and flowing rivers below.

Each train is equipped with outside viewing platforms and a cafe.

Tour details

  • Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Inclusions: Rail tour, live commentary

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5. The Seasider Train Journey

Who doesn’t love a coastal road trip?

The Seaside Train Journey is one of the most popular trips in New Zealand, and for good reason.

This train trip travels along the coastal railway between Dunedin and Waitati.

Passengers can expect changing landscapes along the way.

From dramatic cliffs to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, you’re sure to be mesmerized.

This section is considered by many to be one of the best sections of the entire New Zealand railway network.

Tour details

  • Duration: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Inclusions: Train trip, live commentary, guide booklet

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6. Moeraki Boulders Tour

Be amazed by the natural wonders that are the Moeraki Boulders.

These world famous boulders are a popular tourist attraction in the Dunedin area.

They are unusually large, round boulders that reside on Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast.

Take photos of them, frolic around them, or just enjoy the serenity of being on the beach.

Tours will take you not only to Koekohe Beach, but also to Warrington Beach, Karitane Beach, and Shag Point Nature Reserve.

All tours offer flexibility to ensure the best possible experience for visitors.

Tour details

  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Departure Time: 9:30 am
  • Departure Point: Port Chalmers
  • Inclusions: Bottled water, entry fees

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7. Dunedin & Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour

For nature lovers, there are few cities better than Dunedin.

In Dunedin, you’re never far from natural beauty or astounding wildlife.

This Dunedin and Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour allows you to experience the best of the best.

This 7.5 hour tour will have you travelling through Dunedin, with a professional guide providing fun and informative information along the way.

Tours begin with a brief city tour covering Baldwin Street and the historic railway station.

From there, you’ll get out and explore the grounds of Larnach Castle.

Finally, you’ll visit the peninsula where you can expect to see albatross, fur seals, sea lions, and even yellow-eyed penguins.

Tour details

  • Duration: 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Departure Point: Port Chalmers
  • Inclusions: Guide, transport, entry fees, pick up and drop off at cruise port

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8. Glow Worm Tour

The North Island isn’t the only place where you’ll find New Zealand’s magical glow worms.

Tours promise to show visitors glow worms in all their glory, including their webs.

You’ll even get to witness glow worms laying on their webs waiting for prey.

Incredible photo opportunities await.

In addition to phones, visitors are welcome and even encouraged to bring their professional cameras.

Tours are available at nighttime only, in order to maximize the magic.

Tour details

  • Duration: 90-120 minutes
  • Departure Time: 12:00 am
  • Inclusions: Use of flashlights

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9. Dunedin Cruise

Get up close and personal with one of New Zealand’s most loveable creatures: seals.

Fur seals can be found off many areas of New Zealand’s coast.

These adorable creatures are especially bountiful in Otago.

So if you’ve ever wanted to experience seals in their natural habitat, this is the tour for you.

Many tours will take you to scenic beaches or on a boat to beautiful cliffs and rocks, where seals like to lounge around and sunbathe.

Don’t miss this incredible wildlife experience!

Inclusions for most tours

  • Snacks
  • Entry fees
  • Bottled water
  • Hotel pick up and drop off
  • Transportation

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10. Olveston Historic Home Guided Tour

History buffs will love Olveston Historic Home.

This elegant estate was constructed in the early 20th century in the Jacobean style.

Today, it is a popular tourist attraction in Dunedin.

A one hour guided tour will take you through various rooms in the house, explaining the history and significance behind each.

In addition to period decor and furniture, you’ll get to see famous art from around the world, as the former owner was an art collector.

Be sure to also take a stroll through the beautiful gardens on the property.

Tour details

  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Departure Point: Olveston Historic Home
  • Inclusions: Local guide, entry fees

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11. Speight’s Brewery Guided Tour

Calling all craft beer lovers!

Speight’s Brewery is one of the oldest, most beloved breweries in all of New Zealand.

Founded nearly 150 years ago, tours of Speight’s Brewery span 1.5 hours in length.

Each tour will teach you about the history of the brewery, the ingredients they use, and the brewing process.

Of course, you’ll also get to sample some of their award-winning beers along the way.

As you sip, your knowledgeable guide will talk you through the various styles and flavours of each beer.

Tour details

  • Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Departure Point: Speight’s Heritage Centre
  • Inclusions: Local guide, entry fees, taxes, alcoholic beverages

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12. Theomin Art Collection Guided Tour

Art enthusiasts, this tour is for you.

The Theomin Art Collection is home to the most extensive collection of local and international art in the country.

It is a private art collection that was acquired by the Theomin family in the nineteenth century.

By 1960, the collection had reached a whopping 260 pieces.

Today, is hangs in the Olveston Historic House.

Guided tours take you through the collection, commenting on points of interest and the history of each painting.

Tour details

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Departure Time: 3:00 pm
  • Departure Point: Olveston Historic Home
  • Inclusions: Entry fees and taxes

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13. Otago Museum Stories of the South

The Otago Museum is one of the finest natural history museums in New Zealand.

From unique wildlife to natural resources to the history of the Maori people, there is so much to discover at this Dunedin institution.

Specific exhibits teach visitors about Maori seasonal food supplies and about how whaling and gold contributed to the prosperity of Dunedin.

The Otago Museum is also home to the world’s largest collection of moa skeletons.

The stories of the South Island are extremely rich and diverse, and this tour of the Otago Museum provides unparalleled insight into them.

Tours are twice daily and include a professional guide to answer all of your questions along the way.

Tour details

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Departure Times: 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm
  • Departure Point: Otago Museum Information Desk
  • Inclusions: Entry fees and professional guide

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14. The Octagon

The Octagon is the heart of Dunedin.

This bustling commercial area is an 8-sided plaza lined with quaint cafes, top-notch restaurants, trendy bars, and lively nightclubs.

It is popular year round with both locals and tourists.

It’s also the city’s cultural centre, with institutions like the Dunedin Art Gallery and Regent Theatre nearby.

As the most exciting part of the city, the Octagon often plays host to markets, festivals, and other cultural events.

Grab a beer at a pub, enjoy a meal on a patio, and see a show at the Regent Theatre.

You can do it at all in this downtown area.

Inclusions for most tours

  • Port pick up and drop off
  • Local taxes
  • Entry fees
  • Bottled water

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15. Glenfalloch Gardens

Enjoy the outdoors on this scenic Glenfalloch Gardens tour.

This unique Dunedin excursion will transport you to the stunning Glenfalloch Gardens.

These gardens provide panoramic views of the harbour and feature a multitude of both native and imported plants.

Enjoy morning tea and cinnamon scones before making your way to downtown Dunedin.

You’ll tour the Octagon, including the Botanical Gardens, and then head to your next destination: the Dunedin Chinese Garden.

This authentic garden was created by a team of Shanghai artists as an homage to the Chinese people who came to Otago during the nineteenth century gold rush.

Tour details

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Departure Times: 9:15 am
  • Inclusions: Entry fees, professional guide/driver, morning tea, port pick up and drop off, air conditioned vehicle

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16. Shore Excursions for Cruise Passengers

As a popular cruise ship port, there are many Dunedin tours for cruise passengers.

Shore excursions will allow you to explore the city on a restricted schedule.

There are tours to suit all groups.

From wildlife tours of the Otago Peninsula that will allow you to see penguins and seals, to city highlights tours that will take you into Dunedin’s downtown core, there are plenty of options when it comes to discovering Dunedin.

No matter which way you prefer to travel – van, bus, cruise, or train – there is something for everyone.

Take advantage of your limited time in Dunedin!

Inclusions for most tours

  • Bottled water
  • Air-conditioned vehicle
  • Port pick up and drop off
  • Professional guide
  • Entry fees
  • Local taxes

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There is so much to love about Dunedin. This South Island city boasts natural beauty, exotic wildlife, and even a historic castle.

With only one day to explore, we recommend making the most of it, and we hope this list has inspired you.

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!