283km (175 miles) S of Queenstown; 366km (227 miles) S of Christchurch; 220km (136 miles) N of Invercargill
Originally named New Edinburgh (by the 344 Scots who settled here in 1848), Dunedin is filled with grand Victorian architecture befitting its 19th-century status as the top dog in New Zealand’s wealthiest region. That status disappeared with the demise of gold mining, and today the city is best known as a university town. The University of Otago, New Zealand's oldest university, was established in 1869, and the original buildings (following the design of Glasgow University) have retained their handsome bluestone and slate detailing. A conglomerate of less ornate but more functional 20th- and 21st-century university buildings now spread throughout North Dunedin. With a population of about 125,000 (one-fifth of them university students), Dunedin is New Zealand's fourth-largest city and the second largest in the South Island.
Although Dunedin is Otago’s main business center, the city still has a Scottish soul and a penchant for quirkiness. You can have a dress kilt made up in your clan tartan, hear the music of dozens of indie music bands live, and explore what’s undoubtably one of the strangest (and best) museums in the country. The large student popular also means that it has one of the most diverse culinary and nightlife scenes on the South Island, with new restaurants and cocktail bars continually popping up. A compact city, it’s easy to explore on foot, but you’ll rarely find yourself lost in a crowd. And while the rest of the country hums with tourists during the busy December and January holidays, this is the “quiet” time of year to explore Dunedin’s beaches, since all the students head home for the holidays.
In case you were wondering where the current name comes from: Dunedin is the ancient Gaelic name of Edinburgh in Scotland.