Dunedin’s nightlife ranges from its legendary university swill holes where drunken, animal--like behavior is de rigueur to smart, upmarket wine bars and a boutique casino. There are also two good theaters, a multiscreen movie theater, and several cafes that double as live-music venues.
The Performing Arts
The Fortune Theatre, Stuart Street and Upper Moray Place (tel. 03/477-8323; www.fortunetheatre.co.nz), plays a major part in the cultural life of Dunedin with a wide range of performances, from Shakespeare to contemporary New Zealand works. The theater is in a historic late-1800s building. Its season runs from February to December. Tickets generally cost around NZ$35 for adults and NZ$25 for students.
The Regent Theatre, on the Lower Octagon (tel. 03/477-8597; fax 03/477-4726), hosts a range of national and international performances. Check the local paper for the current schedule of concerts. Also look out for the Dunedin Sinfonia concert series brochure at the visitor center. Ticket prices vary.
The Bar, Cafe & Pub Scene
We can thank the student population for much of the color in Dunedin’s after-dark scene. Their favorite hangouts include ReFuel Bar, 21 Frederick St. (tel. 03/477-2575), where the Lounge and Fusion bars provide a changing array of nightly entertainment.
The Bennu Café & Bar, 12 Moray Place (tel. 03/474-5055), and the Ra Bar, 21 The Octagon (tel. 03/477-6080), are currently deemed to be the happening spots for good food and a lively bar atmosphere for anyone over 25. The Craic Irish Tavern, 24 The Octagon (tel. 03/479-0781), pours Irish beers and whiskeys for you to enjoy in front of the fire.
Hunt for the pièce de résistance of Dunedin bars, the very suave, very hard-to-find gem Pequeño, Lower Ground Floor (they really mean "underground"), Savoy Building, 50 Princes St. (tel. 03/477-7830). Alternatively, if you can find a friendly local to direct you, you can access it from a steep, dark alley off Upper Moray Place. I was taken here by Andrew of Hair Raiser Ghost Walk, so it stands to reason he would pick the darkest, seediest entry. Once inside, though, it is a salubrious and classy little den—all fur, leather, and artistic Dunedin types out for a good time. Definitely a place for grown-ups, and they have a terrific wine and cocktails list.
Bacchus Winebar, upstairs at 12 The Octagon (tel. 03/474-0824), is a nice enough place overlooking The Octagon. It never really takes off in terms of a wild night out—it’s more of a sedate place to savor good company and good wine in a smoke-free environment.
There are six big screens at the Hoyts 6 Cinema, 33 The Octagon (tel. 03/477-7019). It has a cafe and bar and plenty of parking at the rear. There is also a Rialto 3 theater complex now on Upper Moray Place. The Metro Cinema, Moray Place, shows artsy movies.