Dunedin, New Zealand, is a great place to make memories with kids. From local cultural exhibits and regional museums to animal conservation sites, lush gardens and beautiful beaches, you can experience it all in Dunedin. There are plenty of all-weather activities for families in Dunedin, from taking a scenic train ride up the coast to exploring an artist’s museum of curiosities and touring inside a historic castle. Learn about some of the best things to do in Dunedin with kids.
Kids Activities in Dunedin
1. See Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Penguin Place
Penguin Place is a conservation reserve for the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguins, located on Harrington Point. On a guided tour of the reserve, you’ll observe the antics of these quirky penguins and learn about ongoing conservation efforts. You may also have the chance to see some of their penguin patients in their rehabilitation facility on-site. Tour funds go directly to the care and conservation of Yellow-Eyed Penguins in the area.
2. Take a scenic train ride with Dunedin Railways
Dunedin Railways travels the rugged Taieri Gorge, providing passengers with beautiful views over the Central Otago Hinterland and the Otago coast. Family-friendly scenic tours are offered with Dunedin Railways, featuring a guided tour and sightseeing stops. Locals suggest booking tours in advance, as this is a popular family activity in Dunedin. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to check out the historic Dunedin Railway Station, a major architectural landmark in the area.
3. Wander through themed gardens at the Dunedin Botanic Garden
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is a large public garden located near the University of Otago and Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery. Consisting of an upper garden and lower garden, the hillside complex offers a tranquil atmosphere and beautiful views over the city below. Themed gardens include a heated Edwardian glasshouse, a Japanese garden, rose gardens and winter gardens, along with art, sculptures and water features. A large children’s playground and duck pond are popular with families visiting the Dunedin Botanic Garden. The gardens are open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free.
4. Check out dinosaur bones and fossils at the Otago Museum
Visiting the Otago Museum is one of the many things to do with kids in Dunedin, exploring the culture, people and natural history of the region. Adjacent to the University of Otago, the Otago Museum is located in Dunedin’s city centre. Galleries within the museum range from a Victorian-style zoological gallery and studies on Pacific Cultures, to a maritime gallery, fossil collections and Egyptian mummies. An interactive science centre offers hands-on exhibits, with an expansive Tropical Forest area housing butterflies, rainforest plants and animals, as well as a large waterfall.
5. Learn about the area’s culture and history at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
Dunedin family activities include the immersive Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, a regional history museum exploring the former Otago Province. The museum is located in the city centre, near the Dunedin Railway Station. Exhibits explore the region's history from the arrival of the first Māori through present-day events within fully interactive spaces. Other popular exhibits include a preserved steam locomotive, collections of artwork and artifacts, traditional costumes and historic vehicles.
6. Climb one of the world’s steepest streets in the North East Valley
One of the unique things to do in Dunedin with kids can be found on Baldwin Street, where you can climb one of the steepest residential streets in the entire world. This famous street is located in Dunedin’s North East Valley, where it rises to an incredibly steep 19° slope toward the top of the street. Annual events are held on this street like the Baldwin Street Gutbuster, where competitors try to be the fastest to complete the gruelling incline, as well as an annual charity event where participants roll thousands of Jaffas chocolates down the hill.
7. Go birdwatching at the Royal Albatross Centre
The Royal Albatross Centre is one of Dunedin’s family attractions, a protected breeding colony of Royal Albatross birds. Book a tour to learn about these large birds from expert guides, view the Royals up close from an observatory, and see them parent their young. Bring binoculars if you have them, and be sure to bundle up when you visit, as it’s often cold on the outdoor viewing decks.
8. Learn about endemic species at the Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary
Dunedin kids’ activities include visiting the Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary, a wildlife reserve north of the city centre. A protected regenerating native forest within the ecosanctuary is being repopulated with native species and habitat improvements to encourage the return of endemic species of flora and fauna. At the visitor’s centre, you’ll find immersive educational exhibits and hands-on displays, as well as information on the region’s wildlife. Within the Ōrokonui Ecosanctuary, you may spot wildlife ranging from diverse native bird species to bats, jewelled geckos and tuatara.
9. Stroll peaceful paths within Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden
At Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden, you can explore a traditional walled Scholar’s garden and pavilions. Located in the city centre, the gardens are next door to the popular Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Within Lan Yuan, you can explore winding walking paths around a central lake, as well as elaborately designed pavilions, a moon gate, sculptures and a central courtyard. Be sure to stop into the tea house to enjoy traditional teas and refreshments, as well as gift items.
10. See curiosities, art and artifacts at the Museum of Natural Mystery
The Museum of Natural Mystery is a cozy, privately owned museum and gallery within the home of a local Dunedin artist. Within the Royal Terrace residence, you’ll find several rooms of bones and bone-based artworks, curious, cultural items and artifacts. Exhibits range from pinned butterfly collections to medical curiosities, antique texts, skeletons and ethnological artwork. The museum’s collections are appropriate for any age, but visiting children must be supervised due to the delicate nature of the exhibits.
Family Accommodation in Dunedin
11. Catch a sunset on Aramoana beaches
Family accommodation in Dunedin can be found in Aramoana, on the coast just north of Dunedin. This sleepy coastal settlement offers a mix of small-town charm, beautiful beaches and native wildlife. Cliffs provide a picturesque background to the white sand beaches, where you might spot New Zealand sea lions basking on the shore or Yellow-Eyed Penguins returning to their nests in the evening. Nearby you can stroll down a boardwalk through the salt marsh, where you’ll find a scenic viewing platform over the water.
12. Explore a historic castle and estate at Larnach Castle
Larnach Castle is an expansive former residence in Dunedin, and one of the only castle-style buildings in New Zealand. This historic estate offers detailed Gothic Revival architecture and a restored interior with opulent period furnishings. You can enjoy a self-guided tour of the castle and gardens or attend one of the castle’s popular annual events and holiday celebrations. Family accommodation in Dunedin is also available at the Larnach Castle Stables and the Larnach Castle Lodge.
13. Play in the sand and surf on St Clair Beach
A popular location for family accommodation in Dunedin is St Clair Beach, located just outside the city centre. St Clair Beach offers swimming and soft white sand, surfing and wildlife spotting opportunities and plenty of nearby seafood restaurants, cafes and boutiques. The St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool sits at the south end of St Clair Beach, a heated beachside pool with seasonal swimming, a children’s wading pool and family-friendly facilities.