Skip to Content

Dunedin Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Dunedin

Dunedin Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Dunedin

I can assume if you’ve landed on this page that you’re planning a trip to Dunedin. Congratulations – you’ve chosen wisely! Dunedin is (in my slightly biased opinion) the most beautiful city in New Zealand. You’ll find dozens of viewpoints, beaches and other natural attractions as well as heaps of history. This Dunedin itinerary will show you the best places to visit and give you some tips on how best to spend your time in this scenic southern city.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click one and book a hotel or tour we’ll get a small cut. It won’t cost you any extra and it helps maintain this website.

Dunedin Itinerary: Three Days

You’ll never see everything Dunedin has to offer in three days, but you can see most of the highlights.  This Dunedin itinerary will take you to some of the best beaches in the city as well as the historic centre, the beautiful Otago Peninsula and some lesser-known sights.

Day One

I’d recommend spending your first day in Dunedin in and around the city. Go for a wander down George Street, eat at one of the outdoor dining spots in the Octagon, visit the Dunedin Railway Station (where you can board a train to Taieri Gorge), check out the unique street art and maybe visit a museum or art gallery.

Dunedin Railway Station, New Zealand

It’s a compact city centre and there are heaps of old buildings scattered around. For something a little more off the beaten path, check out the Warehouse Precinct, where you’ll find some great places to eat (try Good Good if you’re a burger fan) and grand old buildings.

After that you’ll want to see some of that world-class nature. Head to St Clair Beach, where you can stroll around the esplanade, go for a swim in the saltwater pool or try your hand at surfing. You can also drive or walk along John Wilson Drive for awesome views. There are other beaches nearby too, including Smails Beach (check out the Karetai Road Track if you’re up for a short hike).

If you’re keen for more exploring, drive up to Tunnel Beach, a short distance from St Clair. There are great views on the walk down and the beach is accessed by a historic tunnel. If you’ve got more energy you could drive all the way to Brighton or Taieri Mouth – so many pretty beach scenes in these parts and the Taieri River Track is a good workout.

To end the day you could watch the sunset out at Brighton, drive up to Signal Hill Lookout or Unity Park Lookout.

READ MORE: 30 Stunning Viewpoints in Dunedin

Day Two

Day two of my Dunedin itinerary focuses on the Otago Peninsula. It’s the most iconic nature spot in Dunedin and there is heaps to see. I’d start by driving up Highcliff Road, stopping occasionally to take in the views of Otago Harbour. You could do the Soldiers Memorial Track, which only takes 10 minutes or so.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

From there you can visit Larnach Castle, which is interesting enough, but not quite in the same league as the castles you’ll find in Europe. Sandfly Bay is nearby too, and there’s a great viewpoint close to the car park.

Next up you could head to the Sandymount Track – the walk won’t take long and the views over Allans Beach and Hoopers Inlet are pretty special.

You may have had enough of beaches and coastal views by now (I never get sick of them though), so you can either head around Hoopers Inlet to Allans Beach or head straight for Portobello. This is a good place to stop for lunch. From there you’ll drive to Taiaroa Head, the nesting grounds of the famous royal albatross. There are good views on offer in these parts, and if you visit around sunset you can do a little blue penguin tour. These creatures are adorable!

Taiaroa Head, Dunedin, New Zealand

After a solid chunk of sightseeing you’ll probably want to relax a bit – so either stop off at Macandrew Bay on the way back to the city or just chill out in a nice café somewhere.

Of course, if you want to spend longer on the Otago Peninsula there are a lot of options. The Harbour Cone Track is one of the best short walks in Dunedin, and if you feel like staying the night nearby there are options in Portobello, Macandrew Bay and beyond. It’s a different vibe to staying in the city but there are enough places to eat and drink to make it a viable option.

Day Three

Day three of our Dunedin itinerary will take you to a few less common spots. Everyone knows the Otago Peninsula is a must-see, but the other side of the harbour has more than enough to recommend it too. First up I’d drive to the top of Mount Cargill for panoramic views of Dunedin and its scenic surrounds. I reckon this is the best “city” viewpoint in New Zealand, and if you’re keen for a walk the Organ Pipes are a fun spot to visit. It’s also the perfect spot for sunrise in Dunedin.

On the way to Mount Cargill you can also visit Nicols Falls – it’s not on most tourist’s radar but everyone loves a good waterfall (and this one is good, especially after rain).

After Mount Cargill I’d advise a trip out to Port Chalmers. It’s a cute little seaside village, and in better times is where the cruise ships come in. Stop there for lunch or carry on a little further to Careys Bay Hotel. Then drive up the hill to Orokonui (a bird sanctuary) or Heyward Point.

Bird watching at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin, New Zealand

There are some nice beaches in this area, including Long Beach, Purakaunui Beach and Murdering Beach. Next up I’d drive down to Doctors Point, where you can visit the Arches and two other beaches on a short walk (low tide only).

READ MORE: 26 of the Best Beaches in Dunedin

The Arches, Dunedin, New Zealand

If you’d prefer to do a day hike on this day then I can’t recommend the Silver Peaks highly enough. It’ll take around four hours to do (or longer there’s a hut up there if you want to spend the night) and the views are spectacular. Do check the weather before heading out though – people have had to be rescued before!

READ MORE: 18 of the Best Walks in Dunedin

Five Days in Dunedin

If you have a couple of extra days in Dunedin you could think about visiting some nearby areas. The drive up to Oamaru should take 90 minutes, but there is a lot to see along the way. Highlights include the Matanaka Farm Buildings, the Tavora Reserve and the Moeraki Boulders. You could spend a day or more exploring Oamaru — it’s one of the best towns in the South Island to explore!

READ MORE: 13 of the Best Things to Do in Oamaru

Sunrise at Moeraki Boulders, Coastal Otago, New Zealand

The Catlins is the other obvious day trip destination. Start off by visiting Nugget Point (go for sunrise if you can) and then visit the various beaches and waterfalls throughout the Catlins. There’s a lot to explore, and it’s probably best to stay a night there, but it can easily be done as a day trip. Those two day trips should have you covered on days four and five, or just explore more of the Otago Peninsula!

READ MORE: Catlins Itinerary

Seven Days in Dunedin

Seven Days in Dunedin will allow you to do more of the walks and see more of the over 25 beaches in and around the city. There may seem like too many, but they’re all fun to visit in their own way. You could also spend more time around Port Chalmers, with the trip over to Quarantine Island a good way to spend a few hours. Visit the other musuems or try some more cafes — there are 25 worth going to!

Where to Stay 

There’s a good variety of places to stay in Dunedin in every budget.


Are you planning a trip around New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!

The following two tabs change content below.

Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.