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George Street and the Octagon: Eating, Drinking and Shopping in Dunedin

George Street and the Octagon: Eating, Drinking and Shopping in Dunedin

George Street runs through the centre of Dunedin’s downtown area and is the place to go for shopping and eating. Walk along George Street for long enough and you’ll come to the Octagon. That’s how cool Dunedin is — most towns have a town square, but Dunedin prefers its city landmarks with 8 sides rather than four!

The Octagon

Unfortunately, those looking to watch a UFC fight will be sorely disappointed by Dunedin’s Octagon (although hang out there in the early hours of Sunday morning — AKA still Saturday night — and you might see a fight). The Octagon is the place to go in Dunedin for nightlife. There are heaps of bars and restaurants to choose from (and more on nearby Stuart Street) as well as a movie theatre, a proper theatrer (Regent) a big convenience store and some famous old buildings (Town Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral). The Dunedin Public Library is also located in the Octagon and it’s a good place to sit on comfortable seats and use free wifi (or I guess you could read a book). There is also free wifi available throughout the Octagon and some parts of George Street.

On a sunny summer’s evening there’s nowhere you’d rather be (if you fancy a drink and a bite to eat) than one of the outdoor seating areas in the Octagon. Some of our favourite bars and restaurants include the Craic, Woof and Carousal (which are just around the corner on Stuart Street). On a Saturday night the crowd does seem to skew young (Dunedin is a university town of course) but you should be able to find a bar that suits your style.

George Street

Note: George Street is currently undergoing renovations which are due to be completed in 2024. It looks great in parts but is a mess in others and traffic is often impacted.

If you’ve been to any British high street, you’ll know the deal with George Street. It’s like an outdoor shopping mall, complete with well-restored old buildings and, in spring, the occasional blossoming tree. The stretch of George Street between the Octagon and Knox Church is where most of the action (if you can call shopping and eating action) happens. There are lots of hotels in the area south of the Octagon. The road becomes Princes Street south of the Octagon and this area is where a lot of Dunedin’s big hotels are located, including Scenic Hotels Dunedin and Wains Hotel.

I’m not really a shopper (unless I really need something) but according to Gia the shopping in Dunedin is pretty good. She doesn’t like the fact there is no H&M though! You’ll find most New Zealand chain stores on George Street or the small Meridian Mall / Golden Centre which is also on George Street. Obviously, some of the streets off George Street have shops and restaurants as well, so explore a little if you have time (Bath Street is a good one to walk down).

Things to see near George Street and the Octagon

Dunedin Railway Station is a short walk from the Octagon (you’ll see it from the centre of the Octagon) — there are also some other cool buildings nearby including First Church and the Dunedin Courthouse.

The Warehouse Precinct, featuring street art, historic buildings and cool cafes is also close by. Towards the north end of George Street, you’ll find Otago University and Otago Museum (a few blocks over from George Street) and the botanic gardens. Keep walking past the gardens and you’ll eventually come to Baldwin Street, AKA the steepest street in the world.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

Have you been eating, drinking and shopping in Dunedin? Can you recommend any good spots to our readers? Let us know in the comments below!

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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.