Dunedin is New Zealand’s most scenic city, and luckily there are dozens of viewpoints which take advantage it. Another good thing is that you can drive straight to many of the viewpoints in Dunedin. I’ll take you through some of my favourite Dunedin viewpoints – make sure to seek some out on your next trip down south!
Dunedin Viewpoints You Can Drive to
These viewpoints are all easy to access and don’t require much walking. If you check out all these places, you’ll see Dunedin from so many different angles and quickly see why I think it’s the best city in New Zealand.
This easy to reach viewpoint is located on Highcliff Road and you’ll likely pass it if you’re heading to ocean side of the Otago Peninsula. Rotary Park is located just above the harbour and you can see back over the city and out towards the end of the harbour. This is also a great viewpoint to visit if you don’t have a car as there’s a bus stop nearby.
One of the highest points in Dunedin, Mount Cargill is the place to go for sweeping 360-degree views of Dunedin. You can see almost the entire length of the Otago Peninsula as well as the city, the northern coastline and Dunedin’s green surrounds. You can also drive all the way to the top which is always a bonus (and it’s a great place to watch the sunrise). If you can only visit one viewpoint in Dunedin make it Mount Cargill!
Unity Park Lookout
Unity Park Lookout is located a short distance from Dunedin’s city centre and gives you a great view of the city as well as the harbour and peninsula. It’s a great spot to eat lunch and there’s also a big field there where you can burn off that inevitably unhealthy food you just ate.
Signal Hill Lookout
Signal Hill is a great place to visit if you’re driving around the city. Take some fish and chips or a picnic up there on a nice day and enjoy the view. The harbour and city look awesome from up there and this is another Dunedin viewpoint you can drive to meaning it’s suitable for anyone (with a car).
There are several viewpoints above various sections of Brighton Beach. The main one looks out over a massive stretch of beach towards Blackhead, but the small viewpoint one bay over is great as well. If you have time, make sure to walk along the beach at sunset – it’s the best sunset spot we’ve seen in Dunedin so far.
John Wilson Drive
This road above St Clair / St Kilda Beach is often closed, but you can park up and walk to the end if you have to. The views along the whole road are beautiful, but Lawyers Head (right at the end) is the best spot in my opinion.
There are a few viewpoints above Port Chalmers and I’d recommend visiting them all. The photo below was taken at the seating area on Island Terrace — from there you get a great view of Quarantine Island / Goat Island and the Otago Peninsula and the other is from the viewpoint on the road above town.
One of Dunedin’s most scenic drives takes you from the city to the Peninsula along Highcliff Road. A good place to admire the views is the Soldier’s Memorial Track, but there are several places to park up by the side of the road if you don’t want to do any hiking (although the walk is easy). The views of the Otago Harbour are breath-taking on a clear day!
I discovered one of my favourite viewpoints in Dunedin by accident – we were driving back from Taiaroa Head and decided to pull over by the side of the road for a photo. There’s no official spot but you’ll see where to park. The view towards Aramoana, where the harbour meets the ocean, is worth the trip out there alone. There’s also a cool view from the Taiaroa Head cliffs (close to the Albatross Centre car park) and above Pilots Beach.
Victory Beach / Papanui Inlet
Many of the best viewpoints in Dunedin aren’t “official” places – you’ll just have to pull your car over when you can and hunt them out. There are several places to stop on the road above Papanui Inlet / Victory Beach and the vistas are some of my favourite in Dunedin. The clear blue water of Papanui Inlet mixes beautifully with the long stretch of white sand that is Victory Beach. It’s a bit of a drive from the city but well worth it!
This slice of suburban Dunedin is blessed with a couple of great beaches. Luckily there are some hills above them which obviously means great views! There are several carparks above Smails Beach and I highly recommend checking them out. It’s only a short distance from the city and this is another place easily accessed by bus, which is great for people who don’t have their own transport.
Tomahawk Beach is right next to Smails Beach and also has some great views from above. You’ll need to find a park and maybe walk for a minute or two to see the best views.
The Taieri Gorge Railway is a great way to see some of Dunedin’s best viewpoints without having to use up too much effort. You can see some incredible views from the train and it also stops a few times so you can get out and stretch your legs. Definitely one of the top Dunedin experiences if you’re willing to splash out a bit.
While driving the scenic road north from Dunedin you’ll come to a car park with stunning views over Karitane Beach / Waikouaiti Beach and beyond. You can also do a fun short walk in Karitane (Huriawa Peninsula) where you can see some interesting coastal scenery.
You can climb a small headland at the northern end of Waikouaiti Beach for an awesome view, or head up to the nearby Matanaka Farm Buildings for some history (and nice views).
Viewpoints Which Require a Little More Effort
These Dunedin viewpoints require a bit of walking, although most aren’t exactly strenuous. Most of the hiking tracks in Dunedin are 1 – 2 hours long so you should be able to see a few of these places if you have a day or two in the city.
This beautiful Dunedin viewpoint is at the start of the Heyward Point Track. You can see over Aramoana Beach and the Otago Peninsula – on a nice sunny day it’s probably my favourite coastal viewpoint in Dunedin. You can also walk to the end of the Heyward Point Track for another awesome viewpoint above … Beach.
The Organ Pipes
This natural wonder is just down the hill from the top of Mount Cargill and makes for an adventurous detour. You can climb up volcanic rocks to get to the top of the Organ Pipes (hexagonal basalt columns) – the view from up there is worth the scramble!
The Silver Peaks Track is, in my opinion, the top day hike in Dunedin and there are countless different viewpoints along the way. You can do this hike over two days (staying overnight in a hut) but check out our post for the best one day option. From the top of the track you’ll lookout over Dunedin’s northern and southern coastlines as well as inland towards Central Otago.
There are several viewpoints on the Sandymount Track, one of the most popular coastal hikes in Dunedin. You can see coastal features such as the Chasm and Lovers Leap (at least you could before they closed that part of the track), but the best views are above Hoopers Inlet and Allans Beach.
On a sunny day it’s hard to go past Sandfly Bay when you’re talking about Dunedin’s best viewpoints. From the car park head down the hill towards the beach – you can get all the way to beach if you want (you’ll have to walk down sand dunes) but for most people the view from above will suffice.
The Taieri River Track features some great views of the lower Taieri Gorge as well as the coastline back towards Taieri Mouth. It’s a fairly easy walk and the views over the river from the top are quite different to anything else you’ll see in Dunedin.
The Pineapple Track
The viewpoint at the top of the Pineapple Track is one of the highest points in Dunedin, meaning the views on offer are hard to beat. You’ll see the harbour, the city and Dunedin’s southern beaches as well as the Taieri Plains, Mount Cargill and apparently even the Southern Alps on a clear day. It’s a short, steep hike from the car park on Flagstaff / Whares Flat Road and the track eventually ambles all the way down the hill to the city.
The Pyramids are a group of small hills which, unsurprisingly, look a bit like pyramids. You can climb one of them and the view from the top, looking out over Okia Flat and Victory Beach, is pretty awesome.
Above Canoe Beach / Purakaunui Beach
The hill splitting Canoe Beach and Purakaunui Beach used to be a fortified Maori village, but these days it’s a relaxing place to sit and admire some beautiful coastal views. A good way to access this viewpoint is through the Arches, a series of caves at Doctor’s Point Beach (only at low tide). You can also walk there from the car park at the Purakaunui Beach side. Also walk around to Purakaunui Inlet for great beach scenery.
The Harbour Cone
The Harbour Cone is one of the highest points on the Otago Peninsula, meaning you get 360-degree views of one of New Zealand’s most attractive coastal areas. It’s a bit of slog to the top (it gets steep at the end) but it’s an easy enough hike and well worth the effort.
The Karetai Road Track
This short hike starts at the far end of Smails Beach and takes you up the hill for an awesome view back over St Clair Beach and the city. It’s an easy enough walk and is pretty off the beaten path, meaning you won’t have to share it with many other people.
Tunnel Beach is one of Dunedin’s most iconic beaches, and the walk from the car park down to the beach is a big part of its charm. You’ll get some great views of the interesting coastline and the beach is well worth a visit too.
The view from just outside Cargill’s Castle, looking south toward Black Head and Brighton Beach, is a bit hard to find. The castle is officially closed but the view below is outside of the fenced off area. Hopefully they open it back up at some point – it’s New Zealand’s only castle ruin and is a unique spot to visit.
Billed as New Zealand’s only (non ruined) castle, Larnach Castle is one of the most popular tourist spots in Dunedin. It sits above the Otago Harbour and there are some nice views to be had, both from the gardens outside and the castle tower. The castle itself is cool but may be a little underwhelming if you’ve seen some of the older / more ornate castles in Europe.
The short walk to Boulder Beach (there are a few different tracks) offers up some awesome views. The beach itself is nice too – there are some big boulders backing the beach and you may also see some penguins and sea lions.
Do you know of any other viewpoints in Dunedin? Let us know in the comments below!
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