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Cruises to Dunedin

Dunedin (Photo:Evgeny Gorodetsky/Shutterstock)
Dunedin (Photo:Evgeny Gorodetsky/Shutterstock)

About Dunedin

Dunedin is an unexpected gem located on the southeast coast of New Zealand's South Island at the southern end of Otago Harbour. With a population of close to 130,000 (including thousands of university students), the city exudes a hip vibe and boasts a varied selection of shops, restaurants, cafes and craft breweries. In addition, Dunedin offers a combination of Scottish heritage, turn-of-the-century architecture and access to untamed wildlife areas.

In fact, European settlers were first attracted to Otago Harbour for its wildlife, more specifically, hunting seals, resulting in Port Chalmers being a deep-water whaling port that provided services and trade for ships to the area. The seals are no longer hunted there; instead, passengers can take a tour to the end of Otago Peninsula, known as Taiaroa Head, for panoramic views, and enjoy close encounters with fur seals and other wildlife in their own habitat.

A highlight of our tour at Natures Wonders was watching the seals and their pups. We were far enough away to not bother them, yet close enough that we could watch, listen, and say, 'aaaaaww'. Some seals basked in the sun while hungry pups looked for their mothers, crying out until an adult seal called back and they were reunited on the same rock.

In contrast to the Otago Peninsula's wildlife and dramatic landscape, our tour provided a history lesson of Dunedin including stops and detours past historic buildings that offered a glimpse into the city's early prosperity. Established as a Scottish settlement in 1848, it was the discovery of gold in 1861 that led to an influx in the city's population, making Dunedin New Zealand's largest and wealthiest city by the late 1800s.

Subsequently, the city's prosperous economy left behind great examples of Edwardian and Victorian architectural heritage, including the Dunedin Railway Station, the University of Otago, Larnach Castle, New Zealand's first botanic garden, and a number of impressive churches. Originally, Dunedin was planned and designed to mimic the characteristics of Edinburgh, as evidenced by the city's street names and even the name of the city itself is Scottish Gaelic for Edinburgh. At the heart of the city is The Octagon, an eight-sided plaza that is bisected by main streets, George Street and Princes Street.

Most ships' shore excursions include a stop at The Octagon and the cruise ship shuttles tend to drop off and pick up near this hub. The Octagon's central location to historic sights, restaurants, shops, and public transportation, make it a convenient jumping-off point from which to explore Dunedin. Although cruise traffic only arrives in Dunedin from October to April -- in New Zealand's summer -- the southerly latitude of New Zealand's South Island means the weather can be unpredictable so be prepared with both a rain jacket and hat.

If you have time before or after your day in Dunedin, check out Port Chalmers. Although there's not a whole lot to see and do here, the historic buildings and the free Wi-Fi on George Street make it worth a stroll. Once back onboard your cruise ship, make sure to watch the ship's departure as she passes the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse on her starboard side; the lighthouse has been marking the entrance to Otago Harbour since 1864.

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DAY 1: Sydney

11 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Eden, Milford Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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DAY 1: Auckland

12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
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Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Sydney

12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Eden, Burnie ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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120 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
San Francisco
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Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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13 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Hobart, Milford Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
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Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Hobart, Milford Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Paihia, Tauranga ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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13 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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16 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Melbourne, Burnie ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Tauranga, Picton ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Melbourne, Burnie ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Paihia, Auckland ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

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Sydney
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Burnie, Melbourne ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
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Melbourne, Hobart ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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16 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Tauranga, Wellington ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

11 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
Visiting:
Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Fiorldand, Dunedin ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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22 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Hobart, Burnie ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Auckland
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Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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33 Night
Cruise to Dunedin

Leaving:
Honolulu
Visiting:
Hilo, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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Why go to Dunedin?

Pros:

Variety of choices for wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs and foodies.

Cons:

Southern latitude of South Island can mean cold and rainy weather.

Bottom Line:

More than just historic buildings, Dunedin offer cruisers with varied interests plenty of options.

Dunedin Cruise Port Facilities?

Most cruise ships dock in Port Chalmers, a suburb of Dunedin, located inside the Otago Harbour. The port uses two main berths -- Beach and Container Terminal (C/T) -- and both use the same terminal building. The building doesn't have much to offer except for tables and chairs to sit at and enjoy the free Wi-Fi. You will also find helpful locals who are here to provide information.

Outside of the terminal building, Beach Street intersects George Street, the main street through Port Chalmers, where you can find ATMs, a supermarket, and free WiFi (available in all public spaces on George Street). Most of the town's historic buildings have been transformed into quaint cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops, and a maritime museum.

Most passengers don't stay in Port Chalmers, instead making their way to downtown Dunedin, about 12 km away, or further afield to the Otago Peninsula. Alternatively, smaller vessels may dock in downtown Dunedin. The Port Otago website details the cruise ship schedule and berthing arrangements for all cruise ships.

Good to Know?

Visitors can enjoy free public Wi-Fi at a number of hotspots across Dunedin including at The Octagon, Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin Botanic Garden, and all of George Street in Port Chalmers. Stop by i-SITE, New Zealand's official visitor information (located at 50 The Octagon) if you need directions or recommendations. And, when crossing a street or catching a bus, do keep in mind that all of New Zealand drives on the left side of the road.

Getting Around?

By Shuttle: The cruise lines offer a shuttle bus for about $15 roundtrip (paid in the currency of the ship) from Port Chalmers to The Octagon and it takes about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic. Most tours operated by the cruise lines include a stop in Dunedin, so an additional shuttle is not necessary. Independent shuttles to the city centre are also available on George Street in Port Chalmers for about $6 per person each way.

By Taxi: A taxi (mini-bus) from Port Chalmers to the City Centre costs around NZ$60 each way, which is a good option if you have a large group and can use it to transfer from Port Chalmers to the centre of Dunedin.

On Foot: Once in Dunedin, use The Octagon to orient yourself as it's in the heart of the city. Many sites are within easy walking distance of The Octagon including the Dunedin Railway Station, Speight's Brewery, Otago Museum, Olveston Historic Home, a number of historic churches, plus a diverse selection of restaurants and shops. For art lovers, pick up or download a free Dunedin Street Art Trail map, which is a self-guided trail to the whimsical street art throughout Dunedin.

By Public Bus (Orbus): The bus system makes it easy to navigate around the city. All Dunedin bus routes connect through the Central City Bus Hub on Great King Street off Moray Place (near The Octagon). Visitors can pay cash to the bus driver. A single fare is based on how many zones you will travel through.

To get from Port Chalmers to Dunedin city Centre, take Bus #14 at the George Street No. 3 Bus Stop in Port Chalmers and get off at Central City Bus Hub in Dunedin. This bus runs every 30 minutes. Arrive at Dunedin Botanic Garden by taking Bus #5, #8 or #10. Take Bus #8 from the Central City Bus Hub to get to Baldwin Street (the steepest street in the world).

By Train: Passengers can book a tour on the Taieri Gorge Railway Train, which boards alongside their ship at Port Chalmers. The train travels through the breathtaking Taieri Gorge with a stop at the Dunedin Railway Station on the way back to Port Chalmers. Although passengers can book this train independently from Dunedin, it must be booked through the cruise line when travelling to and from Port Chalmers.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the New Zealand Dollar. For up-to-the-minute conversions, visit www.xe.com. There is an ATM on George Street in Port Chalmers. ATMs are plentiful in Dunedin and a couple of machines can be found at the corner of George Street and Moray Place. Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Dunedin although it may not be possible to use credit cards on the Taieri Gorge Railway due to the remote nature of the journey.

Language?

English, with a distinct Kiwi accent, is the predominant language in Dunedin and all of New Zealand. Kia ora -- pronounced kee a ora -- is a Maori language greeting that you'll hear throughout New Zealand; it translates to 'hi', 'be well' or 'be healthy'.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2015 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations

Dunedin Cruise Reviews

Majestic Princess
kingle
Sail Date: Dec 2019
We did our own thing at Dunedin. They have a great value shuttle bus to town and there is a lot you can do on your own time. We found a lovely Thai Restaurant for lunch. Shopping in Dunedin is great.... Read More
Majestic Princess
mckinnon01
Sail Date: Dec 2019
we did our own thing went to the information centre and bought a ticket on the red bus tour of dunedin, walked through the botanical gardens then lunch at the irish pub near the octagon.... Read More
lyndarra
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Only rainy day of the cruise but only late in the day. We booked a Larnach Castle tour dockside at the reception centre where there was lots of tours on offer. The castle is very interesting with a sad history.... Read More
Ruby Princess
asdf1245
Sail Date: Dec 2019
We didn't travel into Dunedin. Instead we walked around 10 minutes to Carey's Bay (other side of the Container Port, Port Chalmers), choosing to have a lovely lunch and NZ Riesling at the historic Carey's Bay... Read More
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