Dunedin (Photo:Evgeny Gorodetsky/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Dunedin

Located on the Otago Peninsula on the eastern seaboard of New Zealand's South Island, Dunedin is a thriving city of 125,000 with obvious links to Scotland in terms of history and architecture. In fact, the name means "Edinburgh" in Scottish Gaelic. Its popularity with cruise ship passengers is thanks to an easily navigable city centre, interesting museums and galleries, chocolate-focused Cadbury World, fresh seafood at a variety of restaurants and several interesting shore excursion options.

Looking to escape religious persecution at home, Scottish emigrants (including the nephew of Scottish poet Robert Burns) settled in the region, starting in the mid-1800s. Because they surveyed the land and planned the city carefully before starting to build, Dunedin is laid out in a way that makes exploration easy. The Octagon, an eight-sided plaza bisected by the city's main street, is the hub of the city, and most streets surround it in a simple grid. This is where cruise lines set up shuttle stops. Large parks and rolling hills add charm and rural character.

Dunedin started to grow in earnest after gold was discovered in the area in 1861. At first, just 150 men began digging, but soon up to 65 ships would arrive on a single day with new prospectors. The population of Dunedin doubled to almost 6,000 in the course of six months. By 1870, it was the biggest and wealthiest city in New Zealand. As expected, the fortunes of prospectors fluctuated, but a more lasting effect on the city's prospects came in 1882, when the first shipment of refrigerated meat left the port for Britain.

It's the oldest city in New Zealand, but don't let its age fool you. It's a lively place, with lots of students studying at the University of Otago. Dunedin is also spotlessly clean and full of friendly, helpful people with a keen sense of hospitality. Life proceeds at a gentle pace, with Victorian and Edwardian buildings -- as opposed to skyscrapers -- built to charm, rather than stun.

The picturesque city is built in a narrow valley around the end of Dunedin Bay and is easily walkable. Two principal streets, Princes Street and George Street, start at the Octagon and head south and north, respectively. George Street is lined with shops, restaurants and cafes, including many familiar brands. The surrounding hills afford a view of Dunedin and its lush, green countryside.

About Dunedin


Chocolate lovers can tour Cadbury World or ride the rails through the Otago Hinterland


Weather can be cool and wet

Bottom Line

The lively port offers a great variety of day trips, wildlife encounters, shopping and dining

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Where You're Docked

Large cruise ships dock in Port Chalmers, a suburb of Dunedin at the entrance of Otago Harbour that's less than eight miles (13 kilometres) from downtown and requires shuttles bus or taxi transfers. Smaller ships can dock in the city port with much easier access.

Good to Know

Because Dunedin is located on a far southerly latitude on New Zealand's South Island, the weather can be changeable, with several weather patterns possible in a single day. Bring sunscreen, hat, rain jacket and gloves.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the New Zealand dollar. ATMs and banks are plentiful throughout town and are usually the cheapest way to get New Zealand dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted.


English, with a distinct Kiwi accent, is the predominant language in Dunedin and all of New Zealand.


Look for "kiwiana" -- items common or unique to New Zealand -- such as paua, the polished shells of abalone that are turned into jewellery. Try New Zealand Gift Shop (1 George Street) and the Dunedin i-Site tourism office (26 Princes Street) to find paua and much more.

Dunedin Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2016 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations