A Day Guide to Dunedin Arts and Architecture

Dunedin is a city rich in history and culture. It’s a place where creativity is abundant and old and new are celebrated - with both impressive and iconic architectural designs, and quirky modern gems dotted throughout the town.

Street art in Warehouse Precinct, Dunedin.

This carefully curated trail of Dunedin must-sees will take you on a journey showcasing the more artistic spots in the city to uplift, inspire and bring out the creative within. It will also direct you to stop off at local favourites along the way to enjoy a locally-roasted coffee, tasty treat, or a perfectly poured pint. So what are you waiting for? Let’s explore…

Morning

Dunedin Railway Station

Anzac Avenue, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

Another of Dunedin’s architectural gems, Dunedin Railway Station is home to the country’s longest platform which has been used for a multitude of events, and has even been transformed into a catwalk for designer fashion shows.

The Renaissance revival architecture (reminiscent of a grandiose gingerbread house) is one of the most photographed spots in the country, however, it’s the inside that we want you to explore.

The old booking hall is a wonder in itself, featuring a mosaic of almost 750,000 Minton tiles. A curving staircase ascends to a Royal Doulton porcelain balcony where you can get a bird’s eye view of the elaborate designs. A masterpiece in rich and elaborate embellishments, it is well worth a visit.

Impressive interior of Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin..

First Church of Otago

415 Moray Place, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

Another historic and impressive piece of Southern design – First Church of Otago is often referred to as New Zealand’s finest 19th-century building. The neo-gothic structure is built of brick and faced with Oamaru limestone, holding massive and intricate stained glass windows dedicated to those fallen in war. Park benches are dotted around the well-kept grounds with established trees, flower beds, and lush lawns. Take a look both inside and out and admire the unique turrets and soaring spire.

First Church of Otago exterior.

Afternoon

Queens Gardens + Lan Yuan, Chinese Gardens

Queens Gardens, Dunedin Central, Dunedin + Lan Yuan Chinese Gardens, 39 Queens Gardens, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city is a place for calm and quiet reflection. Situated at the Northern end of the Warehouse precinct, the Queens Gardens are home to several structures including a Celtic Cross, Statues of Queen Victoria, and Donald M. Stuart (one of the founding fathers of Dunedin). In the centre of the Gardens stands the city’s main war memorial – a 28-metre-tall and 8-sided Dunedin Cenotaph column. Seats are dotted amongst the lawns and trees and provide a place for some downtime in the centre of Dunedin. Just across the road, you will find another oasis of calm – Lan Yuan, the Dunedin Chinese Gardens. Created in celebration of the city’s Chinese heritage and relationship with sister city Shanghai, the Gardens showcase the beauty of Chinese architecture and design while highlighting the essence of nature. Traditional wooden buildings with intricate latticework are surrounded by lily ponds, rock formed pathways, sculptures and soothing water features. If serenity is what you are after, this is the perfect spot.

Temple at Lan Yuan Chinese Gardens in Dunedin.

Street Art Trail

Various Locations, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

On your travels, you might have already noticed some interesting artworks around the city. That’s because Dunedin is home to a world-class street art trail of imaginative and innovative works. Situated in surprising places, the works are organised by a group of volunteers who facilitate the creation of the visionary pieces. Head to Vogel Street to see “The Witching Hour” by Maggie Covell - depicting the contrast between light and dark and good and evil, and a larger-than-life work by Phlegm where Maori waka and a steam-punk submarine emerge from an enormous fish’s mouth on the side of Vogel St Kitchen. Head online and grab a guide to help you find the more inconspicuous works on your creative treasure hunt.

Example of street art in Dunedin Central.

Wander the Warehouse Precinct

Warehouse Precinct, Dunedin

Now that you’re well and truly juiced up it’s time to explore the Warehouse Precinct - a funky urban area that was once the centre of wholesale trade in Dunedin. The Precinct is home to a mish-mash of interesting buildings – some dating back to the Victorian and Edwardian periods, with a number showcasing Classical revival and Chicago school architecture. Many of these buildings have been restored and revitalised to house new and exciting businesses such as the NMA Building (49 Water Street) - an Italian style building built in 1883 as the headquarters of the Union Steam Ship Company, now home to a wine store and psychology clinic among others, and the Donald Reid Store (77 Vogel Street) - once a wool and grain store and now an expansive and polished hub for a range of businesses. If you want an expert's opinion - head online to book a guided tour with Athol – a passionate local who will help you discover some of the city’s architectural treasures. While you explore you might even spot some of the monumental and experimental murals dotted around the area as part of the Dunedin Street Art Trail.

Building in the Warehouse Precinct in Dunedin.

Steamer Basin Brewery

No Name Alley, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

Tucked down an unmarked laneway sits a hidden gem - Steamer Basin Brewery - an urban brewery adding to the movement of converted historic buildings in the city. This neighbourly brewery and taproom offers a range of beers celebrating New Zealand hops and fresh ingredients from the Otago region – think honey pilsner and lemongrass saison. Long tables encourage conversations with fellow punters and align with the business ethos – creating well-balanced beer that’s enjoyable to share. Dog-friendly, family-friendly, and with beer on tap and in take-home bottles, it’s a lovely little local full of character and welcoming vibes.

Man filling up vessels at Steamer Basin Brewery.

Evening

Words by: Sophie Morris

Photography by: Nancy Zhou

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