Nineteenth-century Scottish settlers are responsible for both the name (the old Gaelic form of Edinburgh) and the character of this city on New Zealand’s South Island, with its formalized street plan and grand ambitions. Its proud edifices, like the highly ornamented Renaissance Revival-style train station and the imposing St Paul’s Cathedral and Municipal Chambers on the city center Octagon, would be perfectly at home in Victorian Edinburgh itself. Dunedin today buzzes with all the youthful energy of a university town -- a fifth of the population attends the University of Otago, the country’s first -- and basks in the scenery of the lush surrounding hills and gorgeous coastline of the Otago Peninsula.
The name is the Gaelic form of Edinburgh, and, in fact, the Scottish migrants who settled the area in the mid-19th century had planned to call the place New Edinburgh.
Dunedin prevailed, and this city of 115,000 remains Scottish to its core. There's a statue of beloved bard Robbie Burns in the city square, or Octagon, as locals know it. And fuelled by the prosperity that came with gold finds in the area, Dunedin is filled with gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian architecture, notably Larnach Castle.
It's a university town, with the local culture scene cranking up with the annual return of students. The music scene is so strong Dunedin has an international reputation as a breeding ground for young rock acts.
But it's the surrounding area that also gives Dunedin much of its magnetism for visitors. The Otago Peninsula is booming with eco-tourism, offering views of towering mountains, native forest and rare wildlife like the Royal Albatross that nest at Taiaroa Head and the yellow-eyed penguins that live in regional waters.