Spend a day in Dunedin – for FREE!

How can you best spend a day in Dunedin – for FREE?

In most kiwi’s minds, if you mention Dunedin, they’d immediately think ‘student town’.  And not without good cause – around 20% of the cities’ population are students!

Typical uni ‘flats’ in Dunedin

BUT, there is much more to Dunedin than it’s student population, and during our day in Dunedin we did our best to discover as much of it as we could.

We arrived late afternoon, so headed to a local brewery (Emersons) for a bevvy and dinner.  I could have parked hubby here for the day, and he would have been extremely happy.  Personally I’m not into all the brews, but they did have a nice cocktail menu, and our dinner was delicious. So it’s not a bad way to keep the other half happy (this is a great time to tell him you’ll be doing some shopping!).  Of course, this is NOT free, but the free stuff all happens in a day tomorrow …

Our free day exploring Dunedin started a little out of the city – at Port Chalmers.

What to do in Dunedin for free

Port Chalmers

Port Chalmers

This little village is where the cruise ships dock, and disperse their passengers off into the greater Dunedin area.  It’s very cute, but don’t try and get a coffee in town before 8am.  It’s also a beautiful drive out to Port Chalmers, following the inner harbour all the way.

Shh … Now here’s a little locals secret.  Just 1km around the next corner (away from town) sits the Carey’s Bay historic pub, in beautiful Carey’s Bay.   For cruise ship passengers, it’s an easy walk, with a huge reward at the end of it.

Carey’s Bay

Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel

The hotel dates back to 1874, and specialises in seafood from the area.  Along with enjoying the atmosphere of the pub/hotel, it’s also a great spot to sit and enjoy the view out to Carey’s Bay.  Although there is a great lookout above Port Chalmers (Flagstaff Lookout), Carey’s Bay must be another fabulous spot to view the cruise ships coming and going, perhaps with a drink in hand?!

Carey's Bay - a day in Dunedin

Carey’s Bay

If you have a car, pop around one more bay and you’ll be rewarded with Deborah Bay;

Deborah Bay - free things to do in Dunedin

Deborah Bay

Staying the night?

We had a one night stay in Sawyers Bay, which is a little bay just before Port Chalmers (city side).  Although I wouldn’t rate Sawyers Bay as a must visit, our little cottage was just perfect, and if you don’t need to stay in the city, then this is your perfect home away from home.

This was just my second Air BNB experience, and I have to say, after these first two experiences, I am really sold on Air BNB – especially for value for money.

I could go on about this beautiful little cottage and all it had, but best you just check out all the info here on Air BNB.  I do have to admit to being a little reluctant to share this info, because if you all book it, it might be hard to get into when I next need it, but I’m rising above my desire to keep this secret.  Toni is a super host, and deserves that recognition.  The photos of the little cottage really don’t do it justice, and one of the most valuable things that you can’t get from the photos, is just how comfortable everything is in the house.  If you value a good nights sleep, you’ll love this place that little bit more.

If you haven’t yet booked anything through Air BNB, I do recommend you give it a go.  And if you use this link to register with Air BNB, you’ll receive a $50 credit towards your first night.  https://www.airbnb.co.nz/c/meganl7787   Now that’s a great deal huh?! (yes, they’ll also give me a wee credit, so everyone’s a winner!)

Sadly, it was time to check out of our cottage, and do a little more exploring around Dunedin, before heading to the airport.  Our first stop was to St Clair Beach for a bit of brekkie.  We ate at the Starfish Cafe – my advice is to go here hungry!

Before you read on, make sure you’re not missing out.


St Clair

St Clair is another gorgeous little village, that looks as if its developing fast.  It’s got a more upmarket modern vibe than lots of Dunedin.  It’s a great spot to spend a little time – this is a prime surf beach, so you could spend hours watching the surfers enjoy the waves.  Or if you’d like to spend a couple of $, head to the heated salt water pool on the edge of the ocean.

St Clair beach

Photo from Dunedinnz.com

Tunnel Beach

If you’ve got some extra time, you might like to detour to Tunnel Beach.  It’s only a 10 minute drive from St Clair, but is in a world of its own in terms of dramatic beauty.


Tunnel Beach - a day in Dunedin

It’s called Tunnel Beach because of the ‘tunnel’ you need to walk through to reach the beach.  BUT – be warned – the walk from the carpark to the beach is very STEEP.  Like, really!  If I’d had walking poles on hand I would have used them.  It’s steep going down, and it’s steep coming back up!  TOTALLY worth it, but you do need to be warned.


Tunnel Beach - free things to do in Dunedin

It’s a 10 minute drive to town from St Clair (or Tunnel Beach), but before we hit the city, we headed up Signal Hill to view the city from above.  From here the city and its harbour are laid out before you in a spectacular panorama, with a little history lesson thrown in.


Dunedin Railway - free things to do in Dunedin

Dunedin Railway

Dunedin City & Railway

When you’re exploring the city itself, you may be wondering if you’ve actually left NZ.  Dunedin city has a very European feel in comparison to the rest of NZ.  It’s Scottish history is evident in much of the architecture than abounds in the city, and none more so than that of the beautiful Railway station.  Whether or not you’re catching a train, it’s worth checking out the Station.

And if you’re in town on a Saturday, you’ll find the station is home to a bustling farmers market from 8am.

Clock Tower

Inside is just as spectacular

Of course, there are many other special heritage buildings in Dunedin, not the least of which are Larnach Castle, and Olveston House.  They do include small entrance fees.

As you can see, there is plenty that you can do in Dunedin for free.   It’s a city blessed with many natural landmarks – enjoying them is a great way to spend a day.

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Best things to do in Dunedin for FREE

Spend a day in Dunedin for FREE


And if you’re in Otago, you might like to check out this post on Lawrence – it’s an hours drive from Dunedin, and as you’ll see, it’s a gorgeous little town, and fantastic drive.

If you don’t have a car, or would prefer some other options, consider these.

(Note: If you purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you.)


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  1. I love guides with free things to do so this is awesome! It looks like such a fun place!

  2. Love finding guides this! Port Chalmers looks so quaint, I’d love to watch the surfers in St. Clair and Tunnel Beach looks absolutely beautiful!

    1. Tunnel Beach was a revelation to me. I can’t believe people don’t talk about it more – it is stunning. I hope you get to experience it one day.

  3. I loved Dunedin when I visited! The railway station is quite something and the coffee shops were awesome! My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer…

  4. What a beautiful area to explore! All those students are lucky to live in an area with such pretty coastline! I love the look of Deborah Bay as well as tunnel beach! They look like great spots to enjoy some fish and chips! :D

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