Arrived in Dunedin Saturday evening and what a surprise! It’s a booming seaside city with tons of gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian buildings and huge old gothic churches. It reminds me of neighborhoods in London and some areas of Portland. Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island and the principal city of the Otago Region. It’s one of the four main urban centers of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons.
Settled largely by Scottish immigrants under the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland the area grew with the discovery of gold in the 1860s. Several decades later Dunedin became New Zealand’s leading commercial and industrial center. New Zealand’s biggest manufacturers, importers, commercial, and transport firms had their origins in Dunedin.
“The Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland founded Dunedin at the head of Otago Harbour in 1848 as the principal town of its special settlement. The name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Instructed to emulate the characteristics of Edinburgh Charles Kettle, the city’s surveyor, produced a striking ‘Romantic’ design.”
Dunedin is home to the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university, and Otago Polytechnic. Students account for a large proportion of the population.
“Fortuitously, the mid to late Victorian period of Dunedin’s growth and prosperity coincided with an exciting era in the history of architecture, with revivals of Gothic, Italianate, Palladian, and Georgian forms to name a few. Readily available building materials such as Leith Valley andesite and Port Chalmers bluestone, combined with ‘white stone’ from North Otago and locally kilned bricks, complemented these forms handsomely. They helped reinforce the settlers’ aspirations for Dunedin as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’.” The architecture in Dunedin is beautiful!
Dunedin is on the central-eastern coast of Otago, surrounding the head of Otago Harbour. The harbor and hills around Dunedin are the remnants of an extinct volcano. The city suburbs extend into the surrounding valleys and hills on the isthmus of the Otago Peninsula and along the shores of Otago Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.
The famous Royal Albatross breeding center is on the tip of the Otago Peninsula about 45 minutes from Dunedin. It’s owned by the Otago Peninsula Trust, a charitable trust formed to protect the local natural environment.
When I arrived Saturday evening the weather was warm and pleasant but Sunday morning I woke up to heavy rain which continues (New Zealand = rain). I walked around today and went to art galleries and cafes – hope the weather is better tomorrow. If it is I may stay another day. This Friday (November 25th) Elton John is performing in concert at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium. It’s the southernmost place he has performed in the world. The concert sold out and so has every hotel room in town. Dunedin built Forsyth Stadium for the recent World Cup Rugby Championships which New Zealand’s All Blacks won.
If the weather is better I plan to walk Baldwin Street – touted the steepest street in the world. Baldwin Street’s claim to fame is controversial even though The Guinness Book of Records officially recognizes it as the world’s steepest street at a 35% grade. Having lived in San Francisco for so long, I’ve seen some pretty steep streets – like Filbert and 22nd Street.
The entire population of the south island is a couple hundred thousand people, so Dunedin is the most density I’ve experienced for several weeks. From here I head to Oamaru, also know for its fantastic Victorian buildings and a Blue Penguin colony.