Scotland in the South

A student city with connections to the auld country, Dunedin is best explored on foot

Not for the birds: a gull's eye view of Otago Peninsula © AFP

On the central-eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island lies the city of Dunedin, the heart of Otago. Home of the laidback Southern man (and lass), Dunedin and its surrounding towns are a charming invitation into the heart of South Island. Dunedin is proud of its rich Scottish heritage, as symbolised in its name, which originates from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann. It is quite apt the city will be hosting two of Scotland's fixtures in the World Cup.

Dunedin became New Zealand's first city in 1865 following a population influx from a gold-mining rush. This wealth was used to help set up education centres in the city. Dunedin boasts of the oldest university in New Zealand - the University of Otago - as well as the first medical school in the country. Often viewed as a student party capital, the town is widely regarded as an excellent place for study.

The city is perhaps best explored with a blue and gold scarf - the Otago provincial colours - wound around the neck on a brisk morning or late afternoon, a cup of coffee in hand. Walking through the eight-sided plaza, the Octagon, one can get a real sense of the city, from the impressive Victorian buildings to the Flemish Renaissance-designed railway station.

Boarding the train pre- or post-match day is a great experience. The Taeri George rail route offers stunning panoramic inland views and is a relaxing change from the busier tourist areas of the South, such as Queenstown. The Otago Central Rail Trail will take keen cyclists on a serene trip of the country's biggest bike trail. For the wildlife enthusiast, short trips out of the city will uncover sea lions, native birds and penguins.

What to pack: Dunedin is pleasant in February/March, with temperatures averaging in the low 20s Celsius. In addition to your summer wear, make sure to pack a warm jacket for when it cools down, as well as sunscreen and glasses to combat the strong New Zealand rays. Also bring a good pair of walking shoes if you plan to explore the Peninsula.

Getting around

Hiring a car and exploring the small towns and the wider area of Dunedin is a good option. Jucy rentals is popular for cars and vans if you have a family or group. Thrifty and Budget cars are other options for rentals. Taxis can often get quite pricey in New Zealand, but if it is a short, fast trip you are after, grab a cab from Dunedin's largest fleet. Local buses are a cheap way to get around. The Supershuttle runs 24/7 to take you from your hotel door to the airport terminal once your Dunedin adventures are done.

Distances between places of interest in the city are not great, so getting some exercise walking is a good option. If you are still feeling energetic after a day's cricket, see how far you can get up the world's steepest road, Baldwin Street in North-East Dunedin.

Where to stay

University Oval on Logan Park drive, where all three Dunedin games are scheduled to be played, is situated a five-minute drive away from Dunedin central. There are many options nearby for accommodation.

Baldwin Street: the world's steepest road © Getty Images

High-end: Hotel St Clair, a ten-minute drive from Central Dunedin, is on the beachfront and offers alfresco dining. Scenic Hotel Dunedin is central and contemporary with wonderful harbour views. Or for something a bit different, try the Brothers Boutique Hotel, a European-style heritage hotel with great character.

Mid-range: Mercure Leisure Lodge is a very short walking distance to the ground, with the bonus of a great restaurant. Econo Lodge Acala Motel is close to all the must-see landmarks and offers a nice family room. Pacific Park Suite, located on Maori Hill, is a relaxing place to rest your weary body from the day supporting your team.

Budget: Sahara Guesthouse & Motel has all the facilities you could require and is a four-minute drive to the ground. Dunthat Motel offers budget accommodation that ticks all the boxes, an 11-minute drive from the Oval.

Where to eat

Whether high-end dining or a large-portioned Southern feed, Dunedin has all you need to quieten the stomach rumblings. The best part is, lots of restaurants are clustered around the city centre, a short distance from the cricket ground, as well as places of accommodation.

High-end: Bacchus Restaurant offers fine dining overlooking the Octagon. For seafood, Plato on the harbour front is the place to go. If you are in the mood for a taste of Tuscany, Etrusco at the Savoy is for you.

Mid-range: Speight's Ale House has large, classic Southern meals, with a variety of local Speight's beers on tap. Kiki Beware Refreshment Room on George Street presents a modern take on the traditional tearooms. Great for breakfast or coffee. Inch Bar (03-4736496) is located on Bank Street in the Valley and offers tasty tapas and cold beer.

Budget: Flax cafe in Caversham (03-4877407) has very friendly service, well-priced food and great coffee. Nova Restaurant is great if you are with friends or family; it offers good value for money in the Octagon. If you are in town on Saturday morning, head down to the famous Otago Farmers Market, with over 65 vendors selling the freshest fruit and veggies from round the region.

Where to party

After a great afternoon at the Oval watching the action, try to take in at least one of these places to wind down, or amp up, for the evening.

High-end: Dunedin Casino offers an excellent option for great drinks, food and a bit of a gamble Head along to Di Lusso bar for excellent drinks and service. The concept bar Craft is a stylish place to spend the evening. It offers great New Zealand food and beer on tap.

Mid-range: Carousel Bar on Lower Stuart Street is a popular lounge bar featuring cocktails, whisky, cigars and tapas. If you are after a boutique beer, Tonic Bar on Princes Street is the place for you. For cocktails, though, look no further than the relaxed Toast bar.

Budget: The Innocent Bystander in the Octagon offers a chilled environment to relax for the evening with a cold beverage. Do try one of their big pizzas. Mou Very is the country's smallest bar, and worth a look. If you want to put on your dancing shoes and let loose, head down to Copa Bar (03-4701164) on George Street and let the DJs turn up the volume.

The good life: scones and tea at Lanarch Castle © Getty Images

Don't leave without…

Seeing the wildlife in the Otago Peninsula, a short drive from the city centre. A handy and very cool opportunity for urban dwellers to see animals in their natural habitat.

Visiting Lanarch Castle. In keeping with the Scottish theme, this is the only castle in New Zealand, built in 1871 by William Lanarch.

Spending a relaxing day on the Taeri George Railway, witnessing the beautiful scenery of Otago from the comfort of a train.

Taking a tour of the Speight's brewery, producers of Dunedin's iconic beer. Different packages for tasting and dining are available.

Doing a tour of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, housed in the historic railway station, a must-see nostalgia stop for sports fans.

Indulging the sweet tooth on a tour of the Cadbury factory.

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