Dunedin is the perfect base for any traveller keen to see some of the country's most beautiful spots and to take in some of New Zealand's adrenaline-inducing activities.
Dunedin, which is Gaelic for "Edinburgh", has a fluctuating population that depends on the university student year. While the city has an overall population of just over 120,000, around 25,000 of them are university students. The city has official ties with its Scottish namesake city, and the highland dancing, bagpipes and themed sports teams (the Highlanders play in the Super Rugby competition) illustrate a rich and thriving relationship with their Scottish counterparts.
Dunedin lays claim to the most photographed building in New Zealand, the Dunedin Railway Station. Inside the station, you will find the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, a fascinating insight into the lives of some of New Zealand's most prominent sportsmen and women across a number of codes, including rugby, cricket and golf.
For those looking to sample a sweet treat while in Dunedin, a six-minute walk from the railway station takes you to Cadbury World, a factory that produces the famous chocolate. The interactive tour gives patrons a detailed history of the factory and guides you through the chocolate-making process.
From the chocolate factory, it is another small walk into the heart of Dunedin, the Octagon. A roundabout surrounded by eateries, the Octagon also hosts the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the Regent Cinema. The hub is usually packed out for international matches and I'd recommend a round at Alibi Bar and Restaurant if you're after a good start to your evening.
Beer aficionados can learn how one of New Zealand's most iconic beers is brewed at the Speight's Brewery Tour. The iconic Rattray Street building has housed the brewery since 1876 and offers a tour where you can see, smell and taste what goes into making one of the treasures of New Zealand's south.
Drive back through the city and venture out to Baldwin to see the steepest street in the world as confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Dunedin's beauty is dispersed throughout the city, not just in the city centre. Dunedin North hosts New Zealand's oldest university. The University of Otago's historic buildings make for the perfect walk en route to University Oval. Grab a bite to eat from Good Café if you're feeling peckish. If a longer, more scenic wander is your thing, the city's botanical gardens are just a short walk from the university.
St Clair and St Kilda
The beaches of St Clair and St Kilda are some 15 minutes from the centre of town and stretch some 3.5km. St Kilda isn't just known for its beaches, though. The small town also has Wests, a soft drinks manufacturer that is the oldest of its kind in New Zealand. Browse the factory shop to find flavours such as chocolate lemonade, pineapple and pear or cola and raspberry. If you're over 18, you can also find a mix of alcoholic specialties there. Down the road, St Clair's Hot Salt Water Pool is open until March 2015 and is a mix of chlorinated and salt water. It's the only remaining salt water pool in the city. A swim costs a family of four just $13.
The capital of New Zealand's adventure tourism industry, Queenstown has transformed itself over the last 30 years into a haven for tourists seeking scenery and action. It's easy to spend two days in Queenstown, which is some three and a half hours north west of Dunedin. Take in a bungee jump at either the historic Kawerau Bridge or the 134m Nevis jump, both operated by AJ Hackett Bungy. After coming back down to Earth, grab a burger at the famous Fergburger, where the Cockadoodle Oink is particularly delicious. On the second day, take a jet boat across the Shotover River to see Queenstown as you've never seen it before. If that builds up an appetite, there's no better place to go than the Lone Star restaurant.
If Queenstown is hyperactive and adrenaline-filled, Wanaka is the calm and peaceful younger sister, and offers the perfect day trip for any family. Lake Wanaka plays host to Mt Aspiring National Park, a paradise for hikers, walkers and mountaineers looking to get out and explore New Zealand's rugged beauty. Wanaka also has a quirky attraction in the form of Puzzling World, where you can challenge yourself in a 3D maze and take in the spectacle of the Illusion Rooms. There is also the stunning Warbirds and Wheels museum, a look back at classic cars and fighter planes from the last 100 years.
Often labelled the jewel of New Zealand's crown, Milford Sound needs to be seen to be believed. Nestled within Fiordland National Park, the Sound's natural beauty led writer Rudyard Kipling to dub it the eighth unofficial wonder of the world. Around 1 million people take in Milford Sound each year. Most tours start from Queenstown and leave early in the morning so that tourists can make the most of the day and not wait on congested roads. This natural wonder is a must-do day trip when visiting the Otago region.
Blessed with a picturesque setting, Arrowtown is home to an old gold-mining site that once brought thousands of gold-seeking hopefuls to the region. Arrowtown started in 1862 as part of the great Gold Rush in New Zealand, but also hosted a separate Chinese gold-mining site that remains today and provides a great historical account of Chinese gold miners in New Zealand. Also check out the Lakes District Museum, where you can pay $3 to pan for gold and discover your fortunes on the Arrow River.