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Dunedin ( ), (Māori: Ōtepoti), is the second-largest city in the South Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker, and the principal city of the region of Otago. It has the largest council boundary area of any New Zealand city, and is the hub of the sixth-largest urban area. For historical and cultural reasons and its location, Dunedin is considered one of the country's four main centres, although Hamiltonmarker has overtaken Dunedin in its urban-area population.

The city of Dunedin stands on the hills and valleys surrounding the head of Otago Harbourmarker. The harbour and hills are the remnants of an extinct volcano. This city is also the home of the University of Otagomarker.


Māori settlements

Modern archaeology favours a date around 1100 AD for the first human (Māori) occupation of New Zealand with population concentrated along the southeast coast. A camp site at Kaikai's Beach, near Otago Heads, has been dated from about that time. There are numerous archaic (moa hunter) sites in what is now Dunedin, several of them large and permanently occupied, particularly in the fourteenth century. The population contracted but expanded again with the evolution of the Classic culture which saw the building of several , fortified settlements, notably Pukekura at (Taiaroa Headmarker), about 1650. There was a settlement in what is now central Dunedin (Ōtepoti) occupied as late as about 1785 but abandoned by 1826.

Maori tradition tells first of a people called Kahui Tipua living in the area, then Te Rapuwai, semi-legendary but considered to be historical. The next arrivals were Waitaha followed by Kāti Mamoe late in the sixteenth century and then Kai Tahu (Ngai Tahu in modern standard Māori) who arrived in the mid seventeenth century. These migration waves have often been represented as 'invasions' in European accounts but modern scholarship has cast doubt on that. They were probably migrations like those of the European which incidentally resulted in bloodshed.

The sealer John Boultbee recorded in the 1820s that the 'Kaika Otargo' (settlements around and near Otago Harbourmarker) were the oldest and largest in the south.

European settlement

Lieutenant James Cook stood off what is now the coast of Dunedin between February 25 1770 and March 5,1770,naming Cape Saundersmarker on the Otago Peninsulamarker and Saddle Hill. He reported penguins and seals in the vicinity, which led sealers to visit from the beginning of the 19th century. The early years of sealing saw a feud between sealers and local Maori, from 1810–1823, the "Sealers' War" sparked by an incident on Otago Harbour, but William Tucker became the first European to settle in the area in 1815. Permanent European occupation dates from 1831 when the Weller brothers founded their whaling station at Otago, modern Otakoumarker, on the Otago Harbour. Epidemics badly reduced the Maori population. By the late 1830s, the harbour was an international whaling port. Johnny Jones established a farming settlement and a mission station, the South Island's first, at Waikouaitimarker in 1840.

In 1844, the Deborah, captained by Thomas Wing and carrying, among others his wife Lucy and a representative of the New Zealand Company, Frederick Tuckett, came south to determine the location of a free church settlement. After inspecting several areas around the eastern coast of the south island, Tuckett selected the site which would become known as 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 Edinburghmarker, the Scottish capital. Charles Kettle the city's surveyor, instructed to emulate the characteristics of Edinburgh, produced a striking, 'Romantic' design. The result was both grand and quirky streets as the builders struggled and sometimes failed to construct his bold vision across the challenging landscape. Captain William Cargill, a veteran of the war against Napoleon, was the secular leader. The Reverend Thomas Burns, a nephew of the poet Robert Burns, was the spiritual guide.

Gold rush era

In 1852, Dunedin became the capital of the Otago Province, the whole of New Zealand from the Waitakimarker south. In 1861 the discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gullymarker, to the southwest, led to a rapid influx of population and saw Dunedin become New Zealand's first city by growth of population in 1865. The new arrivals included many Irish, but also Italians, French, Germans, Jews and Chinese. The Dunedin Southern Cemeterymarker was established in 1858, the Dunedin Northern Cemeterymarker in 1872.

Dunedin Railway Station, built in 1906.
360° Panorama: Railway Station from inside.

Dunedin and the region industrialised and consolidated, and the Main South Line connected the city with Christchurchmarker in 1878 and Invercargill in 1879. The University of Otagomarker, the oldest university in New Zealand, was founded in Dunedin in 1869. Otago Girls' High Schoolmarker (1871) is said to be the oldest state secondary school for girls in the Southern Hemispheremarker. Between 1881 and 1957, Dunedin was home to cable trams, being both one of the first and last such systems in the world. Early in the 1880s the inauguration of the frozen meat industry, with the first shipment leaving from Port Chalmersmarker in 1882, saw the beginning of a later great national industry.

After ten years of gold rushes the economy slowed but Julius Vogel's immigration and development scheme brought thousands more especially to Dunedin and Otago before recession set in again in the 1880s. In these first times of prosperity many institutions and businesses were established, New Zealand's first daily newspaper, art school, medical school and public art gallery the Dunedin Public Art Gallerymarker among them. There was also a remarkable architectural flowering producing many substantial and ornamental buildings. R.A. Lawson's First Church of Otago and Knox Churchmarker are notable examples, as are buildings by Maxwell Bury and F.W. Petre. The other visual arts also flourished under the leadership of W. M. Hodgkins. The city's landscape and burgeoning townscape were vividly portrayed by George O'Brien 1821–1888. From the mid 1890s the economy revived. Institutions such as the Otago Settlers Museummarker and the Hocken Collectionsmarker – the first of their kind in New Zealand – were founded. More notable buildings such as the Railway Stationmarker and Olvestonmarker were erected. New energy in the visual arts represented by G.P. Nerli culminated in the career of Frances Hodgkins.

Early Modern era

Historic panorama of the Botanical Gardens
By 1900, Dunedin was no longer the country's biggest city. Influence and activity moved north to the other centres ("the drift north"), a trend which continued for much of the following century. Despite this, the university continued to expand, and a student quarter became established. At the same time people started to notice Dunedin's mellowing, the ageing of its grand old buildings, with writers like E.H. McCormick pointing out its atmospheric charm. In the 1930s and early 1940s a new generation of artists such as M.T. Woollaston, Doris Lusk, Anne Hamblett, Colin McCahon and Patrick Hayman once again represented the best of the country's talent. The Second World War saw the dispersal of these painters, but not before McCahon had met a very youthful poet, James K. Baxter, in a central city studio.

Numerous large companies had been established in Dunedin, many of which became national leaders. Late among them was Fletcher Construction, founded by Sir James Fletcher in the early 20th century. Kempthorne Prosser, established in 1879 in Stafford Street, was the largest fertiliser and drug manufacturer in the country for over 100 years. G. Methven, a metalworking and tap manufacturer based in South Dunedin, was also a leading firm, as was H. E. Shacklock, an iron founder and appliance manufacturer later taken over by the Auckland concern Fisher and Paykel. The Mosgiel Woollens was another Victorian Dunedin foundation. Hallensteins was the colloquial name of a menswear manufacturer and national retail chain while the DIC and Arthur Barnett were department stores, the former a nationwide concern. Coulls, Somerville Wilkie – later part of the Whitcoulls group – had its origins in Dunedin in the 19th century. There were also the National Mortgage and Agency Company, Wright Stephensons Limited, the Union Steamship Company and the National Insurance Company and the Standard Insurance Company among many others, which survived into the 20th century.

Post War developments

The Dunedin Botanic Garden
After World War II, prosperity and population growth revived, although Dunedin trailed as the fourth 'main centre'. A generation reacting against Victorianism started demolishing its buildings, and many were lost, notably William Mason's Stock Exchange in 1969. (Dunedin Stock Exchange building) Although the university continued to expand, the city's population growth slowed and then contracted, notably from 1976 to 1981. This was, however, a culturally vibrant time with the university's new privately endowed arts fellowships, bringing such luminaries as James K Baxter, Ralph Hotere, Janet Frame, and Hone Tuwhare to the city.

During the 1980s the city's popular music scene blossomed, with many acts, such as The Chills, The Clean, The Verlaines, and Straitjacket Fits, gaining national and international recognition. The term "The Dunedin Sound" was coined to describe the 1960s-influenced guitar-led music which flourished at the time. The music scene continues to thrive , with bands and musicians playing and recording in many styles, from electronica to reggae to folk.

By 1990, population decline had steadied and Dunedin had re-invented itself as a 'heritage city' with its main streets refurbished in Victorian style and R.A. Lawson's Municipal Chambers in the Octagonmarker handsomely restored. It was also recognised as a centre of excellence in tertiary education and research. The university and polytechnic's growth accelerated. The city has continued to refurbish itself, embarking on major developments and redevelopments of the art gallery, railway station, and Otago Settlers Museum.

Dunedin has flourishing niche industries including engineering, software engineering, bio-technology and fashion. Port Chalmersmarker on the Otago Harbourmarker provides Dunedin with deep-water port facilities. The port is served by the Port Chalmers Branch, a branch line railway which diverges from the Main South Line and runs from Christchurchmarker by way of Dunedin to Invercargillmarker.

The cityscape glitters with gems of Victorian and Edwardian architecture – the legacy of the city's gold-rush affluence – many including First Church, Otago Boys' High Schoolmarker and Larnach Castlemarker are designed by one of New Zealand's most eminent architects R A Lawson. Other prominent buildings include Olvestonmarker and the Dunedin Railway Stationmarker. Other attractions include Baldwin Streetmarker, the world's steepest street; the famous Captain Cook Tavern; Cadbury Chocolate Factory(Cadbury World); and the local Speight'smarker brewery.

Dunedin is also notable now as a centre for ecotourism. Uniquely, the world's only mainland Royal Albatross colony and several penguin and seal colonies lie within the city boundaries on Otago Peninsulamarker. To the south, on the western side of Lake Waiholamarker, lie the Sinclair Wetlandsmarker.

The thriving tertiary student population has led to a vibrant youth culture (so named 'Scarfies'), consisting of the before mentioned music scene, and more recently a burgeoning boutique fashion industry. A strong visual arts community also lives in Dunedin and its environs, notably in Port Chalmersmarker and the other settlements which dot the coast of the Otago Harbourmarker, and also in communities such as Waitatimarker.
St Clair Beach, Dunedin.
Sport is catered for in Dunedin by the floodlit rugby and cricket venue of Carisbrookmarker, the new Caledonian Groundsoccer and athletics stadium near the University at Logan Parkmarker, the large Edgar Centremarker indoor sports centre, the University Ovalmarker cricket ground, and numerous golf courses and parks. There are also Forbury Parkmarker horseracing circuit in the south of the city and several others within a few kilometres. St Clair Beach is a well-known surfing venue, and the harbour basin is popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers. Dunedin has four public swimming pools: Moana Poolmarker, Port Chalmers Pool, Mosgiel, and St Clair Salt Water Pool.


Dunedin City has a land area of , slightly larger than the Americanmarker state of Rhode Islandmarker or the Englishmarker county of Cambridgeshire, and a little smaller than Cornwallmarker.It is the largest city in land area in New Zealandmarker. The Dunedin City Council boundaries since 1989 have extended to Middlemarchmarker in the west, Waikouaitimarker in the north, the Pacific Oceanmarker in the east and south-east, and the Waipori/Taieri River and the township of Henleymarker in the south-west.

Dunedin is the most remote city in the world from Londonmarker at ( more than Invercargillmarker, and more than Christchurchmarker), and from Berlinmarker at . Its antipodes are some north of the Spanishmarker city of A Coruñamarker, in the Bay of Biscaymarker.

Inner city

The heart of the city lies on the relatively flat land to the west of the head of the Otago Harbourmarker. Here is The Octagonmarker – once a gully, filled in the mid nineteenth century to create the present plaza. The initial settlement of the city took place to the south on the other side of Bell Hill, a large outcrop which had to be reduced in order to provide easy access between the two parts of the settlement. The central city stretches away from this point in a largely northeast-southwest direction, with the main streets of George Street and Princes Street meeting at The Octagon. Here they are joined by Stuart Street, which runs orthogonal to them, from the Dunedin Railway Stationmarker in the southeast, and steeply up to the suburb of Roslyn in the northwest. Many of city's notable old buildings are located in the southern part of this area and on the inner ring of lower hills which surround the central city (most of these hills, such as Maori Hill, Pine Hill, and Maryhill, rise to some above the plain).

Dunedin is home to Baldwin Streetmarker, which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the steepest street in the world. Its gradient is 1 in 2.9. The long since abandoned Maryhill Cablecar route had a similar gradient close to its Mornington depot.

Beyond the inner range of hills lie Dunedin's outer suburbs, notably to the northwest, beyond Roslyn. This direction contains Taieri Road and Three Mile Hill, which between them formed the original road route to the Taieri Plainsmarker. The modern State Highway 1 follows a different route, passing through Cavershammarker in the west and out past Saddle Hill. Lying between Saddle Hill and Caversham are the outer suburbs of Green Island and Abbotsfordmarker. Between Green Island and Roslyn lies the steep-sided valley of the Kaikorai Streammarker, which is today a residential and light industrial area. Suburban settlements – mostly regarded as separate townships – also lie along both edges of the Otago Harbour. Notable among these are Portobellomarker and Macandrew Baymarker, on the Otago Peninsulamarker coast, and Port Chalmersmarker on the opposite side of the harbour. Port Chalmers provides Dunedin's main deep-water port, including the city's container port.

The Dunedin skyline is dominated by a ring of (traditionally seven) hills which form the remnants of a volcanic crater. Notable among them are Mount Cargillmarker ( ), Flagstaffmarker ( ), Saddle Hillmarker ( ), Signal Hillmarker ( ), and Harbour Cone ( ).


The hinterland within Dunedin city encompasses a variety of different landforms. To the southwest lie the Taieri Plainsmarker, the broad, fertile lowland floodplains of the Taieri Rivermarker and its major tributary the Waiporimarker. These are moderately heavily settled, and contain the towns of Mosgielmarker, East Taieri, and Allantonmarker. They are separated from the coast by a range of low hills rising to some . Inland from the Taieri Plain is rough hill country. Close to the plain, much of this is forested, notably around Berwickmarker and Lake Mahinerangimarker, and also around the Silverpeaks Range which lies northwest of the Dunedin urban area. Beyond this, the land becomes drier and opens out into grass and tussock-covered land. A high, broad valley, the Strath-Taieri lies in Dunedin's far northwest, containing the town of Middlemarchmarker, one of the area's few concentrations of population.

To the north of the city's urban area is undulating hill country containing several small, mainly coastal, settlements, including Waitatimarker, Warringtonmarker, Seacliffmarker and Waikouaitimarker. State Highway 1 winds steeply through a series of hills here, notably the The Kilmogmarker. These hills can be considered a coastal extension of the Silverpeaks Range.

To the east, Dunedin City includes the entirety of the Otago Peninsulamarker, a long finger of land that formed the southeastern rim of the Dunedin Volcano. The peninsula is lightly settled, almost entirely along the harbour coast, and much of it is maintained as a natural habitat by the Otago Peninsula Trust. The peninsula contains several fine beaches, and is home to a considerable number of rare species, such as penguins, seals, and shags. Most importantly, it contains the world's only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross, at Taiaroa Headmarker on the peninsula's northeastern point.

List of suburbs

Inner suburbs

(clockwise from the city centre, starting at due north)

Woodhaugh; Glenleith; Leith Valley; Dalmore; Liberton; Pine Hill; Normanbymarker; Mt Meramarker; North East Valleymarker; Opoho; Dunedin North; Ravensbournemarker; Highcliff; Shiel Hill; Challismarker; Waverleymarker; Vauxhall; Ocean Grove (Tomahawk); Tainuimarker; Andersons Baymarker; Musselburgh; South Dunedin; St Kildamarker; St Clairmarker; Corstorphine; Kew; Forbury; Cavershammarker; Concordmarker; Maryhill; Kenmure; Mornington; Kaikorai Valley; City Rise; Belleknowes; Roslyn, Otago; Kaikorai; Wakarimarker; Maori Hill.

Outer suburbs

(clockwise from the city centre, starting at due north)

Burkesmarker; Saint Leonards; Broad Baymarker; Company Bay; Macandrew Baymarker; Burnsidemarker; Green Islandmarker; Waldronville; Saddle Hill; Sunnyvale; Fairfieldmarker; Abbotsford; Bradford; Brockville; Halfway Bushmarker; Helensburgh.

Towns within city limits

(clockwise from the city centre, starting at due north)

Waitatimarker; Waikouaitimarker; Karitanemarker; Seacliffmarker; Warringtonmarker; Purakanui; Long Beachmarker; Aramoanamarker; Deborah Bay; Careys Baymarker; Port Chalmersmarker; Sawyers Baymarker; Roseneath; Otakoumarker; Portobellomarker; Brightonmarker; Taieri Mouthmarker; Henleymarker; Allantonmarker; East Taieri; Momonamarker; Outrammarker; Mosgielmarker; West Taieri; Waipori; Middlemarchmarker; Hydemarker.

Since local council reorganisation in the late 1980s, these are suburbs, but are not commonly regarded as such. They are usually regarded locally as towns or townships, and often do not have the qualities associated with suburbs. Most are separated by a considerable distance of open countryside from the urban area.


The climate of Dunedin in general is temperate, however the city is recognised as having a large number of microclimates and the weather conditions often vary between suburbs mostly due to the city's topographical layout. It is also greatly modified by its proximity to the ocean. This leads to warm summers and cool winters. Winter can be frosty, but significant snowfall is uncommon (perhaps every two or three years), except in the inland hill suburbs such as Halfway Bush and Wakari, which tend to receive a few days of snowfall each year. Spring can feature "four seasons in a day" weather, but from November to April it is generally settled and mild. Temperatures during summer can top , but temperatures in the high 30s are rare.

Dunedin has relatively low rainfall in comparison to many of New Zealand's cities, with only some recorded per year. Despite this fact it is regarded by many as a damp city, probably due to its rainfall occurring in drizzle over a larger number of days (northern centres such as Auckland and Wellington receive more rain overall through heavy downpours on relatively fewer days). Dunedin is one of the cloudiest centres in the country, recording approximately 1650 hours of bright sunshine per annum Prevailing winds in the city come from two directions, with cool, damp southwesterlies tending to alternate with northeasterlies. Warmer, dry northwest winds are also characteristic Foehn winds from the northwest. The circle of hills surrounding the inner city shelters the inner city from much of Otago's prevailing weather, often resulting in the main urban area having completely different weather conditions to the rest of Otago.

Inland, beyond the heart of the city, the climate is sub-continental: winters are quite cold and dry, summers hot and dry. Thick freezing ground fogs are common in winter in the upper reaches of the Taieri Rivermarker's course around Middlemarchmarker, and in summer the temperature frequently reaches into the mid-30s Celsius.


Dunedin features the world's most southern motorway, the ten-kilometre (6.2 mi) section of State Highway One (SH1) from the centre of the city towards the southern suburb of Mosgiel. Dunedin is the northeastern terminus of the Southern Scenic Route tourist highway to The Catlinsmarker, Invercargillmarker and Fiordlandmarker.

Although Dunedin's railway stationmarker, once the nation's busiest, is no longer served by regular commercial passenger trains, it is used by local tourist services. The most prominent of these is the Taieri Gorge Limited, a popular and famous train operated daily by the Taieri Gorge Railway along the former Otago Central Railway through the scenic Taieri Gorge. Taieri Gorge Railway also operates to Palmerstonmarker once weekly. The station is also sometimes visited by excursions organised by other heritage railway societies, and by trains chartered by cruise ships docking at Port Chalmers.

Dunedin International Airportmarker is located southwest of the city on the Taieri Plainsmarker at Momonamarker. It is primarily a domestic terminal, with regular flights to and from Aucklandmarker, Christchurchmarker, Wellingtonmarker, Rotoruamarker, Palmerston Northmarker, and seasonal flights to and from Queenstownmarker, Wanakamarker, and Fiordlandmarker, but it also has international flights arriving from and departing to Brisbanemarker year round and seasonally to Sydneymarker and Melbournemarker.

Ferries operated between Port Chalmersmarker and Portobellomarker in the late 19th and early 20th centures. Occasional calls have been made to revive them, and a non-profit organisation, Otago ferries Inc., has been set up to examine the logistics of restoring one of the original ferries and again using it for this route.

In 1866, plans were made for a bridge across the Otago Harbourmarker between Port Chalmers and Portobello, but this grand scheme for an 1140-metre structure never eventuated. Plans were also mooted during the 1870s for a canal between the Pacific coast at Tomahawkmarker and Andersons Baymarker, close to the head of the harbour. This scheme also never came to fruition.



Local media in Dunedin include the daily newspaper, The Otago Daily Times, which is the country's oldest daily newspaper and is part of the Allied Press group of newspapers. Allied Press also produces a free weekly community newspaper, The Star. There are several other local weekly and bi-weekly community newspapers, including Fairfax Media's Taieri Herald and D Scene. There is also Dunedin's free weekly entertainment guide f*INK. The University of Otago weekly student publication is the Critic, which covers news, University and town events and has several weekly columns.

Radio and TV

There are numerous local radio stations, among them MediaWorks' local station Radio Dunedin and the University's station, Radio One. Dunedin has one locally-run television station, Channel 9, part of the Allied Press group.


Films are shown at Hoyts (a 6-plex in The Octagonmarker), The Rialto (a 5-plex in Moray Place, The Metropolis (Moray Place), and The Academy (Dundas Street, Dunedin North). Screenings are also occasionally held at the city's main live theatre, the Regent Theatremarker in The Octagon.


Notable people


Annual events

Past events

Notable buildings and landmarks

Museums, art galleries, and libraries


Places of education




Major teams

Major grounds and stadia

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Dunedin is twinned with several cities throughout the world. These include:

Further reading

  • Herd, J. & Griffiths, G. J. (1980). Discovering Dunedin. Dunedin: John McIndoe. ISBN 0-86868-030-3.
  • Smallfield, J. & Heenan, B. (2006) Above the belt: A history of the suburb of Maori Hill. Dunedin: Maori Hill History Charitable Trust. ISBN 1-877139-98-X.


  1. ; ;
  2. &
  3. Turton, Hanson "Introductory"in ;
  4. &
  5. Boultbee, J in
  6. Cook, James in
  7. ;
  8. ; ;
  9. ; ; ;
  10. Dunedin City council page
  11. Thread fashion magazine article
  12. New Zealand Herald article
  13. Lambert, M. (ed.) (1988) Air New Zealand almanac. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Press Association, p. 394-5. Long-term average, 1951–1980.
  14. A Descriptive Atlas of New Zealand, A.H. McLintock (ed), New Zealand Government Printer, 1959 (see Map 8)
  15. Community archive. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  16. Otago Ferries Inc. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  17. Hayward 1998, p.65
  18. Hayward 1998, p.66


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