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10 of the Best Things to Do in Dunedin with Kids – Family Fun in Otago

Join us as we share the top 10 things to do in Dunedin with kids!

Ōtepoti, Dunners, Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin – whatever you call it, this Southern city packs a punch for all types of travellers – families in particular.

Kids are well-catered for in Dunners, with plenty to see and do.

Whether your whānau enjoys animal encounters or being active, you’ll find plenty in this southern city to keep your children engaged.

Dunedin offers opportunities to see penguins, albatross, tuatara and so much more in the wild. The city also has a range of exciting and unique activities within the city limits – many of which are perfect for rainy days.

So, next time you’re looking to entertain children in Dunedin, be sure to talk them through the activities and suggestions on this list to see what tickles their fancy.

Related: Things to do in Dunedin.

COVID-19 has come with its fair share of challenges for New Zealand businesses. Though we do our best to share accurate information, this can change quickly as some businesses make the decision to operate under reduced hours or hibernate. We suggest you double-check they are open before finalising your plans.

Kids will love visiting the little blue penguins in Dunedin.

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Family-Friendly Activities in Dunedin – Specifically for Animal Lovers

1. Visit Penguin Place

Penguin Place is a private conservation reserve that is doing fantastic work in our community. Not only are they dedicated to helping the endangered yellow-eyed penguin survive but they’re also keen to raise awareness of these beautiful animals.

As a fantastic family-friendly activity in Dunedin, we think a visit to the Penguin Palace is a win-win!

Penguin Place is the world’s first entirely tourism-funded conservation programme. This conservation project is entirely funded by guided tours of the reserve

Penguin Place

Your whānau will have the opportunity to join the Penguin Palace team on a guided walking tour through a series of trenches and hides to view these special little yellow-eyed penguins up close.

The funds from your tour are used to facilitate predator control, habitat restoration, their on-site research programme and rehabilitation for wild penguins.

What an amazing experience for everyone in the family.

2. Check out the Royal Albatross Centre

New Zealand is home to the most species of penguins in the world. In addition, we have both the rarest penguins and the smallest penguins on our shores.

And what kid doesn’t love penguins?!

The blue penguin colony in Dunedin is one of the largest in the country, offering a better chance of seeing multiple groups of penguins coming home after sunset. 

The Royal Albatross Centre runs daily tours on their private reserve where you can watch the little blue penguins return from a day of fishing. They raft in the water, often coming in two or three packs to waddle up the beach to their hilltop homes. 

In addition, you can join a tour to see the city’s beautiful albatross. With three-meter wingspans, these gentle giants are a sight to behold for visitors of all ages.

Whilst there, the kids will be taught about their daily habits and breeding cycle, making this an informative and engaging visit.

A visit to the Royal Albatross Centre is one of the most incredible experiences in Dunedin and a must for all animal lovers. 

Book ahead, as they fill up quickly!

Book: Tickets to the Royal Albatross Centre.

Book: A tour of the Otago Peninsula, including a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre.

Did you know? Fort Taiaroa is situated under the Royal Albatross Centre. This hidden fort is a fun for kids and history buffs alike.

3. Explore the Orokonui Eco Sanctuary

Aotearoa New Zealand only has one cloud forest and you’ll find it in Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

In this sanctuary, native plants and animals can live freely without threat from the pests that are unforutnately found in much of New Zealand.

When you visit the Orokonui Eco Sanctuary with your family you can expect to find many endangered and rare animals and birds – including (but not limited to) kiwi, kākā, takahē, robin and the incredible tuatara.

The tuatara is the only living member of Rhynchocephalia, a reptile group that was diverse and widespread between 240 million and 60 million years ago. The tuatara is often referred to as a “living fossil” or even a “living dinosaur”.

The Conversation

Should you be visiting Dunedin during the school holidays, be sure to check their educational programmes. They often run affordable school holiday schedules that are a real hit with tamariki (children)!

Related: Learn some key words in Te Reo Māori.

The Orokonui Eco Sanctuary is home totuatara – an incredible creature only found in NZ.

4. Saddle Up and Go for a Ride!

Horse riding is the perfect way to connect with nature whilst you’re in Dunedin.

With well-trained, reliable kid-friendly horses and experienced guides, you can rest assured when your family heads out on a hack. This makes a trek suitable for even first-time riders and relatively small children.

In Dunedin, we recommend riding with either Hare Hill Horse Treks or Silver Stream Horses. Both of which have a proven track record with families and ride through beautiful locations.

Choose to ride trails in open paddocks with incredible views of the Dunedin harbour or head out for a ride on the beach. The choice is yours.

We can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours.

Giddy up!

Burn Off Some Energy with these Kid-Approved Activities

5. Bounce Around at the Trampoline Park or Climb to New Heights on a Rock Climbing Wall

Leap and Clip ’n Climb are based in the same location, offering double the fun for families.

Leap

At Leap, you can choose to explore the trampoline park which comes complete with a bouncy dodgeball course, slam dunk (bouncy) basketball, stunt bags and of course a freeform trampoline park.

Make sure the kids come with plenty of energy as bouncing the day away takes a surprising amount of energy!

Clip ‘n Climb

Or, if the kids would prefer, they can hit the walls at the adjoining indoor climbing venue.

Clip ‘n Climb use an automatic belay system that not only ensures safety but also means that you can sit back and relax while the kids climb.

They have a number of creative and totally unique climbing walls that are suitable for kids aged 3 up (and parents too!). Clip ‘n Climb also have plenty of options to help first-time climbers find their confidence and to challenge even the most adventurous individuals.

With walls like the Leap of Faith, Lightening Crack, Morse Code and Skyscraper, where will you start?

6. Check Out the Coolest Place in Dunedin

The Dunedin Ice Stadium is the ultimate in year-round wintery fun.

Not only do they have a full-sized indoor ice skating rink but they offer a number of additional activities and attractions.

Take to the ice in surprisingly affordable free-skate session or improve your skills with an ice skating lesson. Alternatively, hop in one of their ice bumper cars for the ultimate in frosty fun!

Kids Learn to Skate for Free

The Dunedin Ice Stadium also offers free ‘give it a go’ ice skating lessons for kids under 14 years of age. Teaching the fundamentals of this fantastic sport to first-timers, they keep the emphasis on fun.

Sessions are held every Monday and Wednesday evening (4 – 4.50pm) and Saturday mornings (from 9.30 – 10.20am), with advance bookings required.

7. Keep the Kids Entertained at the Best Indoor Entertainment Venue in Dunners

Megazone is built for fun and is a fantastic way to keep the kids engaged, particularly on a wet and rainy Southland day.

Offering a wide range of activities including laser tag, virtual reality and mini golf, alongside an extensive gaming arcade, it’s easy to keep the kids buzzing for hours.

Though all of the activities are a hit, we particularly love their laser tag (which takes place in an area that’s decked out with music, blasters and a range of immersive props).

Their mini golf is particularly good value too, costing just $9 to play 12 holes. The glow-in-the-dark course wings through an enchanted forest and up a mountain to finish.

Next time you find yourself looking for something to do on a bad-weather-day in Dunedin, you know just where to head with your kids.

Book: Discounted mini golf and/or laser tag at Megazone.

8. Take a Dip

Moana Pool

Opened in 1964 the Moana Pool is a family-friendly institution in Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

It is the largest swimming pool in the southern half of New Zealand’s South Island, and thanks to its indoor nature, is suitable to use year-round.

The complex comes complete with an Olympic-sized pool and additional swimming pools, massive (and smaller) diving boards and a couple of hydroslides.

With families in mind, Moana Pool also have 9 family changing zones (located near the learners pools) and BBQs too, allowing your whānau to enjoy lunch together in the sun.

It really is the perfect spot your family to enjoy quality time together.

St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool

Or, if you’re looking for a family-friendly swimming option that offers a real sense of style, then you’ll want to head along to the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool on the seaside.

Heated to 28 degreesCelsius year-round, this salt water pool has all the benefits of being at the beach with none of the disadvantages. They even top the water up with chlorine to ensure everyone’s comfort.

St Clair’s was renovated in 2000/2001 and now features a paddling pool for toddlers and improved changing facilities. You’ll also find a great cafe there, so you can enjoy a coffee whilst the kids finish up their swim.

Related: The best hot pools in the South Island.

Explore What Makes Dunedin Unique – Kid-Approved Options

9. Larnach Castle

Built in 1871 by William Larnach (an entrepeneur and politician), for his first wife, Eliza, Larnach Castle took more than 200 workers three years to build just the shell. It look master European craftsmen another 12 years to bring the interior to life.

This labour of love resulted in what is now widely recognised as ‘New Zealand’s only castle’ – and it’s open for your whānau to visit.

Not only does the castle have an authentically decorated interior (perfect for your little prince or princess to explore) but it also comes complete with gorgeous gardens and extensive grounds totalling 35 acres.

Mindfully planted, each season brings a different look to the surrounding gardens. The gardens, along with the stunning castle, combine to provide the perfect spot to update your family photos – be sure to take your camera!

Enjoy watching your children get lost in a world of make believe at Larnach Castle.

Book: Tickets to Larnach Castle and Gardens.

Did you know? The Larnach Castle gardens are one of only five gardens in the whole of New Zealand to be recognised as ‘Gardens of International Significance’ by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. They were also the first in the South Island to be awarded.

10. Race up Baldwin Street

If you whānau has energy to spare, why not challenge them to a race up the steepest street in the world?

Located in North East Valley which is only 3.5km from the city centre, Balwin Street is quite the tourist attraction!

At 350 metres long, it quickly raises from only 30 metres above sea level at the start to 100 m above sea level at the top. It’s a leg burner for sure, but perfect for kids keen to burn off some energy.

Though it briefly lost its title, it was soon rightfully reinstated to the Guinness World Records, so your kids can once again claim to have raced to the top of the steepest street in the world!

Synonymous with fun, Baldwin Street offers the perfect opportunity to take mind-bending photos (as seen above). They also used to hold an annual race where lollies would be rolled down the hill en masse. Good fun!

With the famous-in-New-Zealand jaffa competition a distant memory, a foot race is the closest you’ll get to a competitive challenge these days, but we still think it’s worth a visit to this kiwi icon.

Did you know? It’s possible the jaffa race might return to Dunedin – let’s hope!

What will your family choose to do whilst visiting Dunedin?


Other Family-Friendly Ideas in the South Island:

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