Destination Showcase: Dunedin, New Zealand with Katy Winton & Joe Nation

Jan 17, 2022
by Jay French  
A stunning rip down the Peninsula as the sunsets looking back over Dunedin and it s beaches.
A stunning rip down the Peninsula as the sunsets looking back over Dunedin and it's beaches.

Dunedin, New Zealand.
South Island Road Trip - Stop Three

Photography & Words: Jay French
Riders: Katy Winton & Joe Nation

Ōtepoti - Dunedin, is the southernmost of New Zealand's main centres, looking very traditional from a first impression, it takes many cues from its Scottish roots. Being one of the countries most vibrant cities, Ōtepoti Dunedin does a fantastic job of mixing the old with the new. With a reputation of being a student town, Dunedin is known to be pretty progressive, which is delightfully juxtaposed with its architecture which harks back to mid-1800s Scotland, along with its matching street names and suburbs.

Scarfies, student street parties, and some pretty cold winters come to mind when you think of the area, but there's so much more going on here. What struck us most when visiting Dunedin, was the variety and quality of the places to eat here. There are so many great little cafes, breweries, and eateries all over town, and they're all fantastic. From the likes of the brewery Steamer Basin, hidden down an unnamed lane covered in street art, to the upscale eatery; Buster Greens, where the food is so good you might not even want to go anywhere else. There is interesting art all over the city and a great mix of people and culture, providing the city with a contagious energy that keeps people going back.

Ōtepoti - Dunedin City.


Dunedin has been investing in its outdoors, and mountain bikers in the area are benefitting. Most of the riding in Dunedin is close to town. The city extends along the Otago Peninsula and built on the sides of hills. Some of those hills there are pretty steep too, giving Ōtepoti the title 'home of the steepest street in the world' - Baldwin Street.

More and more people from the area are discovering mountain biking, and the local scene is thriving. There are tracks that take you around the bays and over the rolling coastal hills, to gnarly rock gardens and jump lines, you can find it all here. Mix your riding up with a soak at the saltwater pools, a surf at one of the many beaches, or go on the hunt to find some wildlife. You might see some seals, penguins, or even Albatross here.

Inside Steamer Basin a super intimate and very cool brewery tucked away down a no-name alley with art on all the walls.
Inside Steamer Basin, a super intimate and very cool brewery, tucked away down a no-name alley with art on all the walls.
Incredibly delicious breakfast at Buster Greens. We came back here three times. Their smoothie bowl is also next level.
Incredibly delicious breakfast at Buster Greens. We came back here three times. Their smoothie bowl is also next level.

Joe couldn t turn down the opportunity to manual down Baldwin Street steepest street in the world he picked up speed so rapidly it was crazy to watch.
Joe couldn't turn down the opportunity to manual down Baldwin Street (steepest street in the world) he picked up speed so rapidly, it was crazy to watch.

The Saltwater Pools in St Kilda. Like Bondi only a little cooler.
The Saltwater Pools in St Clair. Like Bondi, only a little cooler.
A great looking bit of architecture The Security Building that looks like it could be in a batman movie.
A great looking bit of architecture 'The Security Building' that looks like it could be in a batman movie.


Nicols Creek and Whare Flat


Nicols Creek consists of two key trails, the Nicols Creek Switchback track, a blue rated, flowy two-way track that winds its way up the hill through beautiful native bush, and Nicols Enduro, a downhill only, very much black diamond, rowdy root fest, which makes up part of the 3 Peaks Enduro.

The crew at Mountain Bike Otago have been working hard to finish the top section of this track, which will link it up to the Swampy Ridge trail and open up options for some bigger loops. They're currently using donations to fund heli-gravelling of the top sections, and they're getting close now.

Whare Flat is a trail centre in a managed forestry block, where you'll find plenty of blues and blacks nestled amongst the forest. There's plenty of fun little jump tracks and heaps of options to make loops as well, best to avoid this one in the wet.

Sun peaking above the clouds letting us know it s going to be a good day.
Sun peaking above the clouds letting us know it's going to be a good day.

Joe and Katy taking in a gorgeous Dunedin sunrise waiting for the light to get right before heading down.
Joe and Katy taking in a gorgeous Dunedin sunrise, waiting for the light to get right before heading down.

Heading down into the sunrise with a waking Dunedin in the background.
Heading down into the sunrise with a waking Dunedin in the background.

Once gravelled this trail will give the opportunity for some pretty big loops in the area.
Once gravelled this trail will give the opportunity for some pretty big loops in the area.
This is the top section of the Nicols Creek track that they need to finish off fully.
This is the top section of the Nicols Creek track that they need to finish off fully.

The original switchback track cruises flowingly through plenty of deep bush.
The original switchback track cruises flowingly through plenty of deep bush.

Taking a breather at the picnic table and enjoying the view over Dunedin.
Taking a breather at the picnic table and enjoying the view over Dunedin.

The drop in before it starts getting spicy.
The drop in before it starts getting spicy.

It s steep damp and rooty all the way until you come out on the road at the bottom.
It's steep, damp and rooty all the way until you come out on the road at the bottom.
The green mossy wet rocks offer basically no grip.
The green mossy wet rocks offer basically no grip.

Plenty of roots and a little loam to keep the trail surface interesting.
Plenty of roots and a little loam to keep the trail surface interesting.

Neither Joe nor Katy took the chicken line. Not here not anywhere.
Neither Joe nor Katy took the chicken line. Not here, not anywhere.
Exploring the deep dark forest.
Exploring the deep dark forest.

Tall pines and bushy natives make for a pleasant ride in Whare Flat.
Tall pines and bushy natives make for a pleasant ride in Whare Flat.

Whare Flat mountain biking trails





Signal Hill


Signal Hill is probably the most well-known riding area in Dunedin. It's been host to the Oceania MTB champs for many years and home to one of the countries most infamous rock gardens. The prominent landform offers a panoramic view of the city, where you'll also find a Monument and two bronze statues dedicated to the New Zealand Centennial.

It's not all race lines, though. Popular local brewery Emersons has invested in creating a phenomenal climbing trail up the cities main riding area, to help promote cycling and to get people outdoors. Trails like this make it easy to cruise up the hill and get laps in. The new flow trails being built on Signal offer a wider range of descending options than some of the slightly more advanced trails that came before them.

Head to Emersons Brewery after your ride and thank them for making your uphill easier by grabbing a beer and a feed. The brewery itself is great and they serve delicious food too. It's a no-brainer.

Shuttles are particularly popular on Signal Hill. It s a very beautiful road to get up there as well.
Shuttles are particularly popular on Signal Hill. It's a very beautiful road to get up there as well.

Cruising past a couple of old abandoned Mini s on the side of the easy uphill trail.
Cruising past a couple of old abandoned Mini's on the side of the easy uphill trail.

Joe and Katy send alternative lines on Signal s infamous Rock Garden.
Joe and Katy send alternative lines on Signal's infamous Rock Garden.

Slippery mossy damp rocks make for a daunting trail surface.
Slippery mossy damp rocks make for a daunting trail surface.
This image is trying to show how steep the Rock Garden is.
This image is trying to show how steep the Rock Garden is.

Joe with a racer table over a jump that usually shows up on the Oceania track.
Joe with a racer table over a jump that usually shows up on the Oceania track.

Nice views in the open part across the valley back over to Nicols Creek which we d ridden earlier.
Nice views in the open part across the valley back over to Nicols Creek, which we'd ridden earlier.
Flowy Blue trail down was a whole lot of fun.
Flowy Blue trail down was a whole lot of fun.


The downhill flow track linked up with the uphill flow track is a great place to get into riding on Signal.
The downhill flow track linked up with the uphill flow track is a great place to get into riding on Signal.

If you carry enough speed a couple of gaps will present themselves to those looking.
If you carry enough speed a couple of gaps will present themselves to those looking.

There are still a few features littered down this trail to have fun on.
There are still a few features littered down this trail to have fun on.

Feeling thirsty after a big ride These guys have you sorted.
Feeling thirsty after a big ride? These guys have you sorted.
Katy samples something brown and bubbly at Emersons Brewery.
Katy samples something brown and bubbly at Emersons Brewery.

Signal Hill mountain biking trails





Otago Peninsula


Swoop into town to grab dinner, there's so much on offer. If you're into properly good Pizza, then find Pizza Bar. Its nondescript surroundings don't do a great job at hiding how popular this spot is, bustling with people, the simple menu only gives you a few options, but what else do you need? They know how to make fantastic pizza, and serve it up with a couple of great drink options.

Once you're done, head out to the Peninsula where you can catch a beautiful sunset looking back over the city. Check out that famous cabbage tree on your way, and then end your day with a surf at one of the many spots along the coast. Dunedin has been called "the cold water Bali' before, with some 30 beaches within 30 minutes drive. The surf vibe is strong here. Popular spots like St Clair, St Kilda, Blackhead offer some clean sets through to something a bit heavier such as Whareakeake or a trip down to the Catlins for those who are keen.

Katy and Joe hustle their way to the coast line before the sun disappears.
Katy and Joe hustle their way to the coast line before the sun disappears.

Checking out the wild coastline below.
Checking out the wild coastline below.

Epic coast line to explore.
Epic coast line to explore.

Some crazy skies over decent waves at Blackhead Beach.
Some crazy skies over decent waves at Blackhead Beach.
After the surfers had finished this little guy seal bottom right poked his head out and started surfing about the waves himself.
After the surfers had finished, this little guy (seal, bottom right) poked his head out and started surfing about the waves himself.

The last surfer finishes his session and makes his way back to the beach.
The last surfer finishes his session and makes his way back to the beach.

Otago Peninsula mountain biking trails





There are many great spots along the Peninsula, and along the coast for sunrise, a sunset or the chance to spot some wildlife.
There is definitely more than meets the eye in Dunedin. Bring your bike, your surfboard and your appetite. When the weather is on, the city comes alive. Especially during Uni term, the student population swells so the nightlife can be pretty enticing as well. Come for the riding, explore the beaches, spot the wildlife and stay for the food!


The last remnants of the sunset on the horizon.
The last remnants of the sunset on the horizon.



Local Knowledge


Getting here:
Dunedin Airport serves as a gateway to the wider Otago region. Currently there are regular domestic flights from New Zealand's main centres which arrive several times a day. Dunedin is a very accessible city. If you arrive in the city and do not have a vehicle, buses and taxis are plentiful and reliable and the central city is compact and easily walkable. More details here.

The Climate & Wildlife:
Kiwi, Little Blue Penguin, News Zealand Fur Seals, New Zealand Sea Lion, South Island amongst many others. Check out more wildlife here.

Local Mountain Biking Groups
Details here

Bike shop and repairs:
Cycle World
Off The Chain

Other Stores:
Hydro Surf

Food and Drink:

Breweries & restaurants
1. Arc Brewery
2. Steamer Basin
3. Emersons

A Beer Lovers Guide to Eat & Drinking in Dunedin
Arc Brewing Co
Emersons
Steamer Basin
New New New

Coffee
Vanguard Coffee
Strictly Coffee
The Daily Coffee Co
All Press Espresso Roastery Cafe

Food
Adjo Co
Good Good
Morning Magpie
Kiki Beware Boutique Cafe
Buster Greens
The Swan
Dog With Two Tails
Beam Me Up Bagels
Otepoti Comes First
Esplanade
Prohibition Smokehouse
Titi

Guides:
Day Guide to Dunedin Arts & Architecture
9 of the Best Dunedin Walks and Where to Treat Yourself Afterwards
Guide to Dunedin Fashion & One of a Kind Pieces


Must Dos:
Steepest Street in the World – Baldwin Street
Street Art – Follow the Street Art Trail
Otago Peninsula – Sandfly Bay/Sandymount
Wildlife – Penguins, Albatross & Sea Lions -
St Clair – and outdoor salt water pool
Otago Muesum
Larnach Castle



Regions in Article
Dunedin


41 Comments

  • 13 0
 In late 2003 (or maybe a year later even), I snapped my Z1 landing short and destroyed my jaw in Signal Hill. Two fellas walking up with their bikes walked me down to the carpark and drove me to the hospital, and I never got to say thank you. If you are those two, thank you so much for what you've done!
  • 26 2
 He jutht wanted to thay thank thou
  • 11 0
 I remember seeing a guy carrying his broken teeth on one hand and his snapped forks in the other at carpark by Logan Park school. This would be around 2003ish, if that was you, i still remember.
  • 1 0
 @woody-nz: Hmm, could've been another sorry biker as my teeth were ok. Was it an Asian fella?
  • 8 0
 Erhm... Where can I sign my emigration papers?
  • 6 0
 They missed Hyde Street
  • 1 0
 Great photos! Takes me back, my partner and I lived in Dunedin for six months in 2018, I rented a Giant Trance and rode Signal Hill (first FS experience, it blew me away), then bought an old Kona Blast to ride the Whare Flat and Nichols Enduro trails. Wish I had more time and money! Loved all the little bars and cafes, the St. Clair beach area was my favourite.
  • 4 0
 I live in the wrong country...
  • 35 3
 you must do if you are thinking of moving to Dunedin
  • 1 0
 I spent a couple weeks in the South Island in 2008. Would love to go back there some day with a MTB. When I went, it was their winter and Dunedin was frigid. The South Island is one of the prettiest places I've been.
  • 1 0
 Nice - rode signal hill there a few years ago. Super fun, and the town itself is great! it's a haul to get there from many places but worth it.
  • 2 0
 So in the end, where would you move if you wanted to ride and raise a family?
  • 17 1
 Nelson
  • 6 1
 Depends on what you want. Biking good all round the country. If you're a keen surfer then Dunedin (water a bit chilly but surfing world class), if you ski/snowboard then Queenstown or Wanaka, if you want a big city then Christchurch, and if you're got a bit of hippy in you then Nelson. All have job vacancies galore at the moment and good schools, laid back NZ vibe etc. If you want warmer weather, especially water you can swim in comfortably without a wetsuit 6 months of the year then move to upper north island
  • 2 0
 @45Sox: @tanadog:
I would say the priorities are:1a. Access to varied outdoor activities 1b, Interesting community, somewhat diverse community that newcomers could get into (with native NZers or other emigrants). 2. Good schools. We have a 5 year old, but it would be hard for the school system to be worse than where we are (49/50 in the US!), so I suspect it wouldn't be hard to find. 3. My wife doesn't want it to be too dark and cold. 4. I like mountains. 5. Obviously all the previous are contingent on us finding jobs, but my wife would qualify for a long term need permanent visa and I might too (I'm a data science professor, but wouldn't be wedded to staying a prof forever).

Nelson is definitely at the top of the list of considerations as I'd say that both my wife leans more toward the hippy side and likes sunshine. The latter is what pushes Dunedin lower, though it would be the perfect for me employment wise. Nelson maybe less so, but there was a job posted the other day that was pretty much ideal for me, just a step or two junior maybe. I'll keep an eye on it though to see if that job's boss every leaves.

I have heard that Christchurch is one of the less racially tolerant places in NZ. Do you think that still holds? My wife is of Indian origin.

Is there decent mountain biking in the upper north island?

Thanks!
  • 7 0
 Christchurch. Great riding as already shown by Joe & Katy, and perfectly positioned to access all the other great locations the South Island offers.

I wouldn't worry too much about racism in Christchurch (or NZ generally). True, there's some bigots here, but there is everywhere. But they are definitely a minority. I think you'll find that all of NZ is very inclusive and very multi cultural. After all, everyone in this country is a migrant, or descended from a migrant!

There's great riding throughout both islands, but as you move North of Rotorua, the spots become smaller and more sparce and urban sprawl becomes more the normal. Plus, the already relatively high cost of living in NZ starts to climb even further.
  • 2 0
 @MarcusBrody: Christchurch is a great place to be (as is most of the rest of the south island), the country has grown far more racially diverse and accepting in the last 10-15 years.
  • 2 0
 @notsofastoverfifty: @EckNZ: Thanks! That's helpful and good to hear. My foreigner's impression of NZ is that it is pretty inclusive and multicultural and that's one of the reasons it's attractive. Christchurch checks a lot of boxes in terms of potential employers and outdoor access (and it's better than a lot of places in terms of real estate prices...). If some of its reputation is antiquated, then it would definitely be on the list.

I'd personally prefer the South Island as I love mountains and open, uninhabited spaces. My wife likes to be warm though, so we'll see! We will try to come visit once things open up and see if it is appealing in person as it is in concept. But you can't hit everywhere, so it's good to have a shortlist.
  • 1 0
 I moved to Christchurch with a 2 & 4 year old sons. Awesome place to live. I can ride from my door: 5 minutes to the trails, 20 minutes to the bike park. But you also have beaches and surfing at Taylor's Mistake bay in 20 minutes drive and bigger mountains for riding and snowboarding in the winter at just 1.5 hour drive. Good employment in Christchurch too.
  • 3 0
 I’d always say Nelson is the best place to live but then I am biased as I live there.

The only thing Nelson doesn’t have really is surfing.

Does have the best mountain biking though as long as you don’t mind riding up to ride down.
  • 1 0
 If you do go, move somewhere where you can ride from the house, gas is forecast to hit $3/l
  • 2 0
 Dunedin if you want to afford a house.
  • 1 0
 @karatechris: @markhouse: Thanks. Nelson does seem ideal in a lot of ways (though it's gotten expensive). It's mostly a jobs question. I don't really surf, so it isn't a big deal, but if end up somewhere good for it, I'd love to learn as I've had a blast the few times I've gone. We kayak and paddleboard more, so Nelson seems good for that.

I need to research Christchurch more. I started with Dunedin (as a number of my students went abroad there), then moved on to Nelson/Wellington/Tauranga/New Plymouth/Napier and kind of skipped Christchurch as I was maybe unfairly going on an out of date recommendation. It does seem to have a lot going for it with the larger metro area, university, and still slightly lower real estate prices.
  • 1 0
 @MarcusBrody: definitely research christchurch, moved down here from auckland 4 years ago and have never once regretted it. world class riding, mountains, hiking, skiing only 90 mins away, rock climbing are all amazing. plus schools are good too. only thing that sucks is the city centre itself.
  • 1 0
 @ryan-mooore: I'll definitely look into it. If Christchurch is an option, that makes the South Island much more possible employment wise.

Is the rock climbing near town? Where I currently live is great for it so my son and I have joined a gym to start to get into it. It's been a lot of fun, though I didn't become immediately obsessed like skiing/mountain biking.
  • 1 0
 @MarcusBrody: Yep, plenty of crags on the Port Hills, less than 10km from the city centre.

climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/canterbury/port-hills
  • 1 1
 @ryan-mooore: any where is better than Auckland
  • 1 0
 Legit took this place for granted when I went to Dunedin to burn couches for a few years. Some awesome riding and a really cool biking community.
  • 3 0
 DnB Hot Spot
  • 1 0
 Great series, makes me really want to get out and explore a bit more of the country!
  • 1 0
 Don't privateers eat cold beans and raw celery? 3 times they went back to eat that for breakfast! I'm in the wrong job!
  • 3 3
 How do they even get into NZ? Is the Covid fortress wall finally coming down?
  • 3 5
 Nope, its still terrible. No signs of things getting better either
  • 2 0
 Haha they live here
  • 1 0
 I live here and agree it is awesome
  • 1 0
 Great write up again, but how could you miss Pasha Kebab's for food!
  • 1 0
 Great write-up and photos Jay.
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