The traveller from the north comes suddenly upon the „Edinburgh of the South“. Highway 1 rises gently to reveal the city below, clinging to the walls of the natural amphitheatre that enclose the Upper Harbour. Spreading over the arms of the Lower Harbour are farms, generally dairying, to complete a felicitous blend of city, sea and countryside.
In its centre, Dunedin assumes the character of a city of spires – of towers, gables, of roofs bristling with turrets – and of solid, gracious, generally stone buildings that earn for Dunedin the title of Victorian City of New Zealand. It is, too, very much a „university town“, with century-old bluestone buildings now the heart of a modern academic complex whose students colour every facet of the city’s life.
If the Scottish influence of the first settlers has been diluted over more than a century, Dunedin yet has the country’s only kilt shop, it produces the country’s only whisky, and if Presbyterians are now well outnumbered they at least give the semblance of being in the majority. The province, with Southland, is unique in the country for having its own trace of dialect; with a distinctive burr if not an actual roll of the „r“ and a choice of language occasionally more Gaelic than Sassenach. In the city’s centre is a massive statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but Dunedin has its own bard in Thomas Bracken. The author of God Defend New Zealand and God’s Own Country (1890) knew no reticence when extolling the city’s virtues:
Go, trav’ler, unto others boast of Venice and of Rome,Of saintly Mark’s majestic pile, and Peter’s lofty dome;Of Naples and her trellised bowers, of Rhineland far awayThese may be grand, but give to me Dunedin of the Bay.
Few who have visited the city on a sunny day would demur. Certainly any visitor from the north who omits Dunedin from their itinerary in the interests of saving time is making a sacrifice from whose dimensions only ignorance will protect them. The Otago Peninsula alone is worth a journey, and a full day should be set aside to explore the many facets of its wildlife and history.
Dunedin (literally, Edin on the Hill) bears the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh. At first called „New Edinburgh“, the settlement’s name was changed at the urging of Sir William Chambers who, as Provost of Edinburgh, complained bitterly that „The ‚News‘ in North America are an utter abomination.‘
The Dunedin Festival, with an emphasis on outdoor activities, is held annually (February).