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Southern Adventure: How to Experience Dunedin on a Budget

How To Explore Dunedin on a Budget.


Sometimes the feeling of being broke can be exhilarating and freeing (not often! but sometimes). You suddenly have to put more effort into planning your adventures, and consider your budget constraints. While it can be saddening to cut out all the exciting things you can’t do, it also means you can get really creative with your time, and really appreciate the people who you experience things with.

My other half is a student, so we had to get creative with a locked-down budget. At night, we spent the evening planning adventures around his lectures, and came up with some pretty cool things to do. You might read this and think, ‘wow, how could you find that fun/interesting/entertaining,’ but honestly, when you are adventuring on a budget, suddenly you really appreciate the things you can afford to do, and take pleasure in the small things. Having an awesome partner in crime really helps as well, be it family, friends, or a love one.



Established in 1868, the Otago Museum boasts an amazing range of rare objects and special exhibitions that showcase the cultural and natural stories of Otago, New Zealand and the world.

There are seven galleries to explore:

  • Tāngata Whenua and Southern Land, Southern People weave special stories of southern New Zealand
  • Meet Otago’s special wildlife in the Nature Galleries
  • Discover Otago’s proud shipping past in the Maritime Gallery.
  • People of the World and Pacific Cultures  present  cultural treasures and everyday items, which together tell the stories of people and cultures from around the globe.
  • Victorian-inspired Animal Attic is a ‘museum within the Museum’, featuring nearly 3,000 historical specimens.

We visited the museum not only because it was free, but also as a great way to find out more about the city and it’s history. My favourite gallery was the Southern Land, Southern People, as I love learning about the settlers and the families who began their lives here.

FREE!! But drop some change into the donation Moa for your good deed of the day



Honestly I could have spent all day in there!

The Tropical Forest  is a lush, living tropical environment that invites you to come face to face with hundreds of beautiful, live exotic butterflies.

The Forest is also home to other hot-weather-happy inhabitants, including birds, fish, turtles, and TARANTULAS!

The space is really well set up, with three levels plus a waterfall and completed with tropical trees, a viewing platform, and a stunning glass swing bridge.

The Tropical Forest is the only three-level, live butterfly experience in Australasia. As it is always warm (around 28°C) and humid (about 75% humidity), it is a great place to heat up before throwing yourself into an icy Dunedin day.

So be prepared for the very warm and humid temperature by wearing layers that you can take off, and bring bottled water just in case you need a cool sip!!

Get there around 11.00 am in the morning (or  11.00 am and 1.30 pm weekends and holidays) and check out the newly emerged butterflies as they take their first flight in the Forest! You get to release the little cuties into the air, and help them spread their wings. You really feel like aproud parent when they fly off your hand, or face 😀


  • Adult  $10.00
  • Child (2–15) $5.00
  • Student/Seniors (with ID) – $9.00
  • 1 adult + 3 children – $21.00
  • 2 adults + 2 children – $25.00



“Kids and adults alike will switch on to science in this fully interactive space.

Explore the realms of physics, technology and more. Warp yourself with our trick mirror, be in a bubble, stamp out a tune on the giant foot-piano, challenge your friends to relax with our mindball challenge and experiment with electricity in the plasma room!”

Release your inner child!
We spent a while in here after the Tropical Forest, playing with all the interactive gadgets and do-hickeys. It also has an air hockey table, so be prepared to be challenged by kids and adults! (I am the grand champion by the way).


  • Adult  $10.00
  • Child (2–15) $5.00
  • Student/Seniors (with ID) – $9.00
  • 1 adult + 3 children – $21.00
  • 2 adults + 2 children – $25.00



Image link to Cadbury World website.

Image source: Cadbury.co.nz/cadbury-world

Discover the wonder and magic of chocolate (Like you need telling twice!)

We took the Full Tour (75 minutes) which begins with a small wander around the Cadbury World Visitor Center before joining the super friendly guide and heading into the factory. You have to don a hairnet and guys have to wear a beard-net (very entertaining).

From there, you’ll discover the chocolate making process right from the cocoa bean all the way through to each of the delicious products – Cadbury Dairy Milk, Old Gold, and Dream chocolate, with taste-testing along the way of course!

And don’t forget to stop off in the Cadbury Giftshop. The prices are fantastic and much cheaper that supermarkets, so make sure to stock up on all your favs. That is unless you’ve had enough chocolate already 😛


Available: Monday to Friday ONLY

Tour length: 75 minutes

Ticket Prices:

  • Adults – $22
  • Seniors/Students –$20
  • Children 15 and under – $15
  • Children under 5 – $5
  • Family Pass – $56 (2 Adults and up to 4 children – 15 and under)

For more information on the other tours, see here



Image source: Reading Cinema.

Image source: Reading Cinema

Freezing cold day? Low on cash? Head to the movies!

Dunedin Reading Cinema now has $10 standard 2D tickets and 2D Premium tickets are just $15!

We spent a cosy afternoon watching the new Terminator movie here, and since we had already had lunch, we didn’t need to buy any movie snacks (the movie tickets may be cheap, but the movie snacks ARE NOT!)

So check out the movies and zone out in comfort for an hour or two

$10 standard tickets + extra for snacks



Image source: Dunedin visitors website.

Image source: Dunedin visitors website

Ok yes I will admit, malls aren’t the most exciting places….unless you are from a small town that doesn’t have a mall (Picton/Blenheim). But they do have free WIFI, and free parking for an hour. And FROZEN YOGURT

We spent a few hours over the week browsing through the mall when we had time to kill. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a look round, stare doe-eyed at all the pretty things you will never be able to afford (so much sadness) and then finish your day by eating copious amounts of frozen yogurt and oily food court grub.

A cheap afternoon really!

Depends what you buy! But free if you window shop!



Image link to Larnach Castle website.

Image source: LarnachCastle.co.nz

I have visited this site twice and it is still one of my favourite places to visit, as the grounds and caste are stunning on a bright day, and hold so much history. There is also a slight spooky feel, for those interested in tragedy and sad tales.

In the past, Larnach Castle contained 43 rooms and a ballroom and required a staff of 46 servants. The ballroom was built as a 21st birthday present for William Larnach’s favourite daughter Kate in 1887. Kate sadly died at the age of 26 of typhoid, and her ghost is still reputed to haunt the ballroom! The ghost of Larnach’s first wife, Eliza, is also said by some to haunt the castle. The building, which Larnach himself simply called “The Camp,” did not ensure his happiness. After a series of personal and financial setbacks he committed suicide in New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings in October 1898.

Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only Castle, and was in built 1871 by William Larnach, merchant baron and politician, for his beloved first wife Eliza. It took more than 200 workmen three years to build the Castle shell and a further 12 years to embellish the interior.

Image source: Larnachcastle.co.nz.

Image source: Larnachcastle.co.nz

To make this experience a bit more budget-friendly, forgo the pricey cafe and take a picnic and sit in the gardens 😀


Castle, Gardens & Grounds Access (self-guided)
Entry to the Castle including the tower, ballroom cafe, gift shop, Castle gardens, grounds, historic stables and outbuildings.  Informative brochure provided, in several languages, for self-guided tour of Castle, gardens and grounds.  Pre-bookings not required.

  • Adult – $29.00
  • Child (aged 5 – 14) – $10.00
  • Child (aged 0 – 4) –  FREE
  • Family Pass (2 Adults and up to 4 children) – $68.00

Gardens & Grounds Only (self-guided) 
Entry to the Castle’s gardens and grounds, ballroom cafe, historic stables and outbuildings.  Informative garden and native plant trail brochures and maps provided to assist with exploring the gardens and grounds.  Pre-bookings not required.

  • Adult – $13.50
  • Child (aged 5  – 14) – $4
  • Child (aged 0 – 4) – FREE


Visitor Info: http://www.dunedinnz.com/visit/see-and-do/outdoor-sport/walks/tunnel-beach
Department of  Conservation track info: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/dunedin-area/things-to-do/tunnel-beach-track/

Track Overview. Image source: DOC website.

Track Overview. Image source: DOC website

We decided after all the greasy food court meals, frozen yogurt, Cadbury chocolate, and homemade goodies, we were in dire need of fresh air and a long walk. I had found this walk earlier on the Dunedin visitors website and thought the views looked stunning, so we decided to go take a look.

The beach itself is is a located 7.5 kilometres southwest of the city centre of Dunedin, and is a nice scenic drive out there. Tunnel Beach has sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves. Beyond the beauty of the rugged sandstone cliffs, its claim to fame is the tunnel down to the beach that a local politician, John Cargill, son of Captain William Cargill, had commissioned  to have a tunnel excavated down to a secluded beach so that the Cargill families could bathe in privacy away from the prying eyes of St Clair. The beach has massive sandstone boulders, mysterious graffiti carved into the cliffs and a dangerous rip that sadly drowned Cargill’s youngest daughter.

Access to the beach is via a track across private farmland, and is open year round excluding lambing season from August to October.

The best time to go would be at low tide when you can get down to the actual beach.

The path down is quiet steep and can be very slippery following wet weather. We definitely suggest proper footwear, and advise carrying anything down (food/picnic/blanket etc) becuase you will struggle to haul it back up!


We hope you have just as much fun exploring Dunedin as we had, and make sure to let us know any cool and interesting adventures you experience down there 🙂 And we also hope you enjoyed reading about these budget-friendly things to do!

Nic x

The Sunshine Exchange.

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