DHL New Zealand Lions Series 2017 host city: Dunedin

New Zealand's only covered rugby ground will host The British & Irish Lions when they play the Highlanders in 2017.

The British & Irish Lions will have their work cut out for them when they take on the recently crowned Super Rugby champions the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium during their 2017 tour on 13 June.

The only covered ground in New Zealand, Forsyth Barr Stadium holds just over 30,000 people. Sport, particularly rugby, is firmly imbedded into Dunedin culture, hardly surprising in the Scottish-flavoured environment known as the Edinburgh of the south. 

The city is home to the Highlanders rugby team, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the country’s oldest university. Dunedin will also host two other international rugby matches, the All Blacks vs Wales on 25 June 2016 in the Steinlager Series in the lead up to the 2017 British & Irish Lions Series, and then Australia on 26 August 2017 in the Investec Rugby Championship.

Rich heritage

Widely regarded as having the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian heritage in the southern hemisphere, Dunedin’s graceful old buildings and the Octagon at the heart of the city, give it a distinct point of difference. Larnach Castle on the city boundary is New Zealand’s only castle.

The 14 acres of grounds surrounding the castle are rated one of New Zealand’s ‘Gardens of International Significance’. As well as some cute ‘Alice in Wonderland’ features, the gardens have some stunning examples of floral species that thrive in the Dunedin climate.

On a roll

Dunedin also lays claim to the world’s steepest street. Baldwin St - which rises one metre in every 2.8 - is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Each year 30,000 Jaffas (round, orange covered chocolate candies) are rolled down Baldwin St to support a local charity - as part of the annual Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival. The Cadbury Chocolate Factory and Speight’s Brewery are also popular tourist attractions, particularly as factory tours include the chance to sample.

Otago wildlife

Interesting Dunedin locals include the yellow-eyed penguin, the rarest in the world and an international attraction for Otago.

The yellow-eyed penguin, New Zealand fur seals, rare Hooker’s sea lions, and the only mainland royal albatross colony, prompted Britain’s famous botanist David Bellamy to describe the Otago Peninsula as "the finest example of eco-tourism in the world".

Visitors don’t have to go far to experience southern marine life - a short drive from Dunedin city is the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre & Westpac Aquarium with more than 100 different local creatures.

Easy fun

Dunedin is also big on activities that tick the fun and easy accessibility box. Within minutes of the central business area visitors can enjoy beach walks to famous spots like Tunnel Beach - with spectacular views up and down the Dunedin coastline.

There are many golf clubs in and around the city, including the southern hemisphere’s oldest club, Balmacewan.

Ticket to ride

The Dunedin Railway Station, built in Flemish Renaissance style and completed in 1906, is New Zealand’s most photographed building.

The station was once the busiest in the country and still has the longest platform (500 metres) which becomes the catwalk for the South Island’s main fashion show - iD Dunedin Fashion Week annually. Much of the station’s ground floor is now used as a restaurant, and the upper floor holds the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

This museum showcases New Zealand’s greatest sports performers’ most memorable moments, their trophies and the tools of their trade.

New Zealand original

With the discovery of gold in the 1860s, Dunedin grew to become one of New Zealand’s most important commercial centres.

One of the best ways to experience the remnants of this era is to embark on a cycling trip on the Otago Central Rail Trail. This 150km ride is New Zealand’s original ‘Great Ride’ and takes cyclists on a historic journey into the heartland of Central Otago.

This ride is rated ‘easy’ and can be undertaken in 1-5 days. Other ‘Great Rides’ in the surrounding area include Alps to Ocean Cycle Trails, Clutha Gold Trail and the Roxburgh Gorge Trail so there is no shortage of choice for day out on a bike.

Fast facts

  • An albatross colony sits above the tunnels of Fort Taiaroa - established a century ago to counter the threat of invasion from Tsarist Russia.
  • Otago Peninsula albatross colony is the world's only mainland albatross colony.
  • Dunedin is a city of New Zealand ‘firsts’ - first university founded, first newspaper, first medical and dental schools, first female lawyer, first public art gallery.
  • Dunedin is the Celtic form of Edinburgh, and original city plans were based on Edinburgh. While many street names are inspired by the original Edinburgh, town planners had to alter the plans to accommodate hills and swamps.
  • Dunedin university students are referred to as ‘Scarfies’, and a movie of that name featured Dunedin student culture. In the Selwyn Ballet - an annual student tradition - boys dress as ballerinas to perform during a major rugby game at the stadium.

Travel Tips

Dunedin is located almost at the bottom of the South Island, 360km from Christchurch down State Highway 1. The airport has several flights a day from major New Zealand airports including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The Southern Scenic Route travels north from Invercargill to Dunedin via the spectacular Catlins Coast.

While Dunedin itself is a vibrant small city, within a short drive of the city there’s a lot to do, including the world-renowned albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula. The winter resort of Queenstown is a 3.5-hour drive, while the historic delights of Oamaru are just an hour north of Dunedin.