One day in a secondhand bookshop, I unearthed an ancient tome from the year 1980. Blowing a thick layer of dust from the cover, I could make out the words Discovering Dunedin: 503 things to see and do in and around Dunedin. Written by Joyce Herd and accompanied with photos by the delightfully named Daphne Lemon, this book offers enchanting opportunities for the intrepid Ōtepoti traveler.
Maybe there wasn’t much to do or see in 1980, because some of the recommendations are honestly cooked. Others still hold up to this day. If you were born in the wrong era then grab your Walkman, slip on your leg warmers, and join me on a magical journey into the past.
Andersons Bay Cemetery and Crematorium
First on the list, Andy Bay Crematorium promises excitement for the whole family. Ask if you can have a sit in the big toaster, or go panning for gold in the ashes. (Do not do this.)
Archway Lecture Theatre
A place of “trepidation and excitement”, the Archway Lecture Theatres are “well equipped with sophisticated teaching aids and have excellent acoustics”. Put this to the test by belting out Cascada’s Everytime We Touch in MFCO102 and impressing your classmates.
Arthur Street Reserve
This is a playground on Arthur Street and it’s FULL OF DEAD BODIES. According to Joyce, Arthur Street Reserve was the town’s first burial ground. It also historically housed a military camp, geological survey offices, a meteorology station and psychiatric hospital. The gravestones were cleared away in 1880 and replaced with a single obelisk but, as far as I know, the spooky skeletons are still there. Think about that next time you see a small child playing on a seesaw.
Burnside Fertiliser and Freezing Works
Do you love fertiliser? Do you love frozen cows on hooks? Come on down! Although the works closed down late 1980s, some say that on the night of a full moon, one can still hear faint ethereal mooing.
Cameron Centre (Moray Place)
Situated beside First Church, Joyce recommends the Cameron Centre for emotional family counselling. A must do on your trip to Dunedin.
Turn to page 110 the book told me, like a haunted choose your own adventure novel. I turned to page 110. It was missing. A cold sweat ran through my body. What is The Chasm? Where is it? What evils lurk within its depths?
Further research showed that The Chasm is a cliff you can hike to on the Sandymount Track. “It looks cool”, one website (seethesouthisland.com) said.
I was so excited to find out that Dunedin had a cheese factory. I looked up the location and, in true Gardies fashion, it was bought by Otago Uni in 1996 to turn into the Hocken Library. They hate us to have fun.
Dowling Street Steps
You may know these as the scary stairs you walk past on Savemart trips. Described as “one of the cheapest entertainments a parent can offer to young children in Dunedin”, Joyce proposes having a race between the ramps and the steps. Hint: ramp always wins.
Fulton Home for the Aged
Go and look at some old people.
This is a man. He was a whaler who died in 1869 (nice). I don’t know how you’re supposed to see or do him.
Did you know our motorway’s summit is the highest point on Highway One between Picton and Bluff? On fine days, Joyce recommends a hoon down to enjoy the spectacular views.
“A popular place for sitting on the grass when the weather is good.” Big agree.
Queen Mary Maternity Hospital
If you love sweet bouncing babies, pop down to the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital and ask if you can have a gander. If you’re nice, maybe they’ll even let you hold one.
In 1966, there was a fountain in the Octagon. I cannot express how cool this fountain was. It had nightly shows with synchronised lights, water displays, and classical music before we were robbed in the 1990s development. Now we have a boring new fountain full of seagull poo which isn’t ever on. I hate it here.
Soldiers’ Memorial (Peninsula)
Gaze upon the memorial. Shed a single tear as you remember our troops. Salute.
University Extension Department
In the olden days, instead of frantically emailing your lecturer through tears at 3am requesting an extension on the paper you had a month to complete, you would take a walk of shame to the University Extension Department (now Department of Theatre, Music & Performing Arts) in person. Joyce suggests going down for a look, perhaps to point and jeer.
Discovering Dunedin: 503 Things to See and Do In and Around Dunedin describes itself as “very useful, helpful and informative”, promising that “no other comparable publication exists”. I think we can all agree that these statements hold true today.