Venturing outdoors for safe, fun visits in Dunedin with young children
NOTE: We have updated this article to take into account Covid-19 and its impact on New Zealand.
The past year has been a gruelling one, and the lockdowns and restrictions have been especially hard on families with young children here in NZ. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since the pandemic first began and people all over NZ are now cautiously venturing outdoors as the number of community spread cases comes under control.
With strict border controls in place, kiwis are turning to local sightseeing and regional travel to enjoy our first summer since the pandemic.
Is it safe to go out?
Getting some fresh air and a change of scenery has a great positive impact on our stress levels and mental health. Choosing to spend time outdoors in parks, botanical gardens or by the seaside is a safer option than gathering at parties indoors. Just be sure to select places that are not crowded and that have COVID precautions, including social distancing, in place. Keep abreast of the latest precautions by checking reliable, regularly updated websites such as Unite Against COVID-19, as well as local media sources.
What precautions should you take on an outing in NZ?
- Check the alert level of the area you plan to visit since this can be updated at any time with little warning.
- Make sure you follow the current Covid-19 guideline suggested by the government. This could mean that you and your family are wearing a well-fitting face masks when you are out in public and try to maintain as much social distancing as possible.
- If you’re feeling poorly, stay at home.
- It’s safest to use your own private vehicle if you’re driving. Take a taxi only if you’re feeling well and be sure to wash your hands before and after the journey.
- The government recommends apps like NZ COVID Tracer. Use this to scan when visiting local businesses.
- Explain to children the importance of not running up to strangers and maintaining social distance depending on the current alert level. Be aware that if they’re overly excited about something, they may forget these instructions – prepare for such situations.
There’s plenty to do locally in Dunedin with your family on a sunny day out. Here are some suggestions from the community on fun family activities in Dunedin for visitors with young children.
- Otago Museum Butterfly House: Part of the Otago Museum, the Butterfly House is an incredible place for visitors to learn about the metamorphosis and life cycle of butterflies. Step inside to see exotic butterflies from all over world. You can also sign your children up for science activities and programmes. The Otago Museum has been collecting objects and stories about the natural, scientific and cultural aspects of the area for over 150 years, so there is plenty to discover.
- Sandfly Bay on Otago Peninsula: A beautiful place that brings together local wildlife, sea creatures and sand dunes. Children and adults alike love Sandfly Bay. You can follow the one-and-a-half-hour walking path to discover one of the largest colonies of yellow-eyed penguins in the region. You might also spot fur seals and sea lions, who love to relax and wallow in the sand.
- The Dunedin Botanical Gardens: Spread across more than 30 hectares of land, this botanic garden offers the perfect opportunity for a fulfilling walk with your children. Download a map of the garden from their website to plan your visit in advance. They have a fantastic aviary, a playground for children and even a place where the children can feed the ducks. You can end an eventful, safe day out by admiring the beautiful rose gardens.
- Dinosaur park by the St Kilda Beach: Marlow Park near the beach is best known for its giant dinosaur slide that is very popular with children, alongside other play equipment. If you’re concerned about COVID safety, it’s best to wait until the park is not crowded and carry your own hand sanitiser so you can minimise any risk. COVID doesn’t spread as easily outdoors, so with proper precautions, your little ones can still enjoy the dinosaur slide.
- Visiting the rock pools at Brighton Beach: Brighton Beach is located about 20 km south of Dunedin and is a great place for a day trip with the family. Children will love exploring amongst the rocks and finding little sea creatures in the rock pools. The beach is beautiful and also has a little creek. You can even hire out motor boats for a paddle.
- Bush walks around Ross Creek: A brilliant place for a walk, with plenty of opportunities to explore local wildlife and the bush. The tracks around Ross Creek are very well maintained and there are several for you to choose from. The shorter walks are more family friendly and feature numerous highlights, including a fairy grove and a waterfall.
- The Gardens at Larnach Castle: Larnach Castle is said to be NZ’s only castle and has a rich history. The gardens are award-winning and offer the whole family a beautiful place to enjoy a fine-weather day. You can picnic, learn about the history of the castle, and the children will enjoy finding all the different statues from Alice In Wonderland. There is always something to see in Larnach Castle’s grounds – besides the Alice Lawn, there’s the Serpentine Walk, the Laburnum Arch and the Rain Forest, among other attractions – and a colour map is provided on site to help you find it all.
- Toitu Otago Settlers Museum: This Museum has over 100,000 objects from the Otago province. You can find pieces that showcase the region’s culture, art, fashion, technology and even transport over the years, from before European settlement to the present day. This is a family friendly museum that is dedicated to preserving its pieces for education and exhibition. Children love exploring the different collections and can even sign up for further learning programmes if anything in particular catches their fancy. Admission is free and it is important that you download the NZ Tracer app to keep track of the people you come in contact with.