Jim’s Accessibility Comments:
Our Princess Cruise ship docked in Dunedin, which is New Zealand’s 2nd largest city on the South Island and it’s located on the island’s southeast coast. Right at the dock in Port Chambers was an accessible CityUnited Taxi which had a wheelchair hydraulic lift at the back of the van, so we grabbed it and off we went for a little sightseeing.
Octagon Square: Dunedin’s main shopping district is at the Octagon, which is about a 20 minute drive from the cruise port at Chambers Bay. It is reasonably level and very wheelchair accessible although there is a mild grade coming into and leaving the Octagon.
Baldwin Street: The Guiness Book of World Records states that Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world. Need I say more. We drove it but frankly it’s a pretty ugly street.
Olveston: One of New Zealand’s best known stately homes is the Olveston, a 35 room Jacobean-style mansion. We ran out of time and it was street parking only so we did not enter this home and check accessibility. The mansion sits on a hill with a reasonably steep grade between the street and front entrance.Visit Website
Larnach Castle (outside Dunedin on Otago Peninsula): Outside Dunedin on the Otago Peninsula is the Larnach Castle which is a small castle by European standards but has a fascinating history. We did not get there but I called and they stated the ballroom and foyer are wheelchair accessible but there are steps going to the upstairs which is not accessible. They said there was a wheelchair accessible restroom on the 1st floor. Visit Website
Coastal Train Trips: With respect to the coastal train trips, the Dunedin Railway Station is a gorgeous Flemmish Renaissance style structure and is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp at the entrance, a wheelchair accessible restroom and an accessible café. The adjacent outside gardens are beautiful. I was told at the ticket counter that the Spectacular Pacific Coastal and Taieri River Gorge train trips are wheelchair accessible with one important caveat: Wheelchair users have entry onto the train only at Dunedin; there are no accessible exits until the train returns to Dunedin. Sort of defeats the purpose of having a train, don’t you think, but the scenery is beautiful. I was told there is an onboard wheelchair accessible restroom and that food is available onboard by requesting assistance from the conductor. Visit Website
University of Otago: We just took a brief taxi tour of New Zealand’s 1st University founded in 1869, and it’s a big beautiful University and campus. It reminded me of some of the old U.S. east coast Ivy League schools. The university is spread out over multiple acres in a reasonably level area but I did not get out to review accessibility.
Getting back to the cruise ship turned out to be easy but we had to ask around and hope for the best. The taxi driver let us off at the Octagon. When we looked to return to the ship, we found that one of the city’s main bus lines, the GoBus, is accessible and actually travels round trip between the cruise ship terminal and the Octagon downtown. And as I watched, I noticed most of the city’s GoBuses appeared wheelchair accessible with fold down ramps.
Frankly I thought Dunedin was a little old, a little sleepy with little to do, but with a 20% student population, it’s basically an old college town. Other than an accessible taxi and bus, I didn’t think the city had given much thought to wheelchair accessibility. And if I had to do it over again, I might attempt the Spectacular Pacific Coastal and Taieri River Gorge train trip. Looked like fun! In the interim, maybe they’ll construct additional accessible railway stops.