The centrepiece of this august institution is Southern Land, Southern People, showcasing Otago’s cultural and physical past and present, from geology and dinosaurs to the modern day. The Tāngata Whenua Māori gallery houses an impressive waka taua (war canoe), wonderfully worn old carvings, and some lovely pounamu (greenstone) weapons, tools and jewellery. Other major galleries include Pacific Cultures, People of the World (including the requisite mummy), Nature, Maritime and the Animal Attic.

The Tūhura Otago Community Trust Science Centre (adult/child $15/10) boasts 45 hands-on interactive science displays, a Tropical Forest butterfly enclosure and a 7.5m-high double helix slide. There's also a planetarium ($12/7), which screens films on its 360-degree dome.

Guided tours depart from the information desk at 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm daily ($15 per person).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Dunedin attractions

1. University of Otago


Founded in 1869, the University of Otago is NZ's oldest. Today the university is home to some 21,000 students, and is well worth a wander, with many…

2. Knox Church

0.22 MILES

Dunedin's second grand Presbyterian church sprang up in 1876, only three years after the equally imposing First Church, and quickly became an emblem of…

3. Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery

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This oddball collection of skulls, body bits, ethnographic art and beautiful bone sculptures has been assembled by local mural artist and sculptor Bruce…

4. Olveston


Although it's a youngster by European standards, this spectacular 1906 mansion provides a wonderful window into Dunedin's past. Entry is via fascinating…

5. Emerson's Brewery

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6. New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame

0.67 MILES

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7. St Paul’s Cathedral

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Even in Presbyterian Dunedin, the 'established church' (aka the Church of England) gets the prime spot on The Octagon. A Romanesque portal leads into the…

8. Dunedin Railway Station

0.68 MILES

Featuring mosaic-tile floors and glorious stained-glass windows, Dunedin’s striking bluestone railway station (built between 1903 and 1906) claims to be…