A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Kaikoura vs. Dunedin for Families, Attractions, Food, and Nightlife

Should you visit Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kaikoura or Dunedin? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. Other popular activities here include beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Dunedin

Dunedin is a cultural, vibrant, and small city. And you can't forget about the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Kaikoura and Dunedin: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Public transit not as usable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit


Is there more to do in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Both Dunedin and Kaikoura have plenty of things to do for visitors. Both offer a variety of sights, activities, and attractions for tourists. Kaikoura is more popular for its food, beaches, and hiking, while Dunedin is known for its museums, nightlife, and shopping. Kaikoura is more touristy than Dunedin and is known for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. Dunedin is popular for its wildlife and proximity to the Otago Peninsula.

How is Kaikoura different from Dunedin?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Dunedin and Kaikoura. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a well-known place for its sights and museums. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for its museums and history.

Dunedin offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. The city has cultural scene that is centered around both Scottish and Maori heritage. Top sights around town include the Larnach Castle, the Dunedin Railway Station, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, and the Otago Museum.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.


Is the Food Better in Kaikoura or Dunedin? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Kaikoura is well known for its restaurant scene. Also, Dunedin is still popular, but not quite as popular for its local flavors and cuisine.

Dining out in Kaikoura is an experience not to be missed. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Dunedin. The culinary scene in town continues to grow and improve. There are local eateries that have charm and character and serve interesting and local dishes.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Nightlife?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a well-known place for nightlife and partying. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its evening party scene.

Dunedin offers plenty to do in the evening. The town has eclectic bars and a diverse club scene that is fun to experience. It has a lively nightlife scene that is driven, in part, by the large student population.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Kaikoura. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Beaches?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Kaikoura is well known for the beach. Also, Dunedin is still popular, but not quite as popular for its beaches.

Kaikoura is considered a top beach destination. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.

Many people head to Dunedin to enjoy the beach. Many of the beaches are just a short drive from the city center. The surf is surprisingly good and the beaches are fun during the warmer summer months.


Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Hiking?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Kaikoura is well known for its hiking experiences. Also, Dunedin is still popular, but not quite as popular for hiking.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Kaikoura. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Many people include a hike when visiting Dunedin. There are biking and hiking trails that travel around town and through the surrounding landscapes.

Is the Shopping Better in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a well-known place for its shopping opportunities. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its shopping areas.

Dunedin is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. The shopping scene is diverse and eclectic with everything from vintage shops to fashion boutiques. Some of the most popular shopping areas are Edinburgh Way, Octagon Entertainment Precinct, Moray Place, and the Warehouse Precinct.

Kaikoura has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Families?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Kaikoura is an unbeatable place for its family-friendly activities. Also, Dunedin is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Kaikoura is a very family-friendly destination. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Dunedin is a very family-friendly destination. It's one of the largest cities on the South Island, and there are many educational opportunities and unique experiences available to kids. You can visit the Otago Museum or the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, take a wildlife cruise, or visit the Larnach Castle. You can also take a ride on the Inlander or simply hang out at a playground.


Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Couples?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Kaikoura is well known for couples. Also, Dunedin is still popular, but not quite as popular for romance.

Couples visit Kaikoura frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Dunedin is a nice destination for couples. You can wander through the castle or explore one of the city's markets. There are also romantic restaurants and many opportunities to see wildlife.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Both Kaikoura and Dunedin are high quality destinations for backpackers.

Kaikoura is a great town to visit for backpackers. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Dunedin. There are many hostels around town and plenty of activities that keep backpackers entertained.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Students?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a well-known place for students. However, Kaikoura is not popular with students.

Dunedin is a very popular city for students and younger travelers. This is a large student city that is welcoming to international students and a popular place to study.

Kaikoura is not popular with students.


Is Kaikoura or Dunedin Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a popular place for its public transit. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for times when you don't have a car.

Dunedin has a few public transit options. There a relatively decent bus system that travels through town.

Public transit is quite limited in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Is Kaikoura or Dunedin a more walkable city?

Kaikoura
Dunedin

Dunedin is a well-known place for its high level of walkability. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its ease of walking around.

Dunedin is a very walkable city. Parts of the town are easy to explore on foot.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable town. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting? and Is Dunedin Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Dunedin or Kaikoura?

How long in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Kaikoura and Dunedin. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Kaikoura than in Dunedin. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Kaikoura, and 1-3 days is enough time in Dunedin.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Dunedin. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Kaikoura than Dunedin. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Kaikoura that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Dunedin than Kaikoura if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Dunedin.


  • How many days in Kaikoura or Dunedin? Ideal Length of Stay
    Kaikoura 2-4 
    Dunedin 1-3

One day in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

In Kaikoura, you'll find shopping and nightlife. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This town offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

The city of Dunedin offers food and shopping. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


A weekend in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

In Kaikoura, you'll find nightlife and food. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Kaikoura has to offer.

Dunedin is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Dunedin, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Kaikoura is a great place to explore. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Dunedin is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Kaikoura or Dunedin?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Kaikoura. Many people enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting Kaikoura. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

Dunedin is a great place to explore. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in New Zealand, The Best 2-Week Tours in New Zealand, The Best Bicycle Tours in New Zealand, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Dunedin or Kaikoura?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kaikoura is $135, while the average daily cost in Dunedin is $102. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kaikoura and Dunedin in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kaikoura $48
    Dunedin $52
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kaikoura $96
    Dunedin $104
Compare Hotels in Kaikoura and Dunedin

Looking for a hotel in Kaikoura or Dunedin? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kaikoura


Hotels in Dunedin


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kaikoura Hotel Prices and Dunedin Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kaikoura $17
    Dunedin $27

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Dunedin

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Dunedin:

  • Dunedin to Dunedin Int Airport (DUD) - Departure Private Transfer: $36
  • Private Transfer from Chalmers Cruise Port to Dunedin City Hotels: $43
  • Private Transfer from Chalmers Port to Dunedin Airport (DUD): $43
  • Private Transfer from Dunedin Airport (DUD) to Chalmers Port: $44
  • Momona Airport: One-Way Private Transfer to Momona: $90
  • ONE WAY MOMONA: Transfer from /to Dunedin Airport: $125

Is it cheaper to fly into Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Prices for flights to both Dunedin and Kaikoura change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Kaikoura $38
    Dunedin $29

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kaikoura $152
    Dunedin $17

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Seal-Watching Pedal Kayak Tour: $71
  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $72
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $72
  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $81
  • Guided Family Kayaking Adventure: $88
  • Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour: $88
  • Wildlife Kayaking Tour at Sunset: $88
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $90
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $90
  • KaikĊura: Zipline and Native Forest Adventure Trip: $94
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $96
  • Whale Watching Cruise: $97

Tours and Activities in Dunedin

Here are a few actual costs in Dunedin for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Dunedin Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Dunedin Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Olveston Historic Home Guided Tour: $15
  • Quickie Tours 1 Hour City Sights Tour CRUISE PASSENGERS ONLY: $24
  • Skip the Line: Larnach Castle & Gardens Admission Ticket: $27
  • Heritage Dunedin City Walking Guided Tour: $30
  • Garden and City tour: $36
  • Monarch Wildlife Cruise: $38
  • Shore Excursion: V8 Trike, Peninsula and City Tour: $48
  • Nature and City Tour: $54
  • A 2 hour Small Group Dunedin City Highlights Tour: $57
  • Wildlife Cruise with Transport: $66

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kaikoura -
    Dunedin $14

Sample the Local Flavors in Dunedin

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Dunedin:

  • Speight Brewery Small Group Guided Tour from Dunedin: $21
  • Emerson's Brewery Tour: $24


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Kaikoura and Dunedin, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Dunedin much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Dunedin would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Dunedin and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kaikoura would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kaikoura than you might in Dunedin.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kaikoura Expensive? and Is Dunedin Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Kaikoura or Dunedin?

Dunedin has a larger population, and is about 170 times larger than the population of Kaikoura. When comparing the sizes of Kaikoura and Dunedin, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.