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283km (175 miles) S of Queenstown; 366km (227 miles) S of Christchurch; 220km (136 miles) N of Invercargill

Dunedin is a southern gem-sometimes gray, bleak, and freezing in winter, but a gem nevertheless. I love the place for its dramatic scenery, its fine historic buildings, and most of all, for the immediacy of its funky university life, which lends an alternative air to what is inherently a strongly Scottish Presbyterian base.

With a population of about 125,000 (one-fifth of them university students), Dunedin is New Zealand's fourth--largest city and the second largest in the South Island. The city itself is vital, and you'll quickly notice that the streets are filled with young people. It's the main business center for Otago province, and nearby Otago Peninsula is home to several internationally recognized reserves, where some of the world's rarest wildlife can be viewed year-round in their natural habitats.

The splendor of many of its grand city buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural preeminence in Victorian New Zealand, and today it has a justly deserved reputation as one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The original 344 Scottish settlers, who arrived in the area in March 1848, would be proud if they could witness the outcome of their early endeavors.

Things can be, and often are, a little different down here. Where else could you find a kilt shop in New Zealand, plus a thriving population of alternative musicians, fashion designers and artists, a castle, New Zealand's only whiskey distillery, a haggis maker, a colony of albatrosses, a traditional Chinese garden, some of the best student pubs in the country, and a chocolate factory? It's a slightly disconcerting mix that will charm the socks off you.

Scottish Roots -- Dunedin is the ancient Gaelic name of Edinburgh in Scotland, and Otago University, the oldest in New Zealand, was modeled after Glasgow University.