Dunedin, in the south east of New Zealand’s South Island is a must-see on any traveller’s NZ itinerary. Dunedin parkrun takes place in the Botanic Garden on the the northern edge of town. Note that the Dunedin parkrun starts at 8 am in the summer (during daylight savings time) and 9 am in the winter.
There is some free parking in the park and plenty of free parking in nearby streets. When we ran, we stayed at Aria on Bank, a very pleasant motel only 200 metres from the gardens, so were able to walk to the gardens in a couple of minutes. The start is next to the Croque-o-Dile cafe, which has toilets and also caters for your post run refreshments.
The course consists of two loops of the lower garden, followed by two laps of the upper garden. Note the word upper – that means you have to go up.
There terrain is a mixture of tarmac, trails and grass. The first two loops round the lower garden are on paved paths. The second two loops round the upper garden are on a combination of gravel and compacted earth trails and grass. Note that there are steps which you have to climb. Twice.
Dunedin prides itself on being New Zealand’s hardest parkrun. When I say prides itself, several people mentioned it at the start of the race. With a steep hill to negotiate twice, it has a total of 150 metres of elevation. It might not sound like much, but it’s nearly all in one short, steep section so it feels like more.
The Botanic Garden is a great place for a run; you have the beauty of the gardens to take your mind off the fact that it’s hard work. Where else do you get to run through a rose garden, a water garden and a cedar grove? And the steep hill does, eventually, lead to an amazing view to admire while you try to catch your breath. We were made to feel very welcome by the local runners and we really enjoyed our visit to Dunedin. The Botanic Garden is one of Dunedin’s top tourist attractions, so I recommend factoring in plenty of time so that you can enjoy the remaining areas of the garden after your run. Or stay nearby, then you can shower and come back and enjoy the rest of the garden when you’re not sweaty…