Life as an F3 doctor in Dunedin, New Zealand
Moving abroad as a junior doctor can be scary, so researching what to expect before you take a new job is top of the to-do-list. Here, we’ll take a closer look at Dunedin in New Zealand - giving you the inside scoop to help you decide whether it would be a good fit for your F3 year in Australia or New Zealand.
Where is Dunedin?
Dunedin is a city near the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, at the head of Otago Harbour on the southeast coast.
Dunedin is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and a large student population, which heavily influences its character.
Often referred to as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’, Dunedin is usually regarded as one of New Zealand's four main centres. It offers all the convenience and enjoyment that living in a thriving city affords, whilst maintaining the friendly and accessible vibe of a smaller city. Most importantly, the residents of Dunedin rate their quality of life very highly, with 87% rating it as ‘extremely good’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (2018).
Dunedin won the title of most beautiful city in the 2018 ‘Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards’, mainly due to lots of well-tended community spaces, natural surrounds and commitment to sustainability.
Size: Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand (after Christchurch), and the principal city of the Otago region. You can read our guide to the Otago region here.
Population: The city has a population of 130,500. There's a high student population and 17% of its residents come from overseas, most newcomers from the UK and Ireland.
Weather: The climate of Dunedin is temperate; however, the city does have a large number of microclimates and the weather conditions often vary between suburbs. Its proximity to the ocean means mild summers, with temperatures rarely reaching 30 °C, and cool winters, which are often frosty and sunny. Much like the UK, spring can feature "four seasons in a day" weather, but from November to April it is generally settled and mild. Dunedin has relatively low rainfall in comparison to many of New Zealand's cities, with only 750 millimetres per year. It is, however, one of the cloudiest major centres in the country, recording approx 1,650 hours of bright sunshine per annum.
Connectivity: It is a 4.5hr drive to Christchurch, 3.5hrs to Queenstown and 2.5hrs to Invercargill. Dunedin Airport is just 25 minutes’ drive from the central city and has daily domestic flights to and from other main centres in New Zealand. The average commute to the central city is 15 minutes, which leaves plenty of time for other pursuits during your time in New Zealand.
What is there to do in Dunedin?
Dunedin is a city full of hidden gems - quaint alleyways and boutiques, new bars and restaurants, and pop-up events and activities. And beyond the city edges, are numerous day tripping opportunities, including visiting small fishing villages, climbing vast mountaintops, or escaping to quaint townships flanked by white-sand beaches.
Dunedin is also the gateway to Otago and Southland provinces, including the well-known areas of Queenstown and Wanaka, which offer many outdoor activities including skiing and adventure sports.
Weekends promise to be filled to the brim in and around Dunedin, for any active F3 doctor.
Beaches: With some 30 stretches of beach within 30 minutes of the city centre, it pretty much out-beaches anywhere else in the South Island. The closest beaches to central Dunedin, St Kilda and St Clair, are just a 15-minute bus ride away. Both ends of the beach have surf patrols throughout the summer and New Zealand’s most consistent surf break. St Clair also has a heated open-air public swimming pool nestled within rocks just metres from the ocean.
Cafes and bars line the St Clair Esplanade, perfect for a quiet morning coffee before a shift, or an evening seaside meal after a day at the hospital.
If you are feeling brave you can even take part in the city's annual "midwinter plunge", which sees residents brave the chilly waters at the winter solstice.
Art and Culture: Famed for its musicians and artists, and designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature in 2014, Dunedin is culturally rich. It has a creative and vibrant atmosphere, largely as a result of the large student population, who help support entertainment and cultural options well beyond the city’s size. For example, a succession of popular bands has created a distinctive ‘Dunedin sound’ that is recognised internationally.
Dunedin offers a host of remarkable performances, exhibitions and festivals throughout the year. You can also feed your mind and your soul in the city's distinctive galleries, museums and theatres.
Wildlife: As the ‘wildlife capital of New Zealand’ you won’t have to go far to spot some of the country’s rarest creatures, including the yellow-eyed penguins, colonies of albatross, and sea lions that reside here and on the adjoining Otago Peninsula.
Food and drink: Feeling hungry? Then you have definitely come to the right place. Dunedin is full of great cafes, restaurants and bars, many offering organic, local and fresh produce. From restaurants offering contemporary New Zealand fare to those catering for authentic European tastes, Dunedin is fast becoming a foodie-mecca whatever your tastes. Plus, come rail, hail or shine, Saturday hosts the Otago Farmers Market. With up to 75 vendors selling the freshest fruit and vegetables, meat products, eggs, baked goods, cheese, nuts, honey and artisan products, you will be in foodie heaven.
Some of our favourite spots for coffee, pints, and a gentle food coma are:
The Friday Shop: French-inspired, ready-made meals like coq au vin will turn your house into a French bistro, plus their almond croissants are to to-die for.
Sport and entertainment: Dunedin is home to New Zealand’s only covered multi-use sports and entertainment stadium, the Forsyth Barr Stadium, attracting world class musical, sporting and social events.
How does the cost of living compare?
Dunedin is a very affordable city to live in. Even the New Zealand cities of Auckland and Wellington, considered New Zealand’s most expensive, are in fact among the cheapest in the developed world according to the Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2015. Furthermore, in New Zealand, the further south you go, the cheaper it becomes to live - which bodes well for Dunedin, sitting in the bottom half of the South Island.
Housing: Dunedin has an eclectic array of housing styles from large wooden villas to brick bungalows and modern homes. Most commonly these are standalone houses with private gardens, but apartment-style options are also prevalent in the City centre. The average rent in Dunedin is around £180 per week for a 2-3 bedroom house or apartment.
Transport: Being a small city, transport is not a big expense either. Dunedin Hospital and the centre of town are within easy walking distance of each other, reducing if not eliminating transport costs.
Food: A basic lunchtime meal with a drink in the city costs around £9, with an evening meal for two in a neighbourhood pub costing around £25. A doctor's essential flat white or cappuccino comes in at a respectable £2.
What are the local hospitals?
Dunedin Hospital: Located in the heart of the city centre, Dunedin Hospital is the main public hospital for the lower part of the South Island and is home to all specialties plus a broad array of sub specialties. The hospital includes Intensive Care, Neo-Natal Intensive Care and Coronary Care Units, has eight main operating and operate two day surgery theatres. It is a University teaching hospital with very strong links to the University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic Schools of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Sciences.
Each year, Dunedin Hospital sees 36,000 emergency department presentations, performs approximately 10,200 theatre operations, 1800 births, and 23,000 discharges.
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