Climbing the Steepest Street in the World

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“You mean people actually LIVE on this street? How do their cars make it up?”

“Better question: How do their cars make it DOWN in the winter?”

Our incredulity was evident in our voices as we stood looking up the steep incline of Baldwin Street – the steepest street in the world.

Located just a few minutes northeast of downtown Dunedin, New Zealand, Baldwin Street looks like many of its residential neighbors: lined with trees and bushes, dotted with driveways – and proceeding at an alarmingly steep grade.

The grade of Baldwin Street, to be exact, is 35 percent (or 19 degrees) at its steepest point. It may not sound like much on paper, but I assure you it looks pretty daunting when you’re standing at the bottom of it, looking up.

“Let's run!” Jaime exclaimed as we parked in an empty spot right at the bottom of the street. Andrea and I exchanged sideways glances.

“Go for it,” I said, “but I'm walking.”

A handful of tourists each day trickle to Baldwin Street to tackle the severely-slanted pavement. This could be due to the fact that the road is marked explicitly on every Dunedin city map. Or maybe lots of people are just up-to-date on their Guinness World Records. Who knows.

Most walk. A few try to bike it. And some try running. Every summer, there’s a footrace up and down the hill called the “Baldwin Street Gutbuster” – and for good reason: it's not easy.

Jamie realized this as soon as we started climbing. And I say “climbing,” because you really don't have any other choice but to climb up Baldwin Street.

“Thought you were gonna run, Jamie.”

“My calves hurt already!” was her reply.

About halfway up, we took a break – both to give our legs a rest, and to take some silly posed photos. Since we were visiting Baldwin Street in the middle of the afternoon, there was little traffic. Then again, there probably isn't ever a ton of traffic on the short little street, unless you count foot traffic from tourists like ourselves.

We reached the top soon enough. I'll admit, I was out of breath and breaking a bit of a sweat. But also feeling good. It wasn't a mountain or anything, but climbing the steepest street in the world should at least count for something, right?

From the top of Baldwin Street, the Dunedin suburbs stretch out in all directions. We stood for a few minutes simply taking in the view. And also noticing how freaking steep the street looked from this vantage point. Toward the middle of the road, it looked as though it just dropped off, like a cliff.

Eat your heart out, San Francisco.

After a few minutes of gawking and snapping photos of our accomplishment, we headed back down the street the way we’d come. The decent was much, much easier. Jamie even broke into a bit of a jog.

A stop into the Steepest Street Gift Shop at the bottom of Baldwin Street rounded out our adventure, where we purchased certificates (signed personally by the shop’s owner) for $1 certifying that we’d made it to the top of the steepest street in the world.

Have you braved Baldwin Street? Tell me about it! In what way did you make it to the top?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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34 Comments on “Climbing the Steepest Street in the World

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  1. I was convinced that that was the street at the top of which was the B&B I stayed at a year ago. But a little research and I discovered I was 1km to the west on Glendining avenue. Also very steep and an interesting post-dinner post-drinks exercise before heading to bed!

      All the streets in this neighborhood are ridiculously steep. It just so happens that Baldwin St. is a tiny bit steeper than all the rest!

        It was all fun. I do have to admit that arriving with the car I looked up the road and hoped I wouldn’t have to do any funky reversing. Especially given the whole “wrong side of the road & car” thing. Fortunately, just down at little from the bottom of the road is “The Inch Bar”, where they serve really good beer and pretty darn good food, too!

        Unlike some of your readers above, I quite like Dunedin. I like university towns in general and Dunedin “feels” right to me. I was actually thinking that it wouldn’t take much to convince me to live there.

          I didn’t mind Dunedin, either, but then again we didn’t stay downtown, and so perhaps missed out on a lot of the university-town atmosphere. That being said, though, I’m used to living in university towns, so perhaps that’s why it didn’t bother me!

          As for the steep roads there, I shudder at the thought of driving on them in the winter!

    […] staying in Milford Sound and then going back east to Dunedin, a spot recommended by Amanda at A Dangerous Business, before heading up to Akaroa and finally Christchurch. The one spot not yet factored in but on our […]

    Haha no I haven’t tried it but I definitely will on my next visit. It may just be the best thing about Dunedin (not a big fan of that town)! Love the photos!

      You know, a lot of people I talk to aren’t big fans of Dunedin. But I actually quite liked it! Granted, I spent less than 2 days there, and was sightseeing the whole time… But still. It has some gorgeous buildings, the Otago Peninsula nearby, and, of course, Baldwin Street!

    I’d just left Dunedin about 7 hours ago and am now back in Christchurch I used to walk uP Baldwin street for fun especicaly the Jaffa race and I saw it 2 days ago and realized how daunting it looked

      I would love to see the Jaffa race! I think that would be awesome.

    I’m a kiwi so I’m embarrassed to admit I have not tackled Baldwin Street.

    Closest I have been is watching the Jaffa race down the hill each year on TV! Not sure if I would want to eat a sweet after it has rolled down a public road but it sure looks fun.

      I’ve heard about the Jaffa race! Never seen it though (in person, or on TV). I loved Jaffas, though… mmm.

      And don’t be embarrassed! For how adventurous you kiwis are, it seems like a lot of you suffer from the same thing we Americans do – we see lots of the world, but very little of our own country! I’m trying to work on that…

    I definitely need to check this out when I travel to NZ. These are the best kinds of adventures!

      Yes, you definitely should add this to your NZ list! Definitely worth it, if only for the story to tell.

    New Zealand will make anything a tourist attraction! I don’t know, I feel like some of the hills in SF are steeper (we even have some pretty bad ones in LA!) but who knows.

    The day I was there was overcast but you got a simply beautiful day!!! I took a little rest and water refill at the bench of fountain at the top:-). Loved watching cars try to gun it to the top.

    And heck, I doubt this street is every really “crowded” except on the gutbusting day. Once again, it is NZ, “crowded” is definitely a relative term in that country:-).

      You’re totally right! Anything to draw tourists, and NZ will find a way. And yeah, Baldwin Street’s record has been disputed, because only portion of the street actually has that “steepest” grade. But, whatever.

      We did indeed get a gorgeous day! In fact, we lucked out with the weather for most of our South Island trip. It was so gorgeous nearly the entire time!

      And again, you’re right — “crowded” is such a relative term in New Zealand. Though, that’s one of the things I love so much about it!

    Beautiful pictures, I really like!

    I need to ride my bike down this road!!

      Haha, good luck! I’m not sure if brakes would really be very effective on the way down…

    LOVE that crazy picture of you looking like you’re leaning! What a crazy street. I’d climb it, too! 🙂

      Thanks, Kate! And yeah, that leaning pic is one of my favorites!

    The leaning pictures definitely caught me a little off-guard. That is a VERY serious angle!

      Yeah, they aren’t joking with the whole “steepest street in the world” thing! I’m pretty sure I would be terrified to drive/bike/skate down this street.

    Love the leaning pictures! Who knew there was a world record for steepest street?

    You should frame your certificate–that’s a prized possession right there 🙂

    Get Travelated and Get Going.

      Thanks, Emily! My certificate has its very own page in my NZ scrapbook. Haha.

      And, there are all sorts of weird world records. For example, my roommate just saw the most crooked street in the world (Lombard Street) in San Francisco.

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