Dunedin, New Zealand’s is where you will find Baldwin Street, the steepest residential street in the world. At a modest 350 meters (1,150 ft) long, what it lacks in length, it makes up for in slope.
The 161.2 metres (529 ft) long top section climbs 47.2 metres (155 ft) vertically, an average gradient of 1:3.41. At its maximum, about 70 metres (230 ft) below the top, the slope of Baldwin Street is about 1:2.86 (19° or 35%). That is, for every 2.86 metres travelled horizontally, the elevation changes by 1 metre.
Like so many claims of ‘greatest’, ‘most’, ‘first’ and ‘biggest’; the title for world’s steepest remains hotly contested. There’s Canton Street in Pittsburgh; Bradford, Romolo and Prentiss in San Francisco; and Waipio Valley Road in Hawaii.
However, claims aside, only one street has received ‘official’ recognition from the Guinness Book of Records and that is Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.
The street’s steepness was unintentional. As with many other parts of early Dunedin, and indeed New Zealand, streets were laid out in a grid pattern with no consideration for the terrain, usually by planners in London. In the case of Baldwin Street (and much of the Dunedin street plan), the layout was surveyed by Charles Kettle in the mid-19th century. The street is named after William Baldwin, an Otago Provincial Councillor and newspaper founder, who subdivided the area.
Baldwin Street Events
The street is the venue for an annual event in Dunedin, the Baldwin Street Gutbuster. Every summer since 1988 this exercise in fitness and balance involves athletes running from the base of the street to the top and back down again. The event attracts several hundred competitors annually and the race record is 1:56.
Since 2002, a further charity event has been held annually in July, which involves the rolling of over 30,000 Jaffas (spherical confectionery-coated chocolate confectionery). Each Jaffa is sponsored by one person, with prizes to the winner and funds raised going to charity.