Dunedin, New Zealand South Island

Founded by a group of Scottish settlers in 1848, Dunedin has become the Edinburgh of the South. Among this South Island city’s charms are stunning 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, sweeping seascapes and modern professional murals. You will enjoy mingling among the 120,000 residents plus a rare colony of northern royal albatrosses.

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1 Sunrise on Otago Harbour at Port Chalmers in Dunedin, New Zealand

Entering the Otago Harbour at sunrise is a visual delight. When your cruise ship slips silently between the Heyward and Harington Points, you enter the tranquil waters of Victoria Channel between the South Island’s mainland and the 12 mile Otago Peninsula. This is the picturesque portal to Port Chambers. Most of Dunedin’s 120,000 residents live near the harbor’s terminus about nine miles from where your ship will berth.

Port Otago, 15 Beach St, Port Chalmers, 9023, New Zealand
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2 Iona Church at Port Chalmers in Dunedin, New Zealand

Port Chambers – considered to be a Dunedin suburb – is primarily a commercial dockyard and terminal for large passenger ships. The namesake for this small port town of 3,000 residents is Thomas Chalmers. He was an influential minister who founded the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Five years later, the initial Presbyterian service was conducted here. In 1883, the Iona Church was built near the water’s edge. Its Gothic Revival design is constructed from Oamaru Stone, a local limestone used frequently during the late 19th century for grand structures in the Otago Region. This historic landmark is multidenominational, serving Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Church members.

20 Mount St, Port Chalmers, 9023, New Zealand
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3 The Octagon in Dunedin, New Zealand

The bullseye of Dunedin’s central business district (downtown) is The Octagon. These are two, eight-sided wedges defined by a ring called Moray Place. Many of the city’s historic landmarks – such as St. Paul’s Cathedral – are within or along the outer boundaries of this core. Accenting the inner plaza since 1897 is this bronze statue of Robert Burns by sculptor Sir John Steell. Burns became the National Poet of Scotland during the late 18th century and is best remembered for penning “Auld Lang Syne.” His brother, Reverend Thomas Burns, co-founded the Otago settlement and the First Church of Otago in 1848. He was part of the Otago Association. These members of the Free Church of Scotland called their new colony Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh. To this day, Dunedin is still called Edinburgh of the South.

The Octagon, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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4 Dunedin Town Hall in Dunedin, New Zealand

Although the earliest Europeans settled at the end of Otago Harbour in the early 1830s, the town was not officially founded until 1848, became the capital of the now defunct Otago Province in 1853 and was incorporated in 1855. After the discovery of gold in Gabriel’s Gully in 1861, Dunedin grew wealthy during the 1860s Otago Gold Rush. Eager to leverage its prosperity, architect Robert Lawson was retained to create the Neo-Renaissance design of the Dunedin Town Hall. The 165 foot clock tower still defines The Octagon’s central plaza. Since an adjacent, Neo-Baroque addition was finished in 1930, this has been renamed the Municipal Chambers. It is home to the Dunedin City Council.

38 The Octagon, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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5 St. Paul’s Cathedral in Dunedin, New Zealand

New Zealand’s first bishop for the United Church of England and Ireland was consecrated in 1866, three years after the original St. Paul church was built in Dunedin. Construction of a replacement began in 1915 based on the Gothic Revival design of English architect Edmund Harold Sedding. Although the new St. Paul’s Cathedral opened in 1919, it remained unfinished until 1971. This prominent feature within The Octagon is the seat of the bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin.

228 Stuart St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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6 Dunedin Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, New Zealand

London-born watercolorist and landscape painter William Hodgkins founded the Otago Art Society in 1875 and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 1884, the first in New Zealand. Since 1966, the art museum has been housed within The Octagon in the former headquarters of D. I. C., a department stored founded in Dunedin in 1884. Among its extensive collection are works by New Zealanders – such as Frances Hodgkins, the founder’s daughter – and European old masters including French painters Claude Monet and Claude Lorrain. Also exhibited are Japanese and Australian art.

30 The Octagon, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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7 Regent Theatre in Dunedin, New Zealand

Defining another facet of The Octagon is the Regent Theatre. It was created in 1928 as an extension of the Ross Building dating from 1876. This magnificent cinema was built at the height of the worldwide era for constructing movie houses and opulent picture palaces. Regent Theaters were once common in major cities in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Few remain today. This Category 1 Historic Building is now a venue for live concerts, plays and ballets. The fan-shaped auditorium accommodates 1,617 people.

17 The Octagon, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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8 Fortune Theatre in Dunedin, New Zealand

This building along the northern edge of The Octagon was the Trinity Methodist Church when it opened in 1870. The Gothic Revival design by L. A. Lawson features lancet windows and a large rose window in front. 103 years later, the Fortune Theatre moved into this property listed as a New Zealand Historic Place. The performing arts company featured plays on two stages. Unfortunately, after extensive financial difficulties, the venue closed on May 1, 2018 a few weeks after this photo was taken.

231 Stuart Street, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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9 Otago Girls’ High School in Dunedin, New Zealand

Since it was founded in 1871, this is the oldest, state-owned girls’ secondary school in the Southern Hemisphere. This Main Block building for the Otago Girls’ High School was designed by Edmund Anscombe and finished in 1910. OGHS has an enrollment of about 800 female students attending grades 9 through 13.

291 Stuart St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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10 Terraced Houses on Upper Stuart Street in Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin’s landmarks garner most of the tourists’ attention. Curious visitors are rewarded by exploring the neighborhoods on the steep hills overlooking the city. Particularly attractive are the terraced houses, townhouses and rows of Victorian residences emulating from Upper Stuart Street and the intersection of York Place. The distinctive houses in the suburb of City Rise were built for the wealthy from 1876 until 1912.

311 Stuart St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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11 Otago Boys High School in Dunedin, New Zealand

It requires a strenuous walk uphill to reach the Otago Boys High School. The view is well worth the exercise. Resembling a medieval castle, this superb work by prominent and profoundly gifted architect Robert Arthur Lawson features an impressive ensemble of turrets and towers. The centerpiece of this 1885, Gothic Revival structure are the twin Tudor pinnacles. The school was founded in 1863 and enrolls about 800 male secondary students.

2 Arthur St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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12 St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Dunedin, New Zealand

Another spectacular Gothic Revival landmark in the northern suburb of City Rise is St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The facade features pinnacles with crockets plus lacelike ornamentation around a rose and elegant lancet stained-glass windows. They are offset by contrasting Water of Leith bluestone and Oamaru limestone. This Roman Catholic church opened in 1886. The original design by Francis Petre envisioned a 200 foot central spire.

288 Rattray St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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13 Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin, New Zealand

Three brewmasters sipped their first pint at this distillery on Rattray Street in 1876. One of them, James Speight, lent his name to the brand. Speight’s Gold Medal Ale became extremely popular among New Zealander students and the tap of choice if you are a real “Southern Man.” The “Pride of the South” offers seven different types of beer. Speight’s is now a subsidiary of Kirin Company, Limited, a Japanese beverage company.

200 Rattray St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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14 Chasing the Thin White Cloud by Fintan Magee in Dunedin, New Zealand

Mural enthusiasts will be thrilled by the outdoor art gallery along Dunedin’s streets and alleys. An example is this captivating painting of two local boys titled, “Chasing the Thin White Cloud.” Australian native Fintan Magee specializes in renditions of people on a grand scale. His work has been commissioned in over a dozen countries. This three-story mural adorns the rear of the Southern Cross Hotel. It is best reached from behind the Crown Hotel on Rattery Street.

149 Rattray St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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15 When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted by Bezt in Dunedin, New Zealand

You do not have to walk far from Fintan Magee’s art to admire another enormous mural. The painting of a mystical woman in repose among flowers was created in 2015 by Bezt. It is titled, “When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted.” This name does not make sense until you learn two arrows originally impaling the woman are now missing from her open hands. Bezt is one of a pair of street artists from Poland who call themselves Etam Cru. This example of their fairy-tale style is located in a parking lot behind the Broadway Medical Centre Dunedin on the corner of Broadway & High Street.

2 Broadway, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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16 Dunedin Casino in Dunedin, New Zealand

This casino in the Southern Cross Hotel is a boutique compared to major casinos around the world. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in opulence, as exhibited by this grand staircase. Dunedin Casino offers the gaming standards, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, poker and nearly 200 slot machines. The casino enforces a “smart attire” dress code.

118 High St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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17 William Cargill Monument in Dunedin, New Zealand

This fountain resembling a Gothic church spire is on Princes Street, the same street name where the similar Sir Walter Scott Monument is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is the centerpiece of the John Wickliffe Plaza at the Exchange, the city’s former financial district. The square is named after the John Wickliffe ship. The U. K. vessel was the first to arrive at Port Chalmers in 1848 carrying 97 Scottish immigrants. One of them was William Cargill. This native of Edinburgh is considered to be the founder of the Otago Association settlement of Dunedin. He was also the First Superintendent of Otago Province. The Cargill Monument was designed by Charles Robert Swyer and sculpted from Tasmanian sandstone by George Kemp. The tribute was erected in The Octagon in 1864 and then moved to the Exchange in 1872.

243 Princes St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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18 Māori Waka by Phlegm in Dunedin, New Zealand

There are currently 28 murals along the Street Art Trail in Dunedin. A map is available online from Dunedin Street Art so you can find and admire all of the outdoor art during a two to three hour, self-guided walking tour. The most prolific muralist is Phlegm from the United Kingdom. This is one of his five works you will discover. He specializes in odd, fantasy creatures typically created in black and white with endless shades of gray. At first glance, this giant fish appears to be swallowing a fleet of sailboats. The ships are canoes (waka) used by the ancestral Māori people who once populated Dunedin. This painting is title, “Maori Waka and Steampunk Submarine.”

76 Vogel Street, Dunedin, 9077, New Zealand
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19 Flamboyant and Colorful Street Art by Phlegm in Dunedin, New Zealand

In sharp contrast to Phlegm’s black and white works, New Zealand street artist Sean Duffell embraces colors and lots of them. Also characteristic of his style are symmetrical yet flamboyant shapes which invariably conceal a set of large, peering eyes. This abstract painting in a very, very cramped alley off of Jetty Street was created in 2014 as part of the Dunedin Street Art Festival.

43 Jetty Street, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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20 Annabel Female Portrait by Jon Thom in Dunedin, New Zealand

Most of Dunedin’s professional murals adorn the Warehouse District, an area extending two blocks east and west of lower Princes Street. Approximately 30 artworks have been commissioned by Dunedin Street Art. They are a volunteer group who invite international artists to convert bare walls into expressive canvasses. They also provide opportunities for young local artists such as Jon Thom. The first-time muralist painted this portrait of Annabel on Vogel Street. Thom also applies his artistic talent to running Moodie Tuesdays, a T-shirt company.

8 Vogel St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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21 Paifang at Chinese Garden in Dunedin, New Zealand

It may be surprising to find an authentic Chinese garden in Dunedin, the only one in the Southern Hampshire. But Lan Yuan recognizes the Chinese immigrants who flocked to Dunedin during the 1860s gold rush plus honors the sister city of Shanghai. In front is this elaborate paifang, a traditional entrance gateway. On the other side of the tall wall is a lake with wooden buildings reminiscent of the late Ming Dynasty. Many of the pavilions were constructed in Shanghai then reassembled without nails or mortar. The architects also imported over 110,000 tons of rock from Lake Tai in China’s Yangtze River Delta to accent the winding walkways and bridges.

39 Queens Gardens, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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22 Dunedin Cenotaph in Dunedin, New Zealand

In 1927, Dunedin Cenotaph was erected within Queen’s Garden as a tribute to the “Glorious Dead” who lost their lives while serving in the Army Corps during World War I. The octagonal, 92 foot concrete obelisk is covered with a veneer of Carrara marble from Italy. The monument also recognizes the sacrifices of WWII soldiers. This is the scene of the annual ANZAC Day events celebrated on April 25. This date marks the anniversary of the start of major battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula of Turkey. During the eight month campaign in 1915, over 11,000 Australian and New Zealand troops were killed.

Dunedin Cenotaph, Queens Gardens, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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23 Imperial Buildings in Dunedin, New Zealand

It is easy to walk by structures such as the Imperial Buildings and never wonder about its history. This was constructed in 1906 by Mason & Wales. The firm was founded by William Watson. This English-born architect was recruited to Auckland in 1840 to become New Zealand’s first trained architect and Superintendent of Public Works. He moved his practice to Dunedin where he became the city’s first mayor in 1865. In 1871, he partnered with his former clerk, Nathaniel Wales, who was also elected as mayor in 1895. Together, these colonial architects designed many of Dunedin’s landmarks. Their legacy lives on as New Zealand’s oldest architectural firm.

18 Queens Garden, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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24 First Church of Otago Façade in Dunedin, New Zealand

The Free Church of Scotland was established in 1843 after a large congregation broke away from the Church of Scotland. A main reason the Otago Association sailed to New Zealand and founded the Dunedin colony in 1848 was for freedom to practice their new religion. The early settlers built three, successively larger churches during the first 25 years. Then Robert Lawson won a design competition to build a grand Gothic-style church reminiscent of Norman cathedrals. First Church of Otago was finished atop Bell Hill in 1873. The Presbyterian church’s most prominent feature is a 185 foot spire (which was unfortunately beneath scaffolding). The pinnacles and façade’s upper section were crafted from Oamaru stone while the lower part was quarried in Port Chalmers.

415 Moray Pl, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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25 First Church of Otago Sanctuary in Dunedin, New Zealand

You were probable taught it is impolite to stare. While standing at the First Church of Otago’s sanctuary, staring is totally appropriate. Your eyes will appreciate the multifaceted, carved pulpit with the Dove of Peace in the center. The lancet arches point towards the magnificent rose window. Flanking it are the four, stained-glass Soldiers’ Memorial Windows. The organ’s towering pipes provide a dramatic frame. The white balusters and baptismal font complete the ensemble.

415 Moray Pl, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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26 Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand

Relative to the rest of the world, human history in New Zealand is very young. The first inhabitants arrived from Polynesia about 750 years ago and evolved into the Māori people. Dutchman Abel Tasman discovered this remote landmass in 1642 followed by James Cook’s exploration in 1770. The Otago Peninsula was not occupied by Europeans until 1831 and the first Scottish colony was established in 1848. To mark the 50th anniversary of this event, the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum was founded in 1898. The history museum’s extensive collection now occupies three adjoining buildings. This modernistic Josephine Foyer wing was added in 2012. The word “Toitū” means “to remain unchanged.”

31 Queens Garden, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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27 Old Dunedin Prison in Dunedin, New Zealand

Her Majesty’s Prison Service is the correction institution established in the United Kingdom and extended to many of its colonies including New Zealand and Australia. Although the HMP still operates about 130 jails, very few of its Victorian buildings still stand. A marvelous exception is the Old Dunedin Prison. Men and women were incarcerated in this gaol from 1896 until 2007. The building’s design by John Campbell resembles London’s old Scotland Yard. It is now available for public tours.

2 Castle St, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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28 Law Courts in Dunedin, New Zealand

It seems fitting the architect used for the prison would also be commissioned to create the adjoining Dunedin Law Courts. The styles employed by John Campbell are very different yet equally impressive. This magnificent edifice has a Victorian Gothic design. In the upper right corner in a niche within the central tower is a statue of Justice without a blindfold. The courthouse opened in 1902. Since a seven-year refurbishment project ended in 2016, this property radiates in the sunlight. The Law Courts justifiably is designated as a New Zealand Historic Place.

Castle St & Stuart St, Dunedin, 9077, New Zealand
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29 Wide Angle of Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin, New Zealand

One of the city’s many visual highlights is the Dunedin Railway Station. This marvelous Flemish Renaissance train terminal opened in 1906. At the south end is a 121 foot clock tower. The flower bed is part of a sculpted knot garden decorating the center of Anzac Square. ANZAC honors the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who died during World War I.

22 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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30 Close Up of Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin, New Zealand

The Dunedin Railway Station deserves a closer look. The façade’s contrasting stones are dark basalt (volcanic) from Kokonga and light limestone quarried in Oamaru. The colonnade is accented with pink granite columns. Across the top is a porcelain frieze, ornate balusters, a terracotta roof and copper cupolas. Inside are stained-glass windows and a mosaic floor with 750,000 colorful tiles. This design was the pinnacle of George Troup’s 39 year railway career. Afterwards, he was affectionately known as Gingerbread George.

22 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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31 Train at Dunedin Railway Station in Dunedin, New Zealand

During the first half of the 20th century, Dunedin Railway Station was New Zealand’s busiest terminal managing nearly 100 trains daily. Today, it houses a restaurant, the Otago Art Society’s art museum (The Art Station) and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. But don’t worry; your train has not left the station. Dunedin Railways offers several popular tourist excursions. Among their “World Class Train Trips” are scenic rides through the Taieri River Gorge or along the Otago Harbor and then the northern ocean coastline.

22 Anzac Ave, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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32 Cadbury World in Dunedin, New Zealand

If you love chocolate – and who doesn’t – you love Cadbury products. Since the confectionary company was founded in 1824 by John Cadbury in Birmingham, England, it has become the world’s second largest chocolate brand. Although headquartered in London, it operated a major factory in Dunedin until 2018. An adjoining tourist destination was Cadbury World, a caloric-filled candy experience. Unfortunately, it also closed to make way for the construction of a new hospital. Hopefully, this extremely popular attraction will find a way to reopen.

280 Cumberland Street, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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33 University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand

21,000 graduate and undergraduate students attend the highly-ranked University of Otago. The campus’ centerpiece and masterpiece is the Clocktower Building. The Gothic Revival design by Maxwell Bury and Edmund Anscombe was built along the Water of Leith in 1879. This Registry Building houses the Vice-Chancellor and administrative offices. New Zealand’s oldest university was founded in 1869 by Thomas Burns who then became the school’s first chancellor. Reverend Burns also established the Otago Boy’s and Girl’s High School plus was the driving force for building the First Church of Otago as the head of the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland.

362 Leith St, North Dunedin, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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34 Victorian Row Houses in Dunedin, New Zealand

There are quaint Victorian homes on the northern section of Castle Street located south of Dundas Street. These row houses were built in the late 19th century. They have been beautifully restored as offices for specialty centres for the University of Otago.

519 Castle Street North, Dunedin, 9016, New Zealand
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35 Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand

Guinness Book of Records has declared Baldwin Street to be the steepest in the world. Although short – it only stretches up Signal Hill for 1,150 feet – it has a grade of 1:2.86. That is a slope of 35%! The surface is concrete because asphalt would melt and flow downhill. The street is named after William Baldwin. In 1861, one year after arriving in Otago, Baldwin was one of the early prospectors who discovered gold, launching the Otago Gold Rush during the 1860s. He was also a member of New Zealand’s Parliament and later a newspaper owner and editor.

55 Baldwin St, North East Valley, Dunedin, 9010, New Zealand
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36 Otago Harbour from Highcliff Road in Dunedin, New Zealand

Highcliff Road winds along the western spine of Otago Peninsula between the suburbs of Shiel Hill and Portobello. The drive’s elevated position on a ridgeline provides panoramic views of Otago Harbour, Port Chalmers, Dunedin and the 2,218 foot Mount Cargill defining the northern landscape. Sweeping beauty today! 10 million years ago, this was an explosive shield volcano.

711 Highcliff Rd, Highcliff, Dunedin, 9077, New Zealand
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37 Larnach Castle in Dunedin, New Zealand

Scotland-born William Larnach arrived in Dunedin in 1867 to manage the Bank of Otago. He also became a member of parliament and grew wealthy investing in land. After purchasing hilltop acreage on Otago Peninsula, he hired architect Robert Lawson to design a grand, Gothic Revival estate. 200 workers built this castellated villa in three years. It took another 12 years to embellish the interior on a scale rivaling a European mansion. Larnach called this The Camp. Others named it Larnach Castle. In 1967, Barry and Margaret Baker acquired the property as their home. The building was decrepit and devoid of furniture. The once beautiful 35 acres were chocked with weeds and brush. The Barkers lovingly refurbished this landmark and welcomes you to tour their passion. You can also stay in your choice of three accommodations: a manor house, a lodge or stable coach house.

145 Camp Rd, Dunedin, 9077, New Zealand
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38 Larnach Castle Gardens in Dunedin, New Zealand

The seven acres of manicured gardens encircling the Larnach Castle are exquisite. They are filled with plants from the Southern Hemisphere and have been designated as a Garden of International Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. Equally impressive are the views of the sweeping landscape and the harbor nearly 1,000 feet below. This ornate, glass-domed gazebo is an example of the property’s elegance. It resembles a cupola from a 19th century passenger ship. Jackson Purdie commissioned it during his residency at Larnach Castle from 1927 until 1940.

145 Camp Rd, Dunedin, 9077, New Zealand
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39 Taiaroa Head on Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand

Whether you drive to the end of Otago Peninsula or sail by it, you cannot miss the splendor of Taiaroa Head. At the peak of this promontory is the Taiaroa Head Lighthouse. Its beacon has helped sailors navigate the Pacific Ocean’s coastal waters since 1864. More exciting is viewing 200 northern royal albatrosses. This endangered, enormous seabird has a wingspan of eight to ten feet. This is the only mainland colony in the Southern Hemisphere. Other wildlife residents of this nature reserve are little blue and yellow-eyed penguins, Stewart Island shags, New Zealand sea lions plus dusky dolphins and migratory whales.

Waiwhakaheke Seabird Lookout, Taiaroa Head, Harington Point, 9077, New Zealand
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