Estate a retreat from modern life
Larnach Castle, until recently New Zealand’s only castle, is among Dunedin’s most distinctive landmarks.
Where/what is it?
The historic Larnach Castle is situated on the Otago Peninsula 20 minutes’ drive from central Dunedin. Visiting for a special event, high tea or a picnic in its pristine grounds feels like a little holiday from modern life.
Wending your way towards the grand, circular driveway, you’ll pass macrocarpas planted by William Larnach himself. Larnach, a banker and politician hailing from New South Wales, built the castle for his first wife, Eliza, in 1871. The exterior took 200 men three years to construct; the fitout and furnishing of the castle’s 43 rooms took another 12.
A trip to the castle is pretty much mandatory for anyone living in or visiting Dunedin, even if you don’t fancy yourself as a local history buff. It’s a favourite destination for weddings and balls, but also well worth exploring.
Wandering through the rooms, painstakingly restored to their late 19th-century glory, offers insight into the Larnachs’ wealth and at-timesfraught family history (he had three wives and six children). It’s also a chance to learn about the Barkers, who bought the castle in 1967 and have spent the decades since restoring it.
There’s also on-site accommodation at Camp Estate, a bluestone, fivebedroom manor house 500 metres from the castle entrance, or in the four-star Larnach Lodge rooms inside the castle itself. Guests are served a three-course dinner in the dining room around a shared table.
On the way/nearby
The Otago Peninsula is home to the region’s most attractive wildlife. The famous albatross colony, up the road at Taiaroa Head, is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross and best enjoyed on one of the cruises operating on Dunedin Harbour (I recommend Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours), and there’s a little blue penguin colony at Pilots Beach. There are also plenty of walking trails offering views of and access to stunning beaches on the peninsula’s sea side. Often, sea lions can be spotted on the white-gold sand.
For access to the castle, grounds, and gardens, it costs an adult $31 and children aged 5-14 $10 (free entry for children under 5). A family pass for two adults and two children costs $74. Enjoying the grounds and gardens on their own costs adults $15 and children $5 each. Guided tours cost an additional $125.
Buy a garden pass and enjoy the castle grounds year-round as a picnic destination with family and friends. The passes, which cost $25 for adults, $15 for children, or $65 for a family, make great gifts for locals. The gardens are one of five in New Zealand to have been deemed ‘‘Gardens of International Significance’’.
Best time to go
Any time – it’s open 365 days a year – though winter’s when major refurbishments tend to happen and best avoided if you want to languish outdoors for extended periods. High tea, served daily at 3pm, is the perfect way to end a visit – book 24 hours in advance. Some dates in November have discounted entry rates. See larnachcastle.co.nz for further information. – Britt Mann
The writer was hosted for high tea by Larnach Castle.
The dining room, where guests staying in the castle’s lodge share meals in the evenings.