The Great Hall, Olveston, Historic House, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand ©

Olveston House: how the other half lived

Olveston House
View the map


Designed by a London architect and built in 1904 – well, this was really something. Ostentatious as all hell, Olveston was also lavishly decorated.

From the outside, it could be considered a bit ‘gingerbread-like’ for some tastes, but perhaps that was the point. The ‘over the top is never enough’ school of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright would convulse.

The remarkable thing is you can see all that historical bling for yourself: the rooms are all exactly as they were left decades ago. The level of detail is stunning across all 35 of them. That is a lot of rooms for one family, it has to be said. And they weren’t the sort to have rellies crashing on their way through to the albatross colony.

The formal dining room is really something to behold, if only to marvel that people actually lived like that – you can almost smell the roast pheasant and hear the tinkle of sterling silver.

The atmosphere is remarkable. And you could swing a number of cats as well as a pool cue in the billiard room, although you’ll feel savagely underdressed in your boardies and ‘I went to Dunedin and all I got was this stupid t-shirt’ t-shirt.

If it all gets a bit stuffy after room #35, take some air in the half-hectare of gardens that surround this splendid piece of architecture. There is a conservatory/greenhouse with tropical plants the like of which you’d never expect to see in Dunedin. It’s actually a gorgeous spot, a more startling side trip than you might have first imagined.

Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Out and about | Food and drink

Loved by the locals: Dunedin city

Writer and filmmaker Bill Morris recommends cosy bars, markets and must-do hot spots for foodies in Dunedin city. 

Find out more

Dunedin: a cradle made of sea

The clatter and clang of the container terminal, red and green lights forming a path to the sea through the harbour, shags drying their wings on the transoms of fishing boats, glistening surf beaches and the lingering feel of the hundreds of years of history. Bill Morris loves Dunedin's West Harbour. 

Find out more

Things to do > Out and about

Dunedin city: Edinburgh of the south

‘Dunedin’ is an ancient name for Edinburgh and the resemblance doesn’t stop at the names.

Find out more

Things to do

Things I love about Dunedin

Take a trip to see the albatross of Otago Peninsula or discover the glory and tragedy of Olveston . . . 

Where to stay in Dunedin District

Show me all Places to stay

10 /10
From $125
Adrian Motel

17 spacious studio, 1 and 2-bedroom units (sleep 1-6). Refurbished 2009 to superior standard. All designated smoke-free. Serviced daily: most wit...

Book now

From $36
Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels

Dunedin Holiday Park has motels, self-contained units, ensuite cabins, lodge, star cabins, standard cabins, 70 large power sites and over 100 tent ...

Book now

10 /10
From $132
Allan Court Motel

Enjoy our high-quality units situated within 250m of main Dunedin shopping area. We are surrounded by many fine restaurants, cafes and bars. We are...

Book now

10 /10
From $115
Mosgiel Regency Motel

Welcome to our 16 very comfortable, spacious ground-level units. Conveniently located on main street, and just a 15-minute drive to the airport or ...

Book now