Larnach Castle. © DunedinNZ

Tohu Whenua: Larnach Castle


AA Members can save 10% on selected accommodation.

Start looking

Situated majestically on the jaw-droppingly scenic Otago Peninsula near Dunedin city, Larnach Castle has it all: spectacular views, sumptuous architecture and scandalous stories. 

Aotearoa New Zealand’s oldest castle was built in the 1870s by prominent entrepreneur and politician William Larnach for his beloved first wife Eliza. It took more than 200 workmen three years to build the castle shell and master European craftsmen spent a further twelve years embellishing the interior (a single ceiling in the main foyer took six and a half years to complete). 

Larnach spared no expense on his dream home which features the finest materials from around the world, including 20 tonnes of glass from Venice.

But this castle’s story is no fairy tale. Alongside the grandeur came tragedy. Rocked by young Eliza’s death, family scandal, and his great fortune later turning to dust, Larnach committed suicide in Parliament in 1898. From that point the mansion’s fortunes ebbed and flowed as it passed through many hands: to house the overflow of patients from Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, as a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers and a nuns' retreat. It fell into such disrepair that the grand ballroom was at one point used to shelter sheep.

Since 1967 the castle's new owners, the Barker family, have used tourist admission fees to save the empty buildings from ruin and assemble a large collection of original New Zealand period furniture and antiques. In their care, the castle has been lovingly restored and improved on with the addition of a garden of international significance. 

Larnach Castle offers both guided and self-guided tours, a range of accommodation, a high tea experience and castle dining for guests who stay overnight. It’s recognised by Tohu Whenua as one of our nation's best heritage experiences.

Explore more...

More stories like this

Find out more

Road trips

Otago Peninsula road trip: wildlife and wild history

Family squabbles, love affairs and bitter accusations – sounds like the plot of a soap opera. But within the stone walls of Otago Peninsula’s Larnach Castle, it was a reality. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Get outdoors

Otago Peninsula: prodigious wildlife and a bona fide castle

If ever you should tire of the splendours of Dunedin, explore the Otago Peninsula, extending from the city to the northeast, to the southern headland of the entrance to the harbour. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Get outdoors

The wondrous wildlife of Otago Peninsula

‘The most accessible wildlife in the South Island’ is the catch-cry here. Well, there are wheeling seabirds, honking sea lions and all manner of other natural noises, but you get the point. Read the story . . . 

AA Members save on selected accommodation with
AA Traveller

AA Members
Book now
Non Members
Book now