Backpacking in New Zealand: Larnach Castle New Zealand’s Only ‘Castle’

Backpacking in New Zealand: Larnach Castle New Zealand’s Only ‘Castle’

New Zealand’s ONLY Castle apparently is Larnach Castle, on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin. I was aware that it probably wouldn’t be that old, given the fact that New Zealand itself is a relatively new country, but on arrival in Dunedin I booked myself on a tour out to it.

I booked the tour from the iSite near The Octagon in central Dunedin. The tour cost $65 which sounds a lot, but New Zealand dollars are higher than US.. The tour would include the bus ride there and back and a guided tour of the castle, but no free food or tea or coffee! (slightly angry face)
I board my bus – we are picked up outside the iSite and I am joined by a local New Zealand couple. It is October 2010. Dunedin doesn’t seem busy with tourists. Even my 10 bed dorm has about 6 empty beds, and I’m so far the only non-NZ person on the castle tour!
Driving through Dunedin – Edinburgh of the south. You can see the excellent Railway Station pictured from my bus above.
We got given a full guide to the castle.
A mock view of the harbour out of Dunedin along the Otago Peninsula.
The immense view of the Otago Peninsula on the climbing bus journey out of Dunedin.
Arrival at Larnach Castle.The bus driver was of course too fast for me to photograph the entrance sign.
Pretty flower beds and gardens lined the entrance walk up from the bus and it was here I met a fellow foreign traveller – Snow Zhu from China. Snow was meant to be on the tour bus in fact but had missed it, so naturaly we would tour the Castle together and catch the same bus back to the hostel.
The side part of the “Castle” is actually a tea room nowadays. This is where things began to fall into place, and I got an inkling into what Larnach Castle really is.
An elaborate chandelier. One for Trotter’s Independent Trader’s to have a go at polishing. This is when things clicked into place. Larnach ‘Castle’ you see, New Zealand’s only ‘Castle’ isn’t really a ‘castle’. It’s just a posh mansion owned by a rich family.
Tea rooms again.
Me in the tea rooms. Though it was now obvious that there was no ‘castle’ to be seen here, it was time to enjoy the mansion!
Never seen a ‘castle’ with glass windows before. Gosh Dundrum, Dunluce and Carlisle must all have been fakes!
Elaborate ‘castle’ walls. These also housed a ballroom, a setting reminding us of the golden age of dance. I knew a girl who would have loved this place. An ex-girlfriend known as Noemi Linzenbold.
Tour groups arrive at the ‘castle’. Someone really ought to tell them there’s no ‘castle’ here!
I met a Scottish bagpiper outside the ‘castle’. He knew what the flag was. Most Scottish people would. Not rare to see a Scot here of course – since the name of the nearby city of Dunedin is derived from Edinburgh.
The pretty gardens out the front of the ‘castle’ and there was me thinking ‘castles’ get attacked all the time. No need to keep out the enemy here – inivite them in for a cup of the Earl Grey and to admire the primroses.
Front door to the ‘castle’, drawbridges have been replaced by what are now known as ‘doors’.
Ready for my first ever  New Zealand ‘castle’ experience. If this is New Zealand’s only ‘castle’, then New Zealand doesn’t actually have a ‘castle’. It’s too modern, it’s not at risk of attack and never has been and worst of all it has windows and doors. To me, Larnach ‘Castle’ is simply not a castle.
But in we went!
Guns and a prison cell? Oh maybe it was a ‘castle’ then. No these were family weapons. and nobody was put in prison here.
A bit of information on the design of the castle.
View out the front into the garden. No need for a cannon ball here.
Relaxing on the balcony at the top of the ‘castle’ ypu can tell by my grin I was a bit disappointed!
A salute to the ‘castle’, funny enough in Australia almost exactly a year earlier,  Daniel Evans and I had also been searching for “The Ruined Castle” in the Blue Mountains, only to find it was “just a load of bricks at the top of a hill”. I’d been duped twice now, and both in Oceania!
Peak of the ‘castle’.
The views were sadly ruined by the winter mist, though I think October is Spring for New Zealand.
Spiral staircase.
Veranda and patio. A place to read a book or do some knitting rather than fire cannonballs at the enemy!
Veranda and patio. Might as well turn it into a wine bar. New Zealand’s only ‘wine bar in a fake castle’.
Front gardens.
The front of the ‘castle’.
It’s even advertised as a ‘castle’ on the mini bus!
The gardens and the nature were much nicer than the ‘castle’ itself. Snow and I enjoyed a chat as we dandered down the paths.
A wishing well rather than a place to hang the enemy.
The back view of this ‘castle’ wannabe.
Not sure what the flamingo style statue represents.
You can actually stay overnight here!
Garage to park your car. Again, how many ‘castles’ have you seen like this?
The place you can stay overnight. Nice and cosy and probably the highlight of the ‘castle’ tour.
Cabinet and mirror – spend your night here. Incidentally Snow and I are randomly both taking a photo here at the same time.
A smaller ‘castle’ out the back.
Snow by a massive hedge.
Me by a massive hedge.
The view out to sea here is great – Larnach ‘Castle’ is on the Otago Peninsula.
More pretty gardens, flowers and plants.
Larnach ‘Castle’ – a lovely building in a tremendous setting. I’ll give it that. BUT it’s not a ‘castle’.
In front of Larnach ‘Castle’!
Larnach ‘Castle’.
More lovely gardens.
Posing with Snow Zhu, a nice Chinese girl. I had a habit of hanging out with Asians on this New Zealand trip (my second time in NZ), as I also hung out with a Korean girl called Haney and a Hong Kong couple called Hei and Angie. It was probably a sign that sooner or later I was going to move to Asian.
Again posing with Snow Zhu.
Last photo before saying a farewell to the ‘castle’. The entire post might sound a bit negative. But it wasn’t. I enjoyed it! It was something different to see. If New Zealand want to claim it as a ‘castle’ then that is their business. But to me ‘castles’ should be hundreds of years old and with a history of protection, invasion, destruction and even war. Like a lot of the castles we see in parts of Europe. This one, Larnach ‘Castle’ in all honesty is just a posh mansion in a pretty, elevated setting.
We caught the bus back and I agreed to meet Snow after dinner for a drink and a quick night time walk round the city.
Again the drive was stunning. New Zealand is a lovely country in general.
Arrival back in Dunedin. It had been an ‘interesting’ trip to a ‘castle’!
Where – Larnach ‘Castle’, Otago Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand
What – An elaborate mansion in an area of beautiful gardens, mistakenly referred to as a ‘castle’
Who Went – Jonny Blair, Snow Zhu, 2 New Zealanders
Nationalities Met – Chinese, Scottish, Kiwi
Transport Used – Minibus
Cost of Tour – $65 NZ Dollars
A Better Definition of A Castle –
Key Song –

I might as well thrown ALANIS MORISETTE’S IRONIC into the mix too:

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2 thoughts on “Backpacking in New Zealand: Larnach Castle New Zealand’s Only ‘Castle’

  • Toronto also has a “castle,” too called Casa Loma. It was built in 1911 and this post bears a lot of resemblance to this place here in my hometown. I will have to write up my own blog post about it at some point and share it with you. The guy who built this castle in Toronto made his fortune developing a hydro-electricity dam in Niagara Falls so Toronto could have electricity. It is one of the more interesting attraction here, so I imagine this castle in New Zealand had a bit of interesting history behind it, as well.

    But, $65 NZ to go see it? Yikes! Unless it is too remote of a place to take public transit or a taxi there? Casa Loma only costs about $20 CDN to visit, and you get your own head set to do a self-guided tour. Plus, it is located in downtown Toronto, so it is easy to get there by public transit.
    Ray recently posted…The HomecomingMy Profile

  • Hi Ray – yes I just realised the price there – that is crazy. At the time though, I worked in Australia and I had earned a fair bit of money so I was less of a budgeter on my 2 trips to New Zealand (I even went sky diving and bungy jumping – one single activity that would cost the same as a week in Taiwan!). The Castle is quite remote and hard to get to for a hitch hiker, perhaps a series of local buses would have been the best option! I think $65 NZ is about $20 US though? I’d be keen to hear about the Toronto one. Safe travels. Jonny

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