Dunedin is the principle city in the Otago area. It was the largest city of New Zealand's south island during the gold rush of the mid 1800s. Many reminders remain of this era, including the country's only castle, an enormous Edwardian mansion with all its trappings, and an ornate railway station. Remnants of the goldfield sluices, farming ingenuity and Edwardian engineering can still be seen, thanks to preservation efforts. The land surrounding Dunedin, was forged from volcanic rock. Wildlife abounds in the sea, inland and along the rugged coast. A major attraction is the albatross hide. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Royal Albatross Centre
6.Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead
8.Larnach Castle and Gardens
9.Dunedin Railway Station
9 Best Things to Do in Otago, New Zealand
- Steampunk HQ, Photo: Steampunk HQ
- Royal Albatross Centre, Photo: John/stock.adobe.com
- Dunedin Railway, Photo: steheap/stock.adobe.com
- Bannockburn Sluicings, Photo: naruedom/stock.adobe.com
- Totara Estate, Photo: Totara Estate
- Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead, Photo: Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead
- Olveston House, Photo: Olveston House
- Larnach Castle and Gardens, Photo: Deyan/stock.adobe.com
- Dunedin Railway Station, Photo: cosmity/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Dmitry Naumov/stock.adobe.com
More Ideas in New Zealand: Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Caves are located in the Waitomo district of New Zealand. The geologically diverse region was one of the island’s original tourist destinations. The Maori word Waitomo translates to ‘water’ from ‘Wai’ and ‘sinkhole’ from ‘tomo,’ or roughly, ‘water which flows through a hole in the ground.’ Several caves in the area are open for tours, and are renowned for the glowworms which decorate the ceilings of the caves and light up the space for an awe-filled adventure.
The main caves in the region are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, known for the luminescent creatures that hang from the ceilings. Unique to New Zealand, Arachnocampa luminosa, known as the glowworm, is a tiny species of fungus gnat that is luminescent in both its larval and imago stages. Glowworms prefer wet, protected habitats. Many of their above-ground dwellings have been effected by farming, making the popular Waitomo Caves one of the best viewing places for glow worms today.
The Ruakuri Cave offers Waitomo’s longest underground walking tour. The name of the cave means ‘dog’ as Maori legend tells, it was discovered 500 years ago by a boy taking refuge from wild dogs as he was hunting in the area. The cave entrance was subsequently used as a Maori burial ground, and this sacred area is protected today by guiding visitors down a spiral staircase away from the protected site. After descending down the spiral entrance, visitors follow an innovative, wheel-chair accessible walkway past crystal and limestone formations.
The Aranui Cave in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve is named after the Maori who discovered it in 1910, and is known for its stalagmites and stalactites. The cave is without any water, and is the smallest of the three, but with some of the most beautiful geological formations. Because the caves were formed on an earthquake fault, water more easily enters and every crevice is decorated with colorful geological and crystal formations. A Cave Weta colony is found inside the Aranui Caves. These giant insects are unique to New Zealand and date back to the age of the dinosaurs. Related to the locust and cricket, their Maori name translates to ‘ugly one.’ The long-limbed and long-antennaed creatures only come out in the dark to hunt for food, as they are not adapted to seeing in the light.
History: The entire Waitomo region lay beneath the sea 30 million years ago. The natural beauty that exists both above and below ground today is an after effect of millions of years of water carving out the Oligocene limestone. Local Maori have been taking visitors through tours of the glowworm caves since at least the early 1900’s. In 1904, cave tour operations were taken over by the British Crown. Today, tours are operated by several privately owned companies.
Chief Chief Tane Tinorau, a local Maori chief was the first to explore the caves in the late 1880’s. Although the Maori people had known about the caves for much longer, their interior had never been explored. By 1889, Chief Tane and his wife, Huti, were taking guests through the caves for profit, having found an easy above-ground access point. After a 100-year period of British overrule, the caves were returned to the local Maori tribe in 1989. Some of the staff members who guide visitors through the caves today are directly descended from Chief Tane and Huti.
The Ruakuri Cave was first opened in 1904 but closed in 1988 due to a legal dispute over ownership of the land. The caves were reopened in 2005 by the New Zealand government after coming to terms with the family trust that claimed original ownership. The Aruni Cave has been operating public tours since 1911 under the New Zealand Minister of Tourism.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Visitors to the glowworm cave tour the cave on a boat ride along the underground portion of the Waitomo River, accompanied by an expert guide who provides commentary on the glowworms, the geological history and significance of the caves, and the cultural history of the area. Tours depart multiple times per day.
Walking tours of the Ruakuri Cave take approximately two hours, 90 minutes of which are underground. Guests should be advised that temperatures inside the caves are always cool, regardless of the weather above ground. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Cameras are allowed in the Ruakuri and Aruni Cave tours only.
39 Waitomo Village Rd, Waitomo Caves, Otorohanga 3943, New Zealand
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More Ideas in New Zealand: Larnach Castle
New Zealand’s Larnach Castle is located in Dunedin on the South Island. The late 1800’s Victorian castle on a hill overlooks the city to one side and the Pacific ocean on the other, and is open for tours and overnight stays. Situated on the Otago Peninsula Larnach Castle incorporates materials selected from all over the globe. Marble was imported from Italy, while glass was procured from France and Venice, along with floor tiles from England. Ceilings, wood floors and paneling were made from the finest wood native to New Zealand, including honeysuckle, rimu and kauri.
The current owners have furnished the home with a collection of original New Zealand furniture, reflective of the period in which it was built, and have painstakingly researched the original artwork, décor and interior detailing to return the home to its original state.
The 35 acres of castle grounds are home to 7 acres of manicured gardens, which extend from the castle itself to the edge of the ocean. The gardens have been named ‘Gardens of International Significance’ by the New Zealand Garden Trust. Visitors can easily spend a full day amid the flowerbeds, hedgerows and fields. Specialized areas within the gardens include a serpentine walk, the Lost Rock Garden, Pattern Garden, Green Room and Alice Lawn. The castle grounds are imbued with an Alice in Wonderland theme that has been present since the 1930’s. Original statuary in the gardens are based on characters from the book. The current owners have expanded upon this theme throughout the gardens with added statuary and a Queen of Hearts throne. The bright pink throne in front of the Rainforest Garden backdrop is a favorite for photographs. A ‘curious door’ referring to a phrase from the book, can be found in a tree trunk in the South Seas Garden.
Boutique lodging on the castle grounds is available at three locations. The Camp Estate is a neo-classical style stone country home adjacent to the castle, the Larnach Lodge is a recreation of a colonial farm building, and accommodations are available in the renovated140-year old stables, which are classified as a New Zealand historic landmark.
History: Larnach Castle was built in the late 19th century by the wealthy Australian-born banker and politician, William Larnach, as a gift for his first wife. Larnach amassed his fortune as a bank manager in the early days of the Dunedin goldmines, and expanded his portfolio to include shipping, farming, real estate and politics, serving the New Zealand government as a cabinet minister.
The 15-year long building project began in 1871 and took over 200 workers to complete. The first three years were spent on the home’s exterior, while it an additional 12 years were spent finishing the detailed interior.
The appeal of the castle is partially driven by the dramatic history of its first owner, William Larnach. who committed suicide at the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in 1898 in despair over an affair between his youngest son and his third wife. After Larnach’s death, the family fell into financial ruin following legal battles and disputes, stemming from the absence of a will. The castle was sold in 1906 after the family’s furniture and belongings were auctioned to pay for the debts of the estate.
In the intervening years, the castle has been used to house nuns, as a government-owned mental hospital, and as lodging for soldiers during World War II. In 1967 the Baker family purchased the ruined estate with the goal to restore it to its original glory.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Tours of the castle are guided by a knowledgeable staff who weave in the scandals of the Larnach family and the history of the site. Visitors may ascend the castle’s spire to enjoy the views at the top, which extend to the ocean and past the City of Dunedin.
Guests touring the gardens are given a map of a scavenger hunt, and are asked to find a Wishing Well, the Oamaru Stone Cheshire Cat and a dungeon. A brochure on Native Plants of New Zealand points out which plants in each of the gardens are native to the island.
Annual public events include the Winter Ball, an elegant Victorian-themed holiday dinner with dancing and the Spring Fling, a family friendly event with free activities for children throughout the gardens.
Private events, weddings, parties and conferences may be held in the castle’s 3,000 square foot ballroom, built in 1885. High tea is served in the ballroom daily for visitors.
145 Camp Rd, Dunedin 9077, New Zealand
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More Ideas in New Zealand: The Tree Church
The Tree Church in Ohaupo, New Zealand is a church made from living trees. Each of the trees that make up the church and surrounding grounds has been carefully selected for its quality and style of growth. The living church is surrounded by three acres of gardens, living tree fences and boundaries, a living labyrinth, and garden walks, and is designed as a place to contemplate and enjoy nature.
Leptospernums, or the Teatree, were selected to make up the walls of the church. The flowering species is native to New Zealand and honey from the tree’s flowers is said to have healing, antibacterial properties. The tree’s leaves have a copper sheen, enhanced by trimming every six weeks. The cut-leaved Alder, or Laciniata, was used for the church’s roof, due to its flexibility and the sparse canopy that allows sunlight into the space. The natural light keeps the church free from the need for electricity and helps maintain the growth of the grassy ground cover. Additional trees supporting the church include the Camelia Black Tie, a bright red rose, the Acer Globosum, also known as Norway Maple, a small tree that grows a dense, symmetrically round crown of leaves, and Thuja Pyramidalis, a conical shaped evergreen native to New Zealand.
The church’s alter is made of Italian marble from Lake Cuomo, and has personal significance for the church’s owner, Barry Cox, as it originally served as the alter at his home church in Shannon, New Zealand.
Throughout the gardens, guests will also see oaks and maples, Beech trees, Ginkos, the evergreen Poplar, the conifer Taxodium, or Cypress tree, and the Black Tupelo, or Nyssa tree. Bog gardens, a cut flower garden and a vegetable garden are also located on the grounds. A pond of water lilies is surrounded by weeping willows. A labyrinth walk is based on the design of the city of Jericho in 460 BC. The unicursal labyrinth has no dead-ends. Visitors enter at the single entrance and follow the circular pattern to the center, then back out again. The 7 circles of the Jericho labyrinth historically represent the circle of life itself; from the outer circle of death, to the inner circle of eternity.
History: The creator of the Tree Church, Barry Cox, has always been fascinated by churches and their history, and spent much of his young adult life traveling the world to visit the most famous cathedrals. Cox owned a service that safely uprooted and transplanted trees, and he used this experience and knowledge in his personal Tree Church project, as he set out to create something that honored the beauty of churches he long admired.
In 2007, Cox built the iron frame of the church and carefully planted the trees, which he has since been training to grow around the frame. Ultimately, the iron frame will be removed when the trees are sturdy enough to support the structure on their own.
Although Cox initially began the project for his personal enjoyment, he was convinced to open the gardens to the public in 2015. Soon after, Cox’s nephew asked about getting married in the church, and a new business was born. Cox currently has plans to plant a natural amphitheater behind the church, to be used for events, as well as plans to expand the English garden surrounding the labyrinth.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Tree Church is open to the public seasonally, closing for the winter. Visitors pay an admission fee to walk the grounds and spend a day enjoying the landscape. Although there is no food or drink available at the gardens, guests may bring their own picnic lunches. Day visitors are asked to respect the Tree Church and surrounding gardens as they would any church, and are encouraged to quietly enjoy their time on site.
The church itself can seat up to 100 guests for weddings and other events, and is available for event rental. There is also a covered outdoor pavilion available that can seat up to 60 under cover for receptions and other events.
What’s Nearby: The Tree Church is consistently voted Number One among things to do in Ohaupo. Nearby, visitors interested in nature and the outdoors will also find Hamilton Gardens, a conceptual nature park that has recreated historical garden concepts from throughout the world, and Yarndley’s Bush, a natural forest offering hiking and trails, nature and wildlife viewing.
119 West Road M, Ohaupo 3881, New Zealand, Phone: 6-42-76-90-31-05
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