Visit New Zealand’s only castle – Larnach Castle, Dunedin

A Must-See Dunedin Attraction

In 2021 Larnach Castle will be 150 years old.  By New Zealand standards this beautiful old building has gathered quite a bit of history.  As New Zealand’s only castle she’s also received quite a few national and international accolades.  So you can’t visit Dunedin without taking a drive out to the Otago Peninsula and touring the castle.  You can do so on your way to the Royal Albatross Centre, another great Dunedin tourist attraction in the same vicinity.

Aside from the experience of visiting our only castle, you can roam the award winning gardens, enjoy a ‘Trust the Chef’ superb dining experience and even stay at luxury accommodation on the grounds.  The castle also plays hosts to many functions and is a popular wedding venue.

View from a hill top overlooking Larnach Castle and out to the ocean

View over Larnach Castle, Photo Credit Larnach Castle

The castle’s rich history dates back to 1871 and aside from the castle itself you can also as explore the exquisite gardens, which have attained a Garden of International Significance award from the New Zealand Gardens Trust.   The Castle is open 365 days a year; including Christmas Day.  Self-guided tours can be taken of the entire castle, gardens, grounds, stables and out-buildings, or select just the gardens and grounds, plus an early-bird discount is available for visitors arriving between 8am and 9.30am.

Castle History

William Larnach was a merchant baron and politician and he built Larnach Castle as a home for himself and his first wife Eliza in 1871, sparing no expense and using the very best construction materials from around the globe.  It took three years for 200 workmen to build the shell of the castle and a further 12 years for the master European craftsmen he engaged to finish the interior.

The Barker family purchased the castle in 1967 and have spent decades restoring it, and assembling a large collection of original New Zealand period furniture and antiques. This is a tremendous achievement and your entry fee for a self-guided tour will help ensure their work can continue and this significant period of Dunedin and New Zealand’s history can be preserved.

exterior view of Larnach Castle lit up at night

Larnach Castle at night – photo credit: Larnach Castle Facebook

A Restoration Project of Significance

Today, the castle itself features exquisite craftmanship, but when Barry and Margaret Barker purchased the castle in 1967 it was almost beyond repair.  From the sheep being penned in the ballroom, to the major leaks in the roof, so much damage had occurred that the Barkers were considered quite mad to take the project on.

Painstakingly researching and replacing the original décor, furnishings and elegant artwork has been a labour of love for the Barker family, and today almost every room has been returned to Larnach’s original vision.


exquisite craftmanship inside Larnach Castle

The beautiful interior of Larnach Castle, Photo Credit: Larnach Castle Facebook 

The Gardens and Grounds at Larnach Castle

In a similar state to the house when purchased by the Barkers, the grounds were totally overgrown.  A passionate gardener, Market Barker has transformed the 7 acres of gardens surrounding Larnach Castle, and they have been rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a Garden of International Significance.   Meander through the Patterned Garden, the Lost Rock Garden, the Serpentine Walk, the Rain Forest, the South Seas Garden, the Alice Lawn, and the Laburnum Arch and Green Room.  Stunning!


Dining at Larnach Castle

Castle Dining Room – Trust the Chef

In keeping with the castle setting, rather than operating a conventional restaurant at Larnach Castle you can dine in the Castle Dining Room.   A four course ‘Trust the chef’ menu is served house party style to all guests at one sitting.  By all accounts the food and the whole experience is top notch, and a great opportunity to get to know other visitors to the castle.

Ballroom Cafe – High Tea

Open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm, daily,  with the exception of  Christmas Day, dine fireside in the Ballroom Cafe or the stunning outdoor cafe.  The chefs here serve local produce prepared on the grounds to complement the visual feast.
High Tea is available between 2pm and 3pm daily, with pre-booking 24hrs in advance required.   A pot of tea is accompanied by a delectable selection of home made sandwiches, slices, scones and cream cakes.  Of course, special dietary requirements can be catered for.
beautiful garden setting for high tea at Larnach Castle
High tea in the garden at Larnach Castle, Photo Credit: Larnach Castle

Accommodation at Larnach Castle

While you can’t stay in the castle itself, it is possible to book accommodation in one of the properties on the castle’s 35 acres of grounds.  Options include the Camp Estate, a glamourous new stone manor house, lodge rooms at Larnach Lodge or a Stable Stay in the historic Category 1 listed historic stable building.
Options abound at Larnach Castle, which can be found just 20-3o minutes from Dunedin central.  Pick up your Dunedin rental car from Pegasus Dunedin City in King Edward Street, Kensington or collect your Pegasus car on arrival at Dunedin Airport.  Head towards Andersons Bay, then take Highcliff Road out to the castle turn-off on Camp Rd.