10 Beautiful Castles and Historic Homes in New Zealand

Updated On October 5, 2023
Larnach Castle 

The rarity of the only two beautiful castles in New Zealand is what I think makes them remarkable.

At least one of them has an infamous history, but it still remains popular. 

I may not have found many significant NZ castles, but I did find at least seven historical NZ homes worth mentioning.

I’ve added a description of those houses below the castle descriptions. 

Two (Actually Three) Beautiful Castles in New Zealand 

Okay, so I feel like I lied. Several sources did say that there are only two castles in NZ.

However, I looked up one only to find out it had permanently closed.

I decide it’s still worth a mention though, so I have three to share with you. 

Larnach Castle

I just looked at some of the photos of Larnach Castle.

I admire the windows it has – the vertical dimensions having a larger length measurement.

Some windows have an arch at the top too. 

The design of the windows seems to coordinate perfectly with the thoughtfully laid, two-toned bricks.

It also has a roof indicative of times when castles like it were popular, which includes many of the fortifications built in the Middle Ages between about the 5th to the 15th century. 

Larnach Castle Facts

I’ve seen Larnach Castle described as a “wealthy Victorian lifestyle, complete with scandal and suicide.”

That sounds like a bittersweet story for New Zealand. 

On a lighter note, William Larnach built it in 1871, and it now has stunning gardens onsite.

You can also stay in one of the luxurious, unique or affordable classes of castle accommodation.

If only for a few days, you can live like you’re in a fairy tale. 

To me, it’s amazing that a merchant banker who also doubled as a politician could craft this spectacular architecture.

I’m not saying that to discriminate. 

What I really mean is you never know who can accomplish what.

Just when you think you know someone, they may pleasantly surprise you.

I would never have guessed a businessman could do such a fine job on a building, but why not?

We all have complex facets about us that may require a creative outlet for stress relief. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Larnach still ended his life in spite of his well-rounded skill set.

He committed suicide right at the Parliament Buildings of all places. 

Larnach’s self-fatality happened on October 12, 1898, and I think I was right.

The pressure and stress of being such an important figure reportedly got to Larnach.

However, he also had some personal turmoil, including an alleged sexual relationship occurring between his wife and stepson. 

Larnarch also began having financial woes.

I don’t know all the details, but one of his major investments was in Colonial Bank.

He didn’t seem to get the return on his investment that he hoped. 

Larnach Castle Today

Larnach Castle has extended beyond becoming a memorial of the Larnach family.

Builders turned this Dunedin, NZ attraction into the Larnach Castle & Gardens.

This historically significant site overlooks the Otago Peninsula.

The Barker family restored this Dunedin attraction, offering the castle experience that comes with a fairytale honeymoon.

By the way, the gardens at Larnach Castle have made the New Zealand’s Gardens Trust list.

They have become a Garden of International Significance.

Inside the castle, you will also find a ballroom, gift shop, cafe, stables, and a tower. 

You can book both public and private tours at Larnach Castle, just so you know.

You won’t run out of places to take memorable photos here either. 

Riverstone Castle

You’ll find Riverstone Castle by a lake in the Waitaki Bridge and Otago/Oamaru areas.

Smith’s Dairy Farm also sits near it, and the castle also has its Riverstone Kitchen. 

Dot and Neil Smith founded The Riverstone circa 2009.

Even though it’s not hundreds of years old like other castles around the world, it still holds significance.

Oftentimes, castles are built to tell the story of medieval times when knights stood up for their fortified cities. 

Of course, there’s just something enchanting about castles in general.

I personally can’t help but look at them and haven’t seen two castles alike. 

By 2019, it will have taken 10 years to complete the Riverstone.

From what I just learned about it, this decade’s wait is worth it. 

Cargills Castle (Permanently Closed)

I haven’t gotten any word that Cargills Castle will open anytime soon.

As of December 16, 2022, it says on Google Maps that it’s permanently closed.

Like Larnach Castle, this one is also in Dunedin, NZ. 

Unfortunately, Cargills still sits in ruins.

At least a Cargill’s Cast Trust has been formed, but it’s slow going.

This organization, which advocates for the restoration of this fortress, has been active since 1997. 

The hope remains to “restore the castle to its former glory,” according to Radio New Zealand.

I’m not sure what’s taking so long. 

Then again, I know how hard change has been for me for the past two and a half decades, so who am I to judge?

At least someone is working to revive this historical site. 

Some Cargill Facts

Architect Francis Petre designed Cargill, and Harry Lyders used concrete to build it.

This castle was completed by 1877, and it received the nickname “the cliffs” because of its cliffside position. 

You can catch quite a view of the Pacific Ocean and the Dunedin city skyline.

Edward Cargill, son of a Dunedin founding father, used to live in it. 

On the inside, the original building had 21 rooms.

It represents an Italian building style and appeals to both North American and Australian people. 

Builders used Portland Cement to make Cargill Castle.

This, among other reasons, caused it to become regarded as a technology advanced structure.

It has all the makings of a medieval castle, such as its tower and fortress-like rooftops. 

The grounds used to have a coach house, multitudes of plants and vines, and stables.

It also had tomato houses and men’s quarters. 

One thing I learned about castles from reading about Cargills and others that started on fire: Apparently, concrete does not deem any structure fireproof.

This dwelling did end up “gutted” after flames and smokes damaged it in 1892. 

Six Beautiful Homes in New Zealand 

You may notice castle design remnants of medieval times in many of the historic homes built in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Here’s a brief description of seven of those. 

1. Highwic Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

Alfred, a colonial settler who did pretty well for himself, had the Highwic Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga built circa 1862.

It’s positioned above Newmarket, a suburb of Auckland.

It’s been listed as a significant structure according to Heritage New Zealand. 

2. Beale Cottage 

On the corner of Beal and Great Street in Hamilton, New Zealand, you’ll find Beale Cottage.

You won’t find many homes in this area that have stood as long as this one has. 

Dr. Bernard Beale used it for housing his family and conducting surgery.

He also designated this 18723 home as his registry office. 

3. Vernon Brown’s House 

Architect Vernon Brown built a house for himself.

He had studied architecture at a London school, and completed his Remuera Auckland home in 1939.

Vernon’s circle of influence included writers Frank Sargeson and Rex Fairburn.

He favored what we would probably call the “minimalistic” look nowadays.

His houses had flat roofs and sharp, simplistic corners representing a modern “cube” shape. 

4. The Donner House 

I like this one. It’s definitely a modern look, with those rounded corners and bright, white exterior.

I also like the large windows that would allow for plenty of natural light and the metallic trim around the balcony edge. 

I say that the Donner house in Titirangi, Auckland, built between 1946-1947, possibly brought cheer to an otherwise drab World War II architectural style.

It’s proof that you can use creativity to make the most of material rations.

It’s one on the list of historically significant dwellings for sure. 

5. Rotherham House 

The 1951 Rotherham House in Davenport, Auckland has a burnt red exterior.

It looks like an excellent throwback idea for anyone who owns land that still has a barn with a strong structure.

It would make a great building conversion project for anyone. 

6. Sutch House 

The Sutch House in Brooklyn, Wellington stood out in 1956 after its completion.

I really enjoy the paned glass running along the upper floor on one side – excellent for a Wellington Harbor lookout view.

I’m all for any design that allows for sunlight too. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are castles just in fairy tales?

Castles have actually occurred throughout history.

From the early 1900s to the present (2022), houses that look like castles are that way, mostly for the sake of appearance.

However, castles do typically have a strong foundation and withstand weather elements more than some wooden homes.

Castle fortresses used to serve as protection during wartime during the medieval period.

Of course, there are fictional castles too, though.

That’s another story.

The NZ castles I have mentioned to you do exist in “real life.”

What is the most famous castle in New Zealand?

By far, Larnach Castle is the most famous.

It’s known not only for its historical and cultural significance but also for its estate gardens.

It provides you with plenty of photo opportunities, with permission.

What is the largest home in New Zealand?

It depends on the criteria.

You may have heard of the “Holly Lea” mansion, also known as McLean’s Mansion.

It’s the largest wooden residence.

Why doesn’t New Zealand have that many castles?

I’m not sure personally. However, I did find out that what other places in the world may call a castle is really a “castellated house.”

This means that it has a square edge with spaces for positioning artillery against enemy forces.

Of course, castellated rooftops are mainly for aesthetic aesthetics in more modern times, but medieval knights used them seriously to defend their kingdoms.

1 Comment on 10 Beautiful Castles and Historic Homes in New Zealand

  1. So you haven’t heard of Olveston in Dunedin?

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