The very end of my time in Dunedin was marked by a fun day trip to the Otago Peninsula that I took with my friends Sarah, Francis, and the other Sarah. We had been meaning to explore the Peninsula for ages, as it was only a half-hour drive from Dunedin, but never seemed to have the time. Once we were all done with our finals we got together and had a nice day trip to see Larnach Castle (which my parents visited 25 years ago) and Sandfly Bay.
Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle. It was built in 1874 (although additions continued until 1887) by prominent entrepreneur and politician William Larnach. Upon completion, the complex consisted of 43 rooms, staffed by 46 servants, and rested upon 35-acre grounds (including a vinery) and a home farm of 300 acres. It’s not a ‘castle’ in the sense that most people think of castles, but it’s one of the few homes built to such a large scale, and was dubbed the Castle by the local press in 1874. After the original owner’s death (and financial ruin) the Castle went through a series of uses and owners and eventually fell into disrepair. In 1967 it was bought by the Baker family, who have completed significant restorations and even hunted down the original furniture. Now the Castle is open all year round as a tourist attraction and is surrounded by award-winning gardens. It hosts fancy events throughout the year and has been the site of a few movies and shows (including the American series Ghost Hunters International).
From the outside the Castle is beautiful- a tall stone mansion in Gothic Revival style, built from materials imported from around the world, with intricately carved walls and ceilings and complex stained-glass windows. It’s also built in one of the most beautiful places on the Peninsula, offering amazing ocean views from the upper windows and tower.
I really enjoyed touring Larnach Castle, learning about the history and seeing the beautiful architecture, furnishings, and views.
After spending a couple hours at the Castle we piled back in the car and drove down to Sandfly Bay. Sandfly Bay (named after the way the sand is blown off the dunes) is a wide bay with large sand dunes which hosts a colony of yellow-eyed penguins and often has seals and sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, walking in the waves and enjoying the sun.
We even got to see some sea lions sleeping on the rocks!
Although our time at the beach started out cloudy, the skies cleared in time for sunset to turn the sky pink and purple.
By the time we scrambled our way back up the sand dunes it was turning dark and cold, but it was the perfect end to a fun day. It was really nice to get out of the city (and away from finals) for a little while and just enjoy exploring the peninsula. It was too bad that we couldn’t visit the town of Portabello and the Albatross Sanctuary (two places on the Peninsula that were highly recommended), but we had a good time anyway. It was a great way to say goodbye to Dunedin and our friends there, before Sarah and I left to explore the South Island together.
Next up, Sarah and I go to Queenstown (and go bungee jumping)!
Until next time,