High on a hilltop with commanding views from its battlements, Larnach Castle is the grand baronial fantasy of William Larnach, an Australian-born businessman and politician. The castle, built in the mid-1870s, was a vast extravagance even in the free-spending days of the gold rush. Larnach imported an English craftsman to carve the ceilings, which took 12 years to complete. The solid marble bath, marble fireplaces, tiles, glass, and even much of the wood came from Europe.
The mosaic in the foyer depicts Larnach's family crest and the modest name he gave to his stately home: the Camp. Larnach rose to a prominent position in the New Zealand government of the late 1800s, but in 1898, beset by a series of financial disasters and possible marital problems, he committed suicide in Parliament House. According to one version of the story, Larnach's third wife, whom he married at an advanced age, ran off with his youngest son; devastated, Larnach shot himself. The 35 acres of grounds around the castle include lodging, a rain-forest garden with kauri, rimu, and totara trees, statues of Alice in Wonderland characters (see if you can find the Cheshire Cat), a herbaceous walk, and a South Seas Walkway lined with palms and aloe plants. The castle is a 20-minute drive from Dunedin but can be tricky to find, so follow the directions on the web site.