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Art & Heritage

Dunedin Heritage Walk 1

  • 6 minutes

Otago, South Island

Explore the best preserved Victorian / Edwardian city in the Southern hemisphere. Dunedin’s heritage trail is an easy stroll past gothic architecture with First Church in The Octagon setting the scene for the finish of the 2 km stroll in the justice precinct. Justice continues to be served from the ornate Dunedin courthouse. Marvel at the magnificent former police station and historic jail. The final flourish is one of Dunedin’s jewels; the Dunedin Railway Station.

Bronze plaques on buildings and markers on the pavement to assist visitors. The walk is approximately 2km. There are two heritage walks and they intersect on the north side of Dunedin’s central Octagon. The trail map shows the route of Heritage Walk 1, with a numbered key showing the location of each building with a heritage plaque. The walk is coded yellow for easy identification. You are walking through the history of Dunedin’s heyday as the wealthiest city in New Zealand.

Tulips, spring flowers, First Church, Dunedin, NZ
First Church, Dunedin

Stop 1



  • Convicts toiled for a decade to remove 12m off Bell Hill for harbour reclamation (further details check travel pack information)
  • 33 houses, 9 shops, 8 workshops, a church and hotel had to be compensated for loss of property
  • Work started in 1862 to excavate 12 m from Bell Hill. The hill provided fill for harbour reclamation. The project kept hundreds busy for a decade and required the removal of 50 buildings, among them Burns’s brand-new First Church manse.
  • Church opened in 1873, designed by architect R A Lawson. The new church completed just 25 years after first settlers arrived in Dunedin.
  • Bell Hill was the site of the 1st alarm tower
  • Constructed of Oamaru stone and base of Port Chalmers stone
  • PORCH has plaques to Thomas Burns 1st Minister of the Settlement and Captain Cargill 1st Superintendent.
  • BELLTOWER eight of the ring of Whitechapel bells are hung for traditional change ringing by members of the Society of Change-ringers
  • Underground stream flows towards Speights Brewery where it is used for brewing

Stop 2


(cnr Dowling St & Queens Garden)

Is a vintage commercial building constructed in 1879.

Stop 3


(Dowling St)

Dunedin’s Garrison Hall (1879) and adjoining Orderly Building (1897), designed by architectural practice Mason and Wales, to provide space for the volunteer militias to drill and organise their forces, stand as testaments to the key role of such forces in nineteenth and early twentieth century New Zealand. In later years both buildings have a significant history as the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and television studio. They have special architectural significance as the most substantial surviving buildings associated with the operation of the volunteer militia in nineteenth century New Zealand.

The view of Dunedin city suburb Port Chalmers with Portobello village on the other side of Otago Harbour New Zealand

Garrison Hall was built by Port Chalmers building firm Bauchop and Co. The imposing design, harking back to Scottish and English antecedents with its turrets and castellation, reflected Dunedin’s status as New Zealand’s commercial capital, and was intended to be the best such facility in the country. The building provided drill and administrative space – with the provision of open floor space a significant engineering challenge. Garrison Hall was used as a community meeting place and a stage for important events.

The 1897 Orderly Building, also designed by Mason and Wales, provided extra drill space and offices so that Garrison Hall could be let to provide income for the militia. Source NZ Heritage Trust.

Dunedin street view, Imperial buildings. South Island, New Zealand
Dunedin street view, Imperial building

Stop 4


(cnr Dowling St & Queens Garden)

Built 1906 the building has a category II heritage trust rating. The building is designed by New Zealand’s oldest architectural company, Mason and Wales Architects Ltd. The company continues today with the fourth generation. The company was founded by William Mason (1810-1897) in 1862 Dunedin.

Stop 5


(Dowling St)

Originally a bank built in 1900. A category II historic building.

Stop 6


(Princes St)

Is described by the heritage register as, “The Head Office of the National Bank is in London and the National Bank of New Zealand was established in 1872. Prior to the erection of this building the bank had only a two storied building on the site and the North Dunedin Branch on the corner of George and Hanover Streets was rather more impressive. The Head Office of the bank in Dunedin regained its superiority with the erection of this building.

Architectural Significance

This is a relatively ornate large building and one of the few Dunedin buildings to show the Baroque tendencies of Edwardian architecture. It ranks with the Law Courts and the Town Hall in representing the important stone buildings of the beginning of the century.

Townscape/Landmark Significance

This is a massive Edwardian-Baroque façade of an unusual colour for Dunedin and contrasts well with the classical Bank of New Zealand further down the street.”

Stop 7


(crn Princes & Rattray St)

BNZ Heritage information, “As this branch supported many of the bankers servicing the gold fields it is not surprising it was one of the busiest sites during the banks early years. In 1870 the Otago region had a staff of 40 bank officers, while the Auckland region, where the Head Office was located, had a total staff of 35.” The massive building was a statement of the importance of Dunedin’s economy at the time.

Stop 8


(cnr Princes & Liverpool St)

Another vintage commercial building reflecting the economic status of Dunedin in the late nineteenth century.

Bank of New Zealand @denisbin
Bank of New Zealand, Dunedin @denisbin

Stop 9


(Bond St)

Freight and logistics is profitable and with the proceeds NZ Express Co built New Zealand’s first skyscraper. Built between 1908 – 1910 the building has technological significance. Built towards the end of the Victorian architecture period it was the tallest building in Dunedin for 27 years. The building facade is a Chicago Romanesque façade with oriel windows between the first and fifth storeys, columns and carved capitals. It was also one of the first buildings in New Zealand to be inspired by the Chicago style of architecture.

New Zealand Insurance Company Building, Dunedin, New Zealand @Waymarking
New Zealand Insurance Company Building @Waymarking

Stop 10


(cnr Rattray & Crawford St)

Designed by Nathaniel Wales of Mason & Wales architectural company. It is a relatively large building for its period, being three stories high rather than the more usual two stories, and is a major building by Mason’s partner, Nathanial Wales.

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE: The classical effect is obtained by repetition of fairly simple classical pilasters of three different designs linked by cornices at each level.

The building is category I.

Stop 11


(High St)

Dunedin Prison is recognised internationally as a rare example of a purpose-built courtyard prison. The building was designed by John Campbell, Government Architect and completed in 1896. The old Prison continued to operate as both a men’s and women’s prison until 2007 when all prison services were shifted to the new Otago Corrections Facility near Milton. The building contains some 56 cells, and has 550 sq m of Commercial Office Space facing Castle Street. It carries a Heritage NZ Category 1

Saturday Morning Tours: Our popular Saturday morning Prison tours are operating every weekend and for February and March only we are offering Sunday Tours.

This tour outlines the history and use of the prison over its 110 years, incorporating tales of prisoners and visiting almost the entire space in the old prison, over its three levels.

Duration: approximately 1 hour.

Dunedin historic prison, Otago, New Zealand @Dunedin Gaol
Dunedin historic prison @Dunedin Gaol

Stop 12


(cnr Dunbar & High St)

Red-brick building completed in 1896 & operating as a working prison for men & women until 2007. One of the key buildings in Dunedin’s justice precinct, the Central Police Station (Former) designed in Venetian Renaissance style in 1890 by Public Works Department architect William Crichton, has historic, architectural, aesthetic, and social significance. Located on an irregular shaped corner section within the block which also houses the Dunedin Prison (Former) (List No. 4035, Category 1) and the Dunedin Law Courts (List No. 4374, Category 1), this land was the site of Dunedin’s first courthouse.

Historical Railway Station of Dunedin, New Zealand
Historical Railway Station of Dunedin

Stop 13



In 2013 Condé Nast Traveller magazine placed it on its list of the world’s top 16 railway stations. Dunedin’s railway station was New Zealand’s busiest when it opened. Exuberant, ornate, with its Marseilles tiles, Central Otago basalt, Ōamaru stone and Peterhead granite, it exudes the power of railway in its heyday. The building is now home to a restaurant, an art gallery and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, and each year turns heads as models catwalk the railway platform for the event, Dunedin Fashion Shows.

Stop 14


(cnr Stuart & Castle St)

The stunning Stuart Street courthouse, late 880’s is located within Dunedin’s heritage legal precinct, along with the railway station and old prison. Glorious Oamaru stone and brickwork towers and ceilings with ornate decorations make for a stunning introduction to the modern justice system for many offenders. It is one of the oldest functioning court buildings and it has real mana and gravitas surrounding the building. The building has a category I status.

Dunedin historic Law Courts, Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin historic Law Courts

Dunedin Heritage Walk 1: Getting there



  • Dunedin’s landscape 160 years ago had a very different profile. The shoreline was close to Princes St, and the tides washed across mudflats that are now Queens Gardens, and around the foot of Bell Hill near where Dunbar St is now.This prominent landmark had been reserved by the founding fathers for building a church, and for a while housed a bell, a gift from Scotland to First Church, that was rung to mark working hours or raise an alarm. It still stands outside First Church. Bell Hill separated the Octagon and the swampy northern end of town from the southern end and the main jetty at Jetty St, near what are now Bond and Crawford streets. With its summit between Dowling St and Moray Pl, it was too steep for wheeled vehicles to cross and sloped too sharply into the harbour for a road to pass around it.

In 1858 a six metre wide cutting was blasted through the rock to extend Princes St and link it to the Octagon and the northern part of the town.

However, with the influx of ships and people during the gold rushes of the 1860s and the need for more flat land around the harbour for commercial expansion, the Provincial Government decided Bell Hill, which was still a major barrier, should be demolished and used to reclaim the mudflats, starting with the area that is now Queens Gardens.

Source The anatomy of a city


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