Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt


Ghosts, where the bodies are buried: TOP 10 cemeteries in NZ

  • 3 minutes

Otago, New Zealand

Abandoned graves, cemetery tourism

Macabre, why would you want to go to a cemetery while on holiday? Cemeteries, death are subjects not usually on the tourist radar. Yet the history of a place, the stories of the inhabitants are written in stone. Cemetery tourism is not odd or peculiar. Cemeteries are quiet contemplative places where flowers, trees and wide spaces offer a chance to reflect society’s changes.

Cemeteries and spring flowers, New Zealand
Cemeteries and spring flowers

Cemeteries, ghosts and tapu (sacred places where death has occured) locations are part and parcel of a great New Zealand holiday. Scenery galore, from Cape Reinga where spirits depart to Invercargill and Milford Sound New Zealand visitors are spoiled for choice.

  1. Akaroa’s French quarter of the cemetery, Christchurch

Rue Pompallier drive in L`aube Hill Reserve – who are these people with a great view

SELFIE HEAVEN. The historic cemetery has a birds eye views of the landscape without a high rise in sight. Take Akaroa’s cemetery with its sweeping views of the harbour. Atmospheric immediate objects such as rusting iron lace fencing, naturalised flowers and glorious light playing against the funeral monuments and trees. Akaroa justifibily deserves its place as a foodie destination, Akaroa 7 street food destinations – Best Bits. Grab a bite to eat and picnic in the cemetery.

Are you fascinated by the odd, the abandoned and wonder about where to get a good photo of the poignant rusting object?

The abandoned object makes for a great photo opportunity in New Zealand, check out Ghosts, art of decay for images and where they taken.

Akaroa French settlement. Christchurch / New Zealand
Akaroa French settlement, Christchurch, New Zealand
  1. Slope Point Tararua Acre Steamboat disaster cemetery, Waipapa Lighthouse Rd, South Island

Tragedy and disaster is a cemetery story

The lone cemetery such as near lighthouses are a testament to heroic actions or the call to duty. The story can be humorous or heartfelt.  The visible reminder of life is there in the solitary grave. It tugs the emotions and it is a moment when we think about others rather than ourselves. Think of Slope Point, The Catlins New Zealand with its heroic gravesite. It’s poignant and definitely tugs at the heartstrings.

Windswept coastal trees at Slope Point in New Zealands Catlins region.
Windswept coastal trees at Slope Point in New Zealands Catlins region.

Explore the deep South of New Zealand on a road trip. The Southern Scenic Route embraces deserted beaches, lush rainforest, pristine lakes, vibrant small towns and stunning mountain vistas. From the natural world of the Catlins the road opens up to Invercargill the cultural and administrative heart of Southland. Small towns are personality plus with the gooey cheese roll and southern pie as a kiwi staple…

Everybody needs a unique, fascinating or slightly quirky place to stay while on holiday. It’s weird thinking about sleeping in a jail, well check out what Christchurch has to offer and check into Addington prison for your personal holiday highlight.

Check out New Zealand, quirky, unusual places to stay.

  1. Waikumete Cemetery Auckland, 4128A Great North road Glen Eden

What religion are you is part of the cemetery landscape

Cemeteries are a fashion statement, that ornate Victorian statute or the mausoleum of winemakers in Waikumete Cemetery Auckland are messages about what is important to the people who are interred. It is fascinating looking at the mausoleum building styles. How about a Greek temple theme or a soaring eagle is more to your taste as a final resting point. A solid perpendicular obelisk often denotes a trader or a religious belief that strips outward shows of wealth.

Stroll among the historic cemeteries and try to figure out what was important to the people who installed the angel reaching forever upwards. It is a place for nineteenth century picnics with the Sunday Glen Eden train service (Auckland) packed with family members, their floral arrangements and picnic hampers off to visit Great Aunt Betty’s grave for the day.

Cemetery grave view, Waikumete cemetery, Auckland, New Zealand
Cemetery grave view, Waikumete cemetery, Auckland
Economic decline, Gold mining relics being reclaimed by nature, Karangahake Gorge
Economic decline, Gold mining relics being reclaimed by nature, Karangahake Gorge

GOLD RUSH FEVER – 19th century gold fields in New Zealand & forgotten graves

For the ultimate in cemeteries, abandoned and forgotten places the 19th century gold fever rush created towns now desolate except for their graves. Visit West Coast ghosts, cemeteries and quirky personalities – Best Bits and find out the stories of hardy gold miners and the lure of instant riches.

Cemeteries and ghost stories are part of one of New Zealand Great Road Trips, the Great West Coast road trip, route 6 – Best Bits.

  • Ghosts, abandoned towns, historic relics
  • Fascinating wildlife
  • Lush temperate rainforest, scenery and adventures galore
  1. Port Chalmers cemetery, Church Street, Port Chalmers, Dunedin 9023 – prejudice in stone

Historic cemeteries have captured prejudice in bricks and mortar with the graveyards sectioned according to race, religion and Christian denomination. Jews, Chinese, Protestants, Catholics all had their separate places where mowed lawn verges acting as fences between beliefs. There is definitely no mixing of beliefs in the afterlife. The cemetery is a social document that gives today’s visitors clues to taste, fashion and living conditions.

Port Chalmers, located on the Otago Peninsula is a place rich in history. Northern Albatross and wildlife is the top rated activity on the Otago Peninsula yet the intriguing lime kiln heritage site or an outstanding gardens surrounding Larnach Castle are worthy of time spent exploring the Otago Peninsula. The Otago Peninsula offers history buffs plenty to do and see. Find out more about Dunedin & Otago Peninsula things to do.

Panorama of Otago Harbour from hillside over cemetery in Port Chalmers, New Zealand
Panorama of Otago Harbour from hillside over cemetery in Port Chalmers, New Zealand
Military tombstones with autumn leaves, New Zealand
Military tombstones with autumn leaves
  1. Manukau Memorial Gardens Chapel, 361 Puhinui Road, Papatoetoe

Military cemeteries and the loss of life

Military cemeteries are poignant reminders of the sheer loss of young lives. The birthdays and age bounce off the uniform tombstones as a stark reminder of the human cost of war. The cemetery is not simply a list of names on a public space; rather the military graves often stretch into the horizon with each grave representing a young life gone. No wonder Gallipo is such a powerful place in visitor’s memories. Reaching to the sky and horizon are orderly rows of crosses dedicated to forever young, forever dead.

New Zealand holiday ideas for military fans

New Zealand (and Australia) lost men and women in the major twentieth century conflicts, World War I & II. The story of loss of life, the individual stories is captured at two amazing attractions

Te Papa Museum, Gallipo exhibition deftly woved into a story under the tutelage of Sir Peter Jackson (creator and film maker)

Omaka Aviation Centre, Blenheim where the skies above, the aviators, their escapages and loss of life is narrated through the stories of the people who went and lost their lives.

Te Papa National Museum, Marae, Maori Meeting House, Wellington, NZ
Te Papa National Museum, Marae, Maori Meeting House, Wellington, NZ
  1. Dunedin Northern cemetery, 40 Lovelock Ave, North Dunedin

The story of immigration and quarantine stations

The immigration Island cemeteries established for passengers whose hopes and dreams were smothered in the thrall of a contagious disease are timely reminders of pandemics, of the frailty of life when faced with virant diseases. The Otago Station in Dunedin New Zealand and Sydney’s Quarantine cemetery narrate the story of immigration in an intensely personal way. The migrant came so far to dashed hopes on a hospital bed.

Port Chalmers with the distinctive spire of Iona Church in foreground, Otago, New Zealand
Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand

OTAGO & DUNEDIN is a #NZMUSTDO for heritage lovers on holiday in New Zealand. Dunedin is awash with cemeteries, outstanding views and fascinating tombstones

  • Historic hotels now an assortment of cafes and quirky shops
  • Art galleries and cafes tempting visitors to stay longer

Explore and wander along the Port Chalmers heritage trail, where to go and what to see – Best Bits.

Take time to discover QUARANTINE ISLAND. The island Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua has a wealth of stories from soldiers banished with venereal disease during World War I, several ship wrecks the requisite solitary cemetery with its burial mounds and quarantine buildings.

  1. Bolton street cemetery, Wellington

History is written in stone in a cemetery

The historic cemetery is a crafted landscape decorated to honour lives and it is a pleasure to visit with glorious statutes, inscriptions and plants. Another photo opportunity with sunset making a contrast between the light and dark shadows. The Bolton street cemetery is a testament to the political lives of the colony.

Wellington is a rich treasure trove for cemetery and heritage buffs. Matiu/Somes island, day trip from Wellington is a place where quarantined 19th century patients are buried. Even horses as Matiu Somes Island was an animal quarantine station. Wellington is home to the odd and unusual attractions from a colossal squid at Te Papa, National Museum to a cemetery honouring a cat. Lurk in the attic of the Wellington Museum among steampunk vignettes.

Wellington Bolton Street cemetery Two jewish tombs, from 1840 to 1892, New Zealand
Wellington Bolton Street cemetery Two jewish tombs, from 1840 to 1892
  1. Hallowell Cemetery, 176 Collingwood Street, Nelson

Adventures as discover hidden corners in a cemetery

Overgrown cemeteries, places half hidden behind concrete walls are fascinating. It gives the visitor the privilege of discovery, of adventure into a secret garden. The abandoned and collapsed tombstones, the cracked and broken memorial give our holidays a contemplative moment. You have found another space that belongs to the city or place you are visiting. You are exploring the ultimate local destination.

The Timeball station, Lyttelton, Christchurch New Zealand
The Timeball station, Lyttelton, Christchurch
  1. Lyttelton Anglican cemetery, 79 Canterbury Street, Lyttelton 8082

+ a short steep climb to the top of the hill

Cemeteries can take up very large tracts of land as every grave has its own real estate. Thousands of graves equates to plenty of space for a walk and exercise. Often the promontory the cemetery is located on provides cardiovascular effort to climb. A visit is definitely good for the soul and the body.

  1. Cemeteries – a chance to catch your breath, find your holiday zen moment

Cemeteries are great places to find the awe moment, to take time to catch your breath while on holiday. It is unusual for a cemetery to be packed with tourists and visitors. There seems to be an unspoken code, among visitors of social distance and giving individuals space to contemplate. There is often a seat for visitors to simply soak up the quiet, the sense of life, nature and the circles of timelessness that permeates the cemetery. Cemeteries rich quiet enables visitors to lose the sense of self, to be anonymous in the spectacle of the dead. The silent ghosts, the funeral finery reminds us wherever we are there is a universal element to the act of dying and burial that transcends gender, ethnicity or religion.

Thames Shortland Street historic cemetery views, Coromandel, New Zealand
Thames Shortland Street historic cemetery views, Coromandel, New Zealand

Related articles

For more ideas about places to visit reflecting the history of New Zealand


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


If you have a query about content, travel deals or anything else, our team is happy to answer all your questions 🙂

    Your information is secure, no third party involved.
    100% Safe, secure, privacy guaranteed. Privacy Policy.