They may not have the ancient Baroque, Bohemian or Gothic architecture of their more fabled European counterparts but the castles of Australia and New Zealand are enchanting nonetheless. Constructed in the faux-medieval style by eccentric and decidedly well-heeled Antipodeans, these turreted fortresses have been converted into theme parks, events centres, hotels and fine dining establishments.
If you’re looking for an entertaining experience of the Dark Ages, the castles Down Under are well worth a visit.
The oldest and arguably most authentic castle in Oceania is Larnach Castle, once the private residence of banker and parliamentarian, William Larnach. Situated atop the Otago Peninsula and with sweeping views of Dunedin, the harbour and the Pacific Ocean, the vast stone edifice was constructed in 1871.
Only the very best materials were used in the build; Venetian glass, Welsh shale, Italian marble and English and French tiles. No expense was spared. As Larnach had made his fortune servicing the gold fields of first Australia and then New Zealand, hundreds of thousands of New Zealand dollars were paid to the European craftsmen who took 12 years to decorate the interior.
Despite his enormous wealth, Larnach committed suicide and the castle and estate soon became neglected and overgrown. It was purchased by the Barker family in 1967 and revamped to its former glory. During this period the now famous Larnach gardens were re-established. Today, the quarter of a hectare natural wonderland is recognised as a Garden of International Significance and is only one of six in New Zealand.
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Originally styled on England’s Warwick Castle and vastly expanded over the years, Camelot Castle is now a popular wedding and events venue that offers gourmet meals and overnight accommodation. Located close to the city of Adelaide in South Australia, the castle was commissioned by wealthy land agent, Albert Pinchbeck in 1936.
It was constructed from local stone by an Italian stone mason and today houses suits of armour, swords, shields and other typically medieval paraphernalia. Highlights are the lovely secluded gardens, the food and the entertaining theatrical enactments of the days of yore!
Kryal Castle was erected by 1972 by Ballarat local, Keith Ryall, who had rather appropriately made a small fortune manufacturing medieval body armour and weaponry. The boilermaker by trade had a fertile imagination, as is evident from the extraordinary detail that went into the both the construction of the castle and the original side shows – a Wax of Torture Museum, jousting competitions, public whippings, jesters and jugglers.
Today, the Melbourne attraction is a theme park, hotel and events centre. You can visit all sorts of ‘Disneyfied’ destinations that include the Arthurian-themed Knight’s Round Table, Wizard’s Workshop and Tower Dungeon. The original jousting tournament is still on the schedule but is more fantastical than authentic.
Built by immigrant Scots in 1972, Sunshine Castle is the ‘medieval’ cornerstone of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The rather vast structure is a hotchpotch of architectural styles, displaying smatterings of Norman, Medieval and Tudor towers, halls and facades.
Over the years it has been a doll museum, a castellated fairytale destination and a visitor attraction recognised for its display of genuine suits of armour from across Europe. In current times, Sunshine Castle is a popular venue for parties, functions and weddings. It hosts the annual Opera at the Castle, the showpiece of Bli Bli Australia!