Dunedin’s most gloriously over-the-top house, the architectural dream that is its railway station, is located at the bottom of Stuart Street, looking uphill towards the Octagon, only a five-minute walk away.
Made of black basalt rock in 1906, it is lavishly painted with creamy white Oamaru limestone to highlight the many arches, pillars, towers, and pediments, and is dominated by its tall clock tower. From the intricate mosaic floor of Royal Doulton tiles in the main hall to the beautiful, and very fitting, stained-glass windows above, it’s just as busy with decoration on the inside.
Outside is the standard long platform, where trains always arrive and depart – the Seasider, which travels along the harbour past Port Chalmers on Sundays only, and the Inlander, which travels through the magnificent Taieri River Gorge to Hindon on weekdays.
The gardens in front of the building in Anzac Square are equally ornamented and well-kept, with tidy topiaried geometric hedges and colorful flowers.
It’s the world’s largest gingerbread home. George Troup, the station’s architect, was later dubbed “Gingerbread George” – probably to his chagrin, as he reportedly wanted a less colorful design for the station.
There’s more to appreciate than just the framework itself. The Otago Art Society has a gallery upstairs in some of the huge, well-lit rooms where, in addition to the wide range of art works on view, there will always be at least one, if not several, artists busy at their easels, but happy to speak to tourists. The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, on the other side of the stairwell, is full of photos and memorabilia from a variety of sports, including jerseys and equipment.
And if nature doesn’t call, don’t skip the station’s public bathrooms, which are still decked out.
If you’re looking for more of this grandiose architecture, the nearby law courts have a similar vibe, while the Chinese Garden, just down the road, provides a different take on ornate houses, complete with ponds and plants. You’ll pass the Toit Otago Settlers Museum on your way there, which is located within a row of architecturally diverse buildings and includes over 100,000 exhibits that are presented in an entertaining manner, with something to interest everyone.
If you get hungry, there’s a Cobb & Co restaurant inside the train station, or you can go across the street to Ironic Café and Bar, which serves award-winning Evoke coffee.