Tohu Whenua in Otago

The vivid landscapes of Otago provide a picture-perfect setting for stories of discovery, courage, entrepreneurship, and prosperity contributing to New Zealand's economic development. 

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Compelling, engaging, moving – and located in some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand – Tohu Whenua take visitors on a journey through the stories and awe-inspiring places that continue to inspire us today. When we experience these places, we gain a deeper understanding of who we were, who we are, and who we will be in the future. 

The places

  • Arrowtown - one golden village, two tales
  • Bannockburn Sluicings - Man-made badlands
  • Dunedin Railway Station - a first-class destination
  • Hayes Engineering Works - A home of Kiwi invention
  • Historic Oamaru - A Victorian time capsule
  • Larnach Castle - New Zealand's castle
  • Kawarau Suspension Bridge - A leap of faith
  • Olveston - A slice of grand Edwardian life preserve
  • Otago Central Rail Trail - Pedalling Otago's rural heart
  • Taieri Gorge Railway
  • Totara Estate - Putting New Zealand sheep on the world table
  • TSS Earnslaw - Lady of the lake.

Explore as many of Otago's Tohu Whenua as you can to find the connections between the stories, land and people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Download this handy reference (pdf, 1.3mb) to use as a guide for your journey or visit www.otagoandmarks.nz to learn more about the fascinating history you'll see along the way.

  • TSS Earnslaw

    Lady of the Lake: a slow boat to paradise, this grand steamship from 1912 is one of New Zealand’s original tourist attractions.  Image: Richard Nester DOC

  • Kawerau Suspension Bridge

    A bridge over a canyon that in 1880 pushed design limits - a century later it became the birthplace of bungy. Image: Matthias Klappenbach CC BY 2.0


  • Otago Rail Trail

    The famous Rail Trail takes you through traditional country towns and sheep-farming land farmed by families for many generations.  Image: oneshot_1022899

  • Arrowtown Cinese Mining Camp

    The picturesque preservation of two very different gold rush communities – Chinese and European – in Arrowtown.  Image: Kathrin and Stefan Marks Flickr CC BY-SA 

  • Bannockburn Sluicings

    Explore the spectacular landscape that remains from large-scale water blasting during the 19th century search for gold. Image: Sarah Stewart Flickr CCL

  • Hayes Engineering

    The workshop and homestead of Ernest Hayes, a New Zealand inventor who excelled at Number 8 wire ingenuity.  Image: Grant Sheehan for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

  • Taieri Girge Railway

    Linking Central Otago with Dunedin, the Taieri Gorge Railway was responsible for bringing town and country together.  Image: oneshot_10004570

  • Dunedin Railway Station

    An exuberant expression of New Zealand’s confidence in rail – right through to its littlest room.  Image: Dunedin City Council


  • Larnach Castle

    The ultimate expression of 'my home, my castle' where no expense was spared.  Image: Larnach Castle

  • Totara Estate

    Totara Estate - the birthplace of our billion-dollar meat export industry.  Image: Grant Sheehan for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

  • Oamaru Historic Area

    A grand Victorian streetscape carved in distinctive local stone and built on the bounty of wool and grain. Image: Waitaki District Council

  • Olveston

    Wealthy, civic-minded benefactors left this grand Edwardian mansion and its contents to the people of Dunedin.  Image: Olveston Historic House