Dunedin’s first major cemetery opened in 1858, and you can see the wear in the headstones. Perched atop a hill overlooking the large flat basin that makes up most of the town centre, the dearly departed have a lovely sweeping view of the city they died in. With five main sections, including Chinese and Jewish plots, there is a wide range of dead people to be found on the hilltops. The lack of a map makes it difficult to navigate, but the beautiful scenery and memorable headstones make it easy to lose track of time and get lost in the headstones. Truly a gorgeous spot, not spooky at all.
Famous resident: Thomas Burns - early settler and religious leader in Dunedin.
Best time to go: Sunrise.
Chosen for its beautiful location overlooking the city and the harbour, Northern Cemetery received its first cadaver in 1872. With weaving paths forging routes through the trees, this cemetery is full of beautiful, hidden graves. This is a personal favourite of mine, and I can always find something I’ve never seen before. It’s the perfect combination of spooky and peaceful. Northern Cemetery provides a spot for frequent bacchanal excursions, but it’s also welcoming to dog walkers, which is always a plus. Boasting plenty of places to sit and read or think, this is definitely the place to be when you’re feelin’ blue.
Famous resident: William Larnach (of Larnach Castle).
Best time to go: A spooky, overcast day.
Anderson’s Bay Cemetery:
This is the largest cemetery in Dunedin and one of the largest in the South Island. Andersons Bay Cemetery is breathtaking. Overlooking St. Kilda, the view is a seascape vista atop the hill, giving the cemetery a floating feeling. Originally known as the Eastern Necropolis, this ominous name was replaced (it probably could have been given to Port Chalmers Old Cemetery). It’s a good place to bring friends to look out at the ocean and reminisce on something nostalgic. On a clear day you can see the subtle curvature of the Earth on the ocean horizon, so it’s a great place to bring those pesky Flat Earth mates to learn them. Overall has a wholesome feeling, maybe the wind blows away the ghosts.
Famous resident: Edmund Anscombe - one of the key architectural designers of the University of Otago.
Best time to go: Sunset.
Port Chalmers Old Cemetery:
There is considerably less information about this cemetery online, which only adds to its incredibly spooky atmosphere. If you’re a horror movie fan or like particularly creepy things, I would definitely recommend this cemetery. Nestled in a dark, wooded area overlooking residential Port Chalmers, the headstones are very old but in surprisingly good condition. There's an inescapable feeling of being watched from somewhere beyond the heavy pines that enclose the small clearing. Perhaps that’s what makes this cemetery a favourite of people who enjoy fucking in graveyards. Although hilly and a little tedious to navigate, Ye Olde Cemetery boasts some interesting finds if you’re willing to brave the walk and the spooky vibe.
Famous resident: Honestly, not sure. But someone there will be famous.
Best time to go: Not at night, unless you’re cruising for some sex.
Port Chalmers New Cemetery:
The New Cemetery is much lighter than the old cemetery, and it overlooks a sheltered bay and the giant shipping docks. Port Chalmers New Cemetery is a lovely spot, as evidenced by the couple I accidentally busted having sex there (I helpfully pointed them in the direction of the Old Cemetery, which everyone knows is a far superior sex club). There are not as many headstones here, and it’s particularly steep, but the headstones are definitely interesting enough to warrant a gander. The anchor makes a frequent appearance, which is unsurprising given the cemetery’s proximity to the ocean. Many a salty dog has been laid to rest here, in lieu of a watery grave. Overall this cemetery is rather small, so it’s easy to see most of the headstones without dedicating a whole day to exploring. The headstones are in good condition overall, so if grave rubbings are your thing, this would be a good spot to check out.
Famous Resident: The Mill Family - John Mill was the Mayor of Port Chalmers for three terms.
Best time to go: A clear afternoon.