26 January 2018

Queen of Riverstone Castle

I probably wouldn't have known about Riverstone Castle if it wasn't for my Mum. For several years Mum has been fascinated by in an entrepreneur living in Otago, named Dot Smith - the Queen of the Riverstone Castle. And while we were staying in Oamaru we went for a visit. It was unbelievable!

Dot and her husband Neil (Smithy) have worked extremely hard ... seven days a week for over 40 years. And they're not ready to slow down yet!
When they first started out in the 1980s they had three mortgages. They started off buying a farm close to Oamaru that was once in the path of the Waitaki River. It was covered in stone similar to 'a gravel pit'. 
When their two children were young, along with milking cows and rearing calves, Dot began growing flowers and drying them. She turned one of the bays of their farm's six bay implement shed into a shop to sell dried flowers. Then each year afterwards a bay was transformed into a gift and homeware store - six years later there were six stores at Riverstone.
Fast forward a few decades and Dot and Neil now own six dairy farms running over 4000 cows. Their eldest son Mike managers one of the diary farms and Bevan their youngest son is a chef who runs their award winning restaurant 'Riverstone Kitchen'.

Gift and homeware shops with Wild West frontages.

Not only does Riverstone have giftware stores, it's also home to Riverstone Kitchen. The upmarket, Riverstone Kitchen won the Cuisine magazine New Zealand Restaurant of the year award in 2010 and were joint winners for the Best Casual Dining award in 2011.

Outstanding gardens, both fruit and vegetables supply the restaurant all-year round. While the restaurant was being built Dot and her son Bevan planted herbs and leafy greens in two raised beds. When Riverstone Kitchen opened in 2006 it was a roaring success (especially after winning the awards) and a further 24 raised garden beds were established to provide extra supplies needed for the restaurant.

Ever since reading Enid Blyton books as a child, Dot has been fascinated with castles. After several overseas trips including visits to European castles, Neil took Dot to a bare paddock on their farm and asked, 'What if I dug a hole, put a little island in the hole and built a castle on the island?' And the rest is history ...

Riverstone Castle was built from Oamaru stone, which was quarried locally. It sits on an island surrounded by water. This dream-like castle has it all ... turrets, marble floors, ceilings embellished with artwork, huge wooden doors, gold gilding, chandeliers, a dungeon, a secret tunnel ... you name it and Dot's Castle has it! 

I was intrigued as to why Dot chose to have pink hair, so I googled it. Turns out it happened purely by accident over 15 years ago when on holiday in Fiji. Dot dyed her haired and instead of turning brown it turned crimson. Her hubby didn't mind the colour and since then it's been a variety of shades of pink.

The Riverside Kitchen has long ceiling to floor windows, which look out across a long stretch of lush lawn towards the castle. Gardens border the lawn, with further gardens behind them that supply the restaurant with fresh vegetables and fruit all year round.

And children have been catered for too, with an interesting playground created with hours of fun in mind. It's robust and the weathered timber fit's perfectly with the farm environment. Dot designed the playground including a fort with a tower on each corner. And it's another feature that entices people to Riverstone.

Little nooks and crannies are nestled about the garden. The colour combinations are striking. It's an absolute credit to Dot & Neil.

There were some flowers and a few butterflies that I couldn't walk passed without stopping for a close up shot.

 Rustic farm implements are dotted about adding ambience to Riverstone.

A 1929 Ford truck.

Boxes of stock waiting to fill the already full shelves.

Peacocks are a symbol of beauty - and a reminder to take pleasure in life, which makes these magnificent birds the perfect fit to reside at Riverstone.

If you're interested in watching video clips about Dot and the making of Riverstone Castle, they can be seen on the 'Newsroom' website: click here.

The book 'Dot Queen of Riverstone Castle' is worth reading. In hindsight I wish I'd read it before I visited Riverstone because I missed a few things around the complex. Such as the mosaic plate seat made from Riverstone Kitchen's broken plates. And the henhouse 'Cluckingham Palace' which was designed from photos of Prince Charle's henhouses at Highgrove.

Riverstone is about 20 minutes north of Oamaru. If you're in the area make sure you don't miss it!


  1. Wonderful have to drop in for a look. Do you get to see the inside of the castle or is it their home?

  2. At this stage it's their home. I think after the building has been completed and they're all settled in, they will have some tours through the castle.

  3. Mike owns his own farm, and Bevan runs his restaurant business from a building he leases from his parents. Though he did have significant input into the building of it.



Leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you.