Fort Taiaroa and its Disappearing Gun
Dunedin, New Zealand
- Fort Taiaroa: Learn how the tip of the peninsula went from Maori fortified settlement to an underground fort in the 1880s, then guarded against Japanese invasion in World War II.
- Going underground: Explore the tunnels and the ammo magazines that supplied the fort's various guns, and inspect the barracks that once housed over 100 men.
- Now you see it, now you don't: See the only fully restored Armstrong disappearing gun in the world, still in working condition and set in its original strategic position.
About This Dunedin Tour
It was a marvel of ingenuity and military technology in 1886 – a powerful weapon against would-be invaders, strategically positioned at the highest point of Taiaora Head.
The Armstrong disappearing gun was the ideal weapon for Fort Taiaroa. The fort's gun placements were hidden by earth parapets to make them harder to spot and target by the gunners of an invading fleet. The Armstrong gun went one better; it was designed with a hydraulic system that used its recoil force to power it down to a hidden pit where it could be reloaded and re-aimed, storing enough energy to raise it back up for the next shot.
Pop up, shoot, hide: a deadly game of whack-a-mole, with the mole firing six-inch, 1,000-pound shells back.
With a range of 8,000 yards, and an observation platform that allowed spotters to precisely calibrate distance, the Armstrong gun could keep enemy ships too far offshore to land troops. By the time of World War II, the original fear of Russian invasion had been replaced by the much more substantial threat of the Japanese Navy, and seven additional guns were installed at Taiaroa – including three quick-firing guns for repelling fast-moving torpedo boats.
The Armstrong BL Mark V was restored to working condition in 2014 and stands ready to fire, polished to a gleam. But Fort Taiaroa has been turned into a museum. And the observation platform is used for a much more benign purpose: watching the Royal Albatross colony. Still, it's hard to resist scanning the distant horizon for the menacing profile of an invasion fleet.
War and peace
Taiaroa Head's defense fortifications were built in response to real and perceived threats spanning the aftermath of the Crimean War and World War II. But it's also a place of peace. It was here, in 1840 that one of nine official copies of the Waitangi Treaty was signed, creating a permanent bond between the British and the Maori and giving birth to a new nation.
Please make your way to 1260 Harington Point Rd, Harington Point to begin your adventure.
Bring small coins for the bathroom. Take a light jacket or rain coat for the weather.
The amount of walking is at the traveler's discretion while visiting the attraction. Varying surfaces will be encountered during your tour.
Cultural, Tickets, Walking Tour
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Non-refundable if canceled within 24 hours of requested services.
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