Dominion Observatory, Wellington
Image: Richard Nester | DOC


Situated in Wellington's Botanic Gardens is the historic Dominion Observatory where New Zealand's time was determined using astronomical observations. In 1916 the observatory also became the site of New Zealand’s first seismic research.

Take a walk through the Botanic Gardens or catch the cable car up to the Observatory where you will be rewarded with fantastic views over Wellington City and Harbour.  Pack a picnic or stop at the nearby café.  While there why not take the opportunity to view the nearby Garden Battery.

Keeping New Zealanders on time

Built in 1907 to track New Zealand standard time, the Dominion Observatory kept the country on time and played an international role as part of a global network of timekeeping observatories.

On shaky ground

From 1916 the first official seismological observations from within New Zealand were recorded here.  Automated equipment continues to measure local seismological activity.

Built on a battery

This Edwardian Baroque style building has an unusual orientation because it was built over the magazine of the Garden Battery (1896).  The battery’s underground concrete bunker remains intact and was adapted to house seismological equipment.

A fine example of our historic heritage

In 2003, after being vacant for almost 10 years, DOC gave the building a $250,000 facelift which included earthquake strengthening, structural repairs and refitting. It is now a unique and interesting home for a number of private businesses. Public access is not permitted except during specified open days.

Celebrations held in 2007 acknowledging the centenary of the building highlighted the importance and role the Observatory played in tracking time for New Zealand.

Getting there

The Observatory is located in Wellington on Salamanca Road, Kelburn.  Follow one of the many tracks through the Botanic Gardens or catch the cable car from Lambton Quay and follow the signs.

Public access

The building is now leased to private business. For this reason the building is not accessible by the public except on specified open days.

Related links

Dominion Observatory factsheet (PDF, 359K) 

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