The Leaning Houses of Dunedin

The world steepest residential street, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand
The leaning house of Dunedin

This is not a Pisa Tower envy, nor a purpose-built tourist attraction like puzzling world. This house is a real house, embedded at an extreme angle to the ground, just like in the picture. In fact, all the houses in the neighbourhood are at that angle too! So… how come?

 The leaning tower of Pisa, Italy
The leaning tower of Pisa

This is a house on Baldwin Street, in a pretty city called Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand. This street gained the title of the World’s Steepest Residential Street at 35% grade from the Guinness Book of Records, even though there’s a controversy about this title. I think the length of the road that is in great slope plays a big road in the title here, since I’ve seen many super slopey road before, but usually the extreme slope is only for a short distance, while Baldwin Street is about 350 meters long and the slope is the whole way.

 Baldwin Street, photo courtesy of Ulrich Neumann © at www.nzpix.com
Baldwin Street view, image by Ulrich Neumann © at www.nzpix.com

It was a gloomy day when we were in Dunedin. Dunedin itself is a pretty city with nice architecture near the gorgeous Otago Peninsula, where the rare royal albatross with its 3 meter wingspan can be found. Or so we heard, since when we were there nothing could fly without getting blown away in the howling wind and rain.

We arrived at the bottom of the Baldwin Street, about an hour or two after sunset. It was dark and rain was still falling. We looked up to the stretch of the road, and said, holy cow, it’s steep indeed for a residential area. Who would want their house in this location? We heard before that the steepness of streets in this location was not intentional, and that the grid-patterned street planning was done in back London, England, and they didn’t really considering the area’s topography in the planning so they ended up with this extreme slope.

Otago Peninsula, Dunedin, New Zealand
Gloomy day at Otago Peninsula, still gorgeous for me.

The beginning of the road is just mildly sloped, but it gets more angled further up. The road looked a little bit treacherous with the angle and the rain, and we were afraid a 3 point turn up there wouldn’t be that much fun. So we parked our car at the bottom and started sprinting up under the rain. Now we know who’d buy a house here: exercise lovers. They save money by not going to the gym, just jogging up and down the road!

Ryan jogged up much faster than me. Not only he is stronger than me, but also he hated rain. I didn’t mind the rain since I’d been rained a lot that day for taking pictures anyway, while Ryan was waiting in the car (he drives, I navigate and take photos). We didn’t get all the way up since it rains even harder. He was not very patient when I started setting up my camera under the rain in perfect parallel to the road angle to take long-exposure night shot of a pretty house there, with him as a model in the picture (meaning he was not allowed to move much).

He was even more impatient when I asked him to take my photo with the house, and managed taking a full body photo of me in front of the house without much of the house, with totally straight angle to the gravity. He managed to take the least interesting photo possible! No, Ryan, I want the cool angle! Ryan, please stand further back, I want the whole house in! But he jogged away already with the camera…

Have a told you before that I have unreasonable phobia of walking on slippery angled surface? The gush of the rain water down the road didn’t help. Just don’t buy me a house here, except you think it could be a good therapy for me. This street is a no joke though. In 2001, there was a 19 year old university student that was killed instantly after sledging down the road inside a wheelie bin (big garbage bin with wheels) and crashing into a parked trailer at the bottom. Ryan realized I walked too slowly, so he ran back to me, and dragged me down the hill. Thanks, Ryan!

Whew, we got to the car. Wet but happy. We giggled a little bit, drank some sips of flat room-temperatured L&P soda from a gigantic 2L bottle or so, and we were on our way again!

The world steepest residential street, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand
No, no Ryan, wrong angle! Step back…

PS-1: I ended up happy with Ryan’s shot of me, because it is in contrast with my shot. Letting us seeing the street from 2 different points of view (literally).

PS-2: Do you realize that the house’s mail box is made parallel to the street angle, not to the gravity?

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25 Responses to “The Leaning Houses of Dunedin”

  1. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World
    24 November 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Lol, that must’ve been quite an exercise walking up/down that street.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World´s last post…Being A Vegetarian On The Road

    • Dina
      24 November 2010 at 6:06 pm #

      The residents must be healthy indeed!

  2. Heather
    24 November 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    If I go to NZ, I’m gonna have to include this street in my “must see list” — forget jogging the street, walking it would be an insane workout!!!
    Heather´s last post…Living the dream- 6 months in

    • Dina
      24 November 2010 at 6:11 pm #

      Hehe, just avoid sliding down the street in a wheelie. Dunedin is in the way if you travel along the East coast of South Island. There are other stuff to do there, so you might actually stop in the city. The train station is gorgeous, and Otago Peninsula will make a gorgeous drive on a clear day.

  3. Nancie (Ladyexpat)
    24 November 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    If I ever get to this street I hope they have people giving rides to the top in those traveling chairs! That is one steep hill Great shots Dina.

    • Dina
      26 November 2010 at 5:53 pm #

      That will be a fun ride, maybe you should try that :) (and let me know hoe it is!)

  4. Poi
    25 November 2010 at 6:00 am #

    I was thinking I would love to ride my bike out of there and down the hill everyday until I realised I would have to climb back up at some point.

    • Dina
      26 November 2010 at 5:55 pm #

      Hahaha, then you will need to climb back up everyday..

  5. Melvin
    25 November 2010 at 9:15 am #

    We’ve drove up there & it was fun! I even have a video about it… but I won’t say where you’ll find it, as I don’t like to add links into comments. LOL

    There is always a discussion where the steepest road of the world is… but calling it “the World Steepest Residential Street” is quite smart! :)

    I wouldn’t cycle up there… only down! :)
    Melvin´s last post…A corner full of local Bratislavas tastes – A really locals place!

    • Dina
      26 November 2010 at 5:56 pm #

      It was a fun road isn’t it! I would love to see the video, you are so welcome to add the link here!
      Maybe cycle up is super heavy, but cycle down quite look dangerous as well. I’m horrible with bike, will end up in hospital!

  6. lusia
    26 November 2010 at 3:01 am #

    Ahahahaa…mailbox nya siiiipppp…..
    Mgkin kl ryan motretnya ngelurusin jalan, bakal lebi keren din, wkwkwkwk…

    • Dina
      26 November 2010 at 5:57 pm #

      Hehe, yang rancang mailboxnya pintar yah

  7. Andrew Graeme Gould
    26 November 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    I love Dunedin, and all of that wonderful country. A pity I didn’t know about the house when I was there. Very nice post!
    All the best from Chile…
    Andrew Graeme Gould´s last post…El centro- Santiago- Chile- 4 Aug- 21 Oct

    • Dina
      26 November 2010 at 5:59 pm #

      Hi Andrew, thank you! How are you doing in Chile? It’s a beautiful place indeed. I didn’t know about the street as well at that time, good thing Ryan knew (and remembered!)

  8. jay
    26 November 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    I don’t blame you for being afraid of slipping down that hill, from the first picture it looks like it would be pretty slick with the rain! Thanks for sharing the pictures. I’m not sure that I would want to live there but it would be fun to check out someday.
    jay´s last post…Going On A Media Consumption Diet

  9. Juno
    26 November 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    Haha I remember the feeling! :) Baldwin street is something! :) I don’t normally interested in ‘the world best’ or something bit I really enjoyed it!! :-) Funny hehhe

  10. Sabina
    26 November 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    “Unreasonable phobia of walking on slippery angled surface” no, you never told me that before. It’s the fear of falling backwards? I guess it would be kind of freaky, although I’ve never experienced it much.

    nyway, this neighborhood looks incredible!! I would love to see it. The people who are living in these slanting houses, they must develop some problems with their backs, hips, knees and everything else need to support their weight as they walk back and forth every day at an angle. Even when I’m walking on a beach where the sand is slanting up a hill and one side of my body is higher than the other, it can start hurting after a while. Did you just stumble upon these houses, or did you know they were there and go visit it on purpose?

  11. Chris
    27 November 2010 at 9:56 am #

    The picture of the stormy coastline is stunning. I’m disappointed we won’t get to hit Dunedin while we’re in New Zealand, but it’s not too far away if I ever fancy a trip of my own.

    Thanks for the NZ links by the way. Fallon spent ages poring over your entries on the subject :-)
    Chris´s last post…Photo of the Week- Jejudo

  12. Erica
    28 November 2010 at 5:44 am #

    Looks like a hill ripe for ice sledding (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ice_Sledding.jpg)!

    I couldn’t imagine attempting to jog up that hill (half because I’m too lazy).
    Erica´s last post…Nameless No More

  13. @AlexBerger
    29 November 2010 at 11:14 am #

    I had to view this post sideways. Loved it!
    @AlexBerger´s last post…The Day I Fell In Love With Copenhagen

  14. Zablon Mukuba
    30 November 2010 at 11:32 am #

    its amazing how you guys went up and down the steep hill when its raining. the hill is already too much trouble then you add on rain. if it was me i would have been in doors all the time

  15. Jen
    3 December 2010 at 9:08 am #

    There’s a street in San Fran called LOMBARD ST that’s just as bad, if not worse. Don’t know the numbers but this street is so steep that it is zig-zaggy, and looks as such on the city map…pretty insane. And seriously, travelers don’t need a gym membership because these crazy roads, stairs and sidewalks are enough to burn the fat off.

  16. Randy
    6 December 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Wow! That is unbelievable. The details about this infamous street are amazing.

  17. Gorilla Safaris in Uganda
    3 February 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Dunedin remains very fond in my memories. I still remember my visit to Newzealand in 2007. I had a privilege of staying in one of those angled homes or should i say leaning homes.

  18. Matthew
    1 April 2011 at 6:38 am #

    Thanks for the lovely new pic of my house =)
    Glad you noticed my mail box too. I set it that way quite on purpose to mess with the people who take photos with the street level and the house angled ;)

    There are other photos of the street (including streakers!) on the website (actually my wife’s blog).

    Thanks for visiting! :)
    Matthew´s last post…This week I

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