Dunedin Leisure Lodge's Storied History

Dunedin Leisure Lodge was built in 1978 on the site of one of Dunedin's original and at one time, New Zealand's largest breweries - the McGavin Union Brewery. The brewery which brewed its last beer in 1958 was relocated to the Speights Brewery in 1971, however to honour the rich history, some of the early site has been preserved and the hotel showcases nods to the brewery's past.

The stone Oast House (a former malt house) was redeveloped as a conference venue suitable for up to 50 people. With its magnificent locally quarried bluestone walls as a backdrop, this former brewery site is a novel & popular place to gather for smaller meetings, private dinners and special ceremonies such as weddings. In addition, the larger function room which hosts up to 100 people and the on-site restaurant took on the name of the old brewery, the McGavin Room and McGavin's Restaurant and Bar.

The History of McGavin Union Brewery & its Founder
George Lindsay McGavin was born and raised in Kirriemuir, Scotland in 1831, before coming to Dunedin in 1861, after a period of  working in the Victorian Goldfields, where he apparently had considerable success. After the gold rush, McGavin undertook various jobs in Dunedin, before buying an existing brewery (McNichol’s Duke St Brewery) which he mostly rebuilt.

McGavin Union Brewery was established in 1882 and operated by McGavin and Co, which originally consisted of Mr George McGavin, Mr Alexander McGregor, and Mr William Smith. After the death of Smith and the retirement of McGregor, Mr William Smith Junior joined the company. McGavin passed away in 1896 and Mr George Wright, McGavin's nephew, teamed with William Smith Junior to run the very successful brewing business.

In 1890 McGavin & Co acquired the adjacent Water of Leith brewery site, including the 1871 stone malt house, with18 inch thick walls built of bluestone from the nearby Leith quarries, known as Oast House. 

Thirty people were employed at the extensive property, encompassing an acre and a half of land which held the two breweries and malthouses. This included three permanent travellers who visited customers throughout the country.

McGavin Union Brewery was successful from the start and became particularly well known for their stout. The brewery earned over thirty awards in its time, both nationally and internationally. It was described as resembling English Ale in taste and impossible to distinguish the difference.

New Zealand Breweries was formed in 1923 which was made up of ten breweries throughout the country, including McGavin's, Speight's & Strachan's. A change in brewing meant that the small McGavin brewery did not survive the merger for long, as it could not keep up with the new method of brewing. It was sold to R Powley & Co in 1949 and brewing ended in 1958. It was sold back to New Zealand Breweries to be used just for bottling. The brewery was eventually re-located to the Speight's Brewery in 1971 and most of the buildings, apart from the historic Oast House malt house were demolished in 1974 to allow for alterations to the one-way system on State Highway 1.

In 1978 Dunedin Leisure Lodge was built on the site and the remaining historic malt house was transformed into a conference venue, where people still gather for small meetings, private dinners and weddings to this day.

Otago University Hocken Collection
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand - Otago & Southland Provincial Districts
Geni – My Heritage Company
Brett McDowell Gallery
Otago Daily Times Issue 6430 21 Sep 1882



Dunedin Leisure Lodge's Storied History
Dunedin Leisure Lodge - A Distinction HotelDunedin Leisure Lodge's Storied History
Dunedin Leisure Lodge - A Distinction HotelDunedin Leisure Lodge's Storied History
Dunedin Leisure Lodge - A Distinction Hotel