Relive the grandeur of Victorian-era prosperity and come face-to-face with waddling penguins as you explore North Otago’s largest town.
Pause for a while in the slow-moving coastal town of Oamaru to discover fascinating archaeological sites, 19th-century architecture and a harbour inhabited by yellow-eyed penguins. Oamaru is the largest town in the North Otago region and has played an important role in the South Island’s cultural fabric since the late 19th century. At one time the humble town was one of the most prosperous in the Pacific, helped by a boom in resources including gold, timber and stone. While the boom didn’t last to the end of the century, the results remain visible in Oamaru’s lavish streetscapes.
With views across the Pacific Ocean from its picturesque harbour, Oamaru’s natural beauty matches its man-made charm. Nestle yourself into a penguin hide to watch as yellow-eyed penguins clamber ashore at sunset or head out to sea at dawn. Drive about 40 minutes south of town to the Shag Point Scenic Reserve or the Moeraki Lighthouse for more penguins. Join local fishermen at the harbour to venture out to sea on a charter to see dolphins playing at the bow of the boat.
With great fishing comes great seafood. Oamaru is the site of many prominent restaurants. Enjoy freshly caught fish coupled with a glass of wine from one of New Zealand’s well-known grape-growing regions. Afterwards, take in a performance at the Oamaru Opera House, which dates back to 1907. For cultural curiosities, visit the Grainstore Gallery for local live music and an atmosphere that is unrivalled in the town.
Located just a 90-minute drive north of Dunedin, Oamaru can be visited as a daytrip. Enjoy a longer visit to be rewarded with a unique New Zealand experience away from the crowds of the South Island’s major natural attractions. Accommodation is plentiful in the area. Discover several restaurants and cafés in the heart of town.