Off the Beaten Track to... Oamaru
Oamaru is the largest town in North Otago on New Zealand's South Island and lies on the coast of the Waitaki District, between Timaru and Dunedin. This small town, with a population of about 12,000, is often visited by travellers and tourists keen to see the colonies of blue and yellow-eyed penguins that make Oamaru their home.
However, it is also of interest for other (lesser-known) attractions such as those highlighted below:
- Annual Mask Festival – Held in July and established by the work of local sculptor, painter and performance artist, Donna Demente (best known for her papier-mache sculptures of Greek goddesses and carnival characters).
- Victorian Heritage Fête – Takes placing annually in November, this fete celebrates Oamaru's Victorian heritage. Its historic precinct, built in the late 19th century is New Zealand's most complete Victorian streetscape encompassing the Criterion Hotel and businesses including a bookbinder, a book shop, an auto collection, cafés, restaurants, three antique shops, art galleries and a regular Sunday market.
- Hiking and biking – Local walkways provide sea views, unique vantages over the town’s historic attractions and the chance to enjoy the solitude of our wide open spaces. Self guided and guided walking tours are available around the town, including a walk taking in places of interest in the life of locally-born author, Janet Frame.
- Criterion Hotel – One of Oamaru's beautiful limestone building, this hotel is possibly the only establishment in New Zealand with a 'ladies only' bar. Having run dry in 1906 due to prohibition, the Criterion re-opened in 1998 and nowadays The 'Snug' is a great place for a quiet drink.
- Eco-tourism – Not only can you view blue-eye penguins at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and Visitor Centre and yellow-eyed penguins at Bushy Beach, you can also view see fur seals along Oamaru beaches and Moeraki.
- Family friendly beaches – All Day Bay, Campbells Bay and Friendly Bay offer some of the South Island's finest beaches sporting white sand, rock pools and plenty of space for relaxing, strolling, paddling, swimming and surfing.
- Waitaki Lakes – Formed by the Waitaki Dam in 1935, Lake Aviemore, Lake Benmore and Lake Waitaki offer visitors great camping, boating, fishing and water skiing opportunities.
- Moeraki Boulders – Situated 40 kilometres south of Oamaru, the famous boulders are over 65 million years old and according to Māori tradition are gourds and calabashes (traditional Māori food) washed up from the wreck of the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru.
Oamaru is one of the South Island's most interesting towns from a cultural point of view and well worth an overnight stay. The locals are friendly and welcoming, the cuisine is excellent – enjoy fresh local produce such as blue cod, lamb and beef and wines from the Waitaki Valley and Central Otago, but most of all – simply relax. Find out more by following the links below:
Book your Oamaru Accommodation online.