Culture & Heritage

Fill your days exploring our world-changing
and unforgettable past

Oamaru and the Waitaki have a rich history and heritage from Victorian streetscapes and Maori history to Steampunk and gorgeous galleries.


The Waitaki is steeped in Maori and early European settler history. Victorian streetscapes, ancient Maori rock art, museum collections, Steampunk HQ and gorgeous galleries filled with local art.

The Waitaki is home to beautiful buildings full of History. If you want to learn more about the architecture, head out to our Architecture page


Each November, Oamaru brings its Victorian heritage to life with a five-day celebration filled with top hats, hoop skirts and penny farthings. As winter descends, Oamaru is once more transformed from its Victorian past, but this time the multi-day celebration is all things steampunk – you don’t have to dress up, but these celebrations give you the perfect excuse.

Some heritage places in the Waitaki district have received Tohu Whenua status, indicating that they are recognised as being among New Zealand’s most significant heritage places in New Zealand

Duntroon

Campbell Park Homestead

Architecture Highway 83, Otekaieke Built 1876-9 for major sheep baron Robert Campbell, this mansion was designed by Dunedin architect N.Y.A. Wales. The limestone for the building was quarried on site and the roof slates are from near Herbert. During the 20th Century, the homestead was used as a special Government

Discover »
Maheno

Clark’s Mill

An important industrial landmark in beautiful North Otago houses four-storeyed Clarks Mill – New Zealand’s only surviving water-powered flour mill with early machinery still substantially intact. It was built as part of Totara Estate in 1866.

Discover »
Oamaru

Forrester Gallery

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET This former Bank of New South Wales was built at a time of rapid growth in Ōamaru. Designed by Dunedin architect Robert Lawson in 1883, the building forms a handsome pair in limestone with its equally imposing neighbour, the National Bank. Both have luxuriant acanthus leaves

Discover »
Dunback & Macraes

Historic Battery Walk

Walking Track The Golden Point Historic Reserve in Macraes protects remnants of Otago’s gold mining history. Here you can visit the Golden Point Stamper Battery, Callery’s House and Callery’s Battery Building. With a 5 minute walk up the hill, you can also venture into a tunnel from old mining days.

Discover »
Maheno

Kuriheka Stables

Architecture 8 kms inland from Maheno The basic plan for these handsome limestone stables is said to have come from Dresden – hence their Germanic Gothic styling. They were built 1889 for Colonel J. C. Nichols, who bought Kuriheka Station in 1885. Colonel Nichols was a noted collector of field

Discover »
Duntroon

Nicol’s Blacksmith

Walter Yardly became a blacksmith in Duntroon in 1896, after selling the business in 1904 to Nicol S. Muirden who retired in the 1960’s, and the smithy lay empty for 10 years. It was due for demolition in 1974 but was saved in 1975 by four local farmers; Burns Pollock, John Hore, the late Bill Simpson and the late Jim Harvey.

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru Heritage Walking Tours

Take a step back in time and discover Oamaru’s vibrant colonial history. Embark on a 90-minute easy-paced walk around the Historic Precinct and be immersed in Oamaru’s rich heritage, culture and geology with a knowledgeable local guide.

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru Opera House

The beautiful Oamaru Opera House stands resplendent in historic Thames Street, an intact, heritage-listed nineteenth century streetscape. Built over a century ago, the Oamaru Opera House has long been a hub for social, political and cultural activity, and continues to be the first choice for quality entertainment, meetings and conferencing

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru’s Courthouse

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET Arguably the finest building by the prolific local architectural partnership of Forrester and Lemon, the Ōamaru Courthouse was built in 1882-3, superceding an earlier courthouse to the south. The well- proportioned classical design reflects the influence of Palladian architecture. Supreme Court sittings were held here until

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru’s First Post Office

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET Now a restaurant, this former post office, built 1864 is now Ōamaru’s oldest surviving public building. It is the only known example of architect W. H. Clayton’s work remaining in the town and differs from its more elaborate neighbour, the second post office, which replaced it in

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru’s Former Post Office

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET Now the home of the Waitaki District Council, this elegant essay in limestone was designed by Forrester and Lemon in 1883, but without its clocktower. It was Thomas Forrester’s son John, who saw to the addition of the 28 metre high tower in 1903. The clock

Discover »
Oamaru

Oamaru’s National Bank

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET Originally built for the Bank of Otago in 1871, this elegant and dignified building was, like its neighbour, the Forrester Gallery, designed by Robert Lawson. The Bank of Otago, founded in 1863, was absorbed by the National Bank in 1875. 11 Thames StreetOamaru 9400 New Zealand

Discover »
Palmerston

Palmerston Historic Walk

Walking Track Distance : 3.8km This begins outside the Athenaeum Building that was commissioned on 30 October 1876 by an Act of Parliament. The original purpose for the building was for a Mechanics Institute/ Public Library for Palmerston. Across the road is the Zealandia Statue – a memoriam to those

Discover »
Kurow

St Alban’s Chapel and Vicarage Anglican Church

Architecture Highway 83, Kurow A disagreement over where the Waitaki Valley’s Anglican parish centre should be sited, resulted in this commodious vicarage, with small adjoining chapel in Kurow and the main church in Duntroon. Designed by John Forrester, the vicarage and chapel was built of locally quarried limestone, circa 1892-4.

Discover »
Oamaru

St Kevin’s College

Architecture OAMARU, Taward STREET This Catholic co-educational school was founded on the property known as Redcastle in 1927. The property had been that of the Hon. John McLean, a well-known run holder and benefactor. When his nephew, St John Buckley inherited the property in 1902, he built a large brick

Discover »
Duntroon

St Martin’s Anglican Church

Architecture Duntroon Designed by Christchurch architect Thomas Cane, who had formerly worked for the celebrated London architect Sir Gilbert Scott, this handsome Gothic revival structure was built of locally quarried limestone in 1901. Both St Martin’s and its vicarage in Kurow were built as the result of a generous bequest

Discover »
Oamaru

St Paul’s Presbyterian church

Architecture Coquet Street This fine church building rose in 1875 on the foundations of an earlier church building designed by Dunedin architect William Mason in 1864. Described as “unorthodox”, the earlier building was not favoured by the parish and was torn down. The new St Paul’s was designed by Forrester

Discover »
Oamaru

Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ is a unique museum of art, sound & light showing an altered universe set within an 1880’s Grain Elevator building in Oamaru. Featuring The Portal, a retro-futuristic mirror and lighting installation with original glowing light sculptures.

Discover »
Events

Steampunk NZ Festival

Along with the New Zealand’s premier Steampunk attraction, Oamaru also hosts the annual Steampunk NZ Festival, complete with fashion show, gala ball and even teapot racing! Yes, you did read that right – teapot racing!

Discover »
Duntroon

Takiroa Rock Art

Follow in the footsteps of our Maori forefathers who navigated the length of the Waitaki River and sheltered under limestone cliffs by visiting an ancient Takiroa Maori Rock Art site.

Discover »
Oamaru

Thames Street Bridge

Architecture OAMARU, THAMES STREET The central portion of this stone bridge over Ōamaru Creek was constructed in 1861 to link the old town centre with Thames Street in the north. Originally only 5.5 metres wide, the bridge was widened to its present width of 40.24 metres in 1876. Until 1932,

Discover »
Maheno

Totara Estate

New Zealand is said to be founded on the sheep’s back, and Totara Estate is central to this history. Situated south of Oamaru, the historic farm (originally 15,000 acres), was the birthplace of New Zealand’s billion dollar frozen meat industry.

Discover »
Duntroon

Vanished World Centre

The Centre has interpretive displays including unique world-class fossils – whales, dolphins, penguins, sharks and many shellfish while the trail introduces some key geological localities in North Otago.

Discover »
All Waitaki

Vanished World Trail

Explore the hidden depths of time throughout North Otago, with a glimpse into lands and seas long before our time.

This self-guided Trail spans coastal localities from Moeraki to Oamaru and extends inland through the Waitaki Valley.

Discover »
Maheno

Waianakarua Bridge

Architecture State Highway 1, Waianakarua An example of the work of John Turnbull Thomson, chief surveyor for the Otago Provincial Government, this twin-arched limestone bridge was constructed in 1874. Widened and strengthened during 2004-5, it is one of the oldest bridges still in use on a main state highway. The

Discover »
Oamaru

Waitaki Boys’ High school

Architecture OAMARU, Waitaki Avenue Like many other schools, Waitaki Boys’ grew as needs arose, but in this case, in the best English public school tradition, with additions following the original style. The first part was built 1883, followed by additions in 1905 and 1912 to designs by Forrester and Lemon.

Discover »
Oamaru

Waitaki Girls’ High school

Architecture OAMARU, TRENT STREET Established in 1887, Waitaki Girls today occupies a largely modern complex of buildings. Still dominating the Thames Street frontage, however, is the former junior school, which opened in 1928 to the design of Forrester and Steenson. Well-known novelist Janet Frame started here in 1935. Since the

Discover »
Oamaru

Waitaki Museum

The North Otago Museum collects and showcases a variety of artefacts and objects that tell the various natural, cultural, agricultural and industrial stories of the Waitaki District.

Discover »
Oamaru

Whitestone City

Located in the heart of Victorian Oamaru and fit-out in the style of a colonial town, where activities, displays, merchants, and an array of people in costume provide a glimpse of what Oamaru would have been like in the town’s early days.

Discover »