How to spend a day in Oamaru

Positioned like a Whitestone icon in the South Island, Ōamaru has close ties to Dunedin, Christchurch, and Queenstown, making it a perfect spot for a daytrip or staycation. Step into the Victorian era, discover your Steampunk alter ego, spot the wildlife, or simply enjoy a good ol cup of coffee with friends—however you like your jaunts, Ōamaru has plenty to offer.

Here’s our top 6 ways to spend a daycation or staycation in welcoming Ōamaru:

If you happen to stroll past a cyclist on a penny farthing or a couple dressed to the 1900s you’ve likely stepped into the Victorian Precinct, the most well preserved Victorian streetscape in New Zealand. Here, the gothic past of Ōamaru is helpfully combined with cafes and charming stores you can spend several hours poring through.

Get your goggles on and head down to Steampunk HQ, an interactive museum that explores what the Victorian era would be like if it was just a little mad. Flickering with art installations and clever art-infused engineering you feel compelled here in the dark to spin every dial and turn every knob. Wait and see what happens…

The Galleries

A gallery discovery, from Art on Tyne to Forrester Gallery, will make you revel in Ōamaru’s accessible approach to art. There are no sparse, white walls in sight. You will be greeted by friendly artists with displays of bold paintings, sculptures, and historical finds.

As ethereal as a beach can get. Stroll along the golden sand and take in the cliff-top scenery—until dusk. This is when you must vacate the beach and go up to the viewing area to give the world’s rarest penguins a little space. Yellow-eyed penguins will waddle ashore to feed their young. It’s adorable to watch. You might also see a seal or two.

If you want to get lost on an adventure, don’t hesitate. Head out to the winding tracks in Cape Wanbrow, where you can explore a mix of cross country, downhill and uphill trails. You have to push and climb to get those breath-taking views overlooking Oamaru and the coast. It’s worth it. But will the way down with fleeting jumps, drops, and rooty obstacles be more fun? It just might.

Far from ice shelves and snow, Ōamaru appears an unlikely spot to find the world’s smallest penguins (kororā in Māori, or fairy penguins if you are feeling whimsical). And yet, you can hop on over to the colony, five minutes away from the township, every evening and book an evening experience. Listen, learn, and watch as these adorable seabirds, standing just 30cm tall, waddle ashore. Peak season (August-February) can see over 200 penguins coming back to their habitats from a hard days fishing.

You can get a good feel for Ōamaru in one day, but to see and do everything…well, you’ll just have to stay!

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