Do you think it’s possible to travel into the past?
Stephen Hawking thought so.
Scientists across the globe have long debated the bending of space and time, the paradoxes, and the mechanics, and while they’ve been (mostly) scratching their heads the township of Ōamaru has repeatedly succeeded in finding their way back to the Victorian era.
For the past three decades Ōamaruvians (and those who make the pilgrimage) have stepped back in time during the Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
These efforts don’t require a flying DeLorean, phone booth, or rocket sled, but the gumption of the locals, a league’s worth of history, several well-dusted copies of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, bushels of nostalgia, and a perfectly perched hat.
From the 11th to the 15th of November you are invited to explore historic Ōamaru as a real-life travelogue through time and space. Home to the most well-preserved Victorian streetscape in New Zealand, Ōamaru is a seaside haven where the café culture thrives and the past is celebrated.
With events throughout the week that include walking tours, talks, and photo opportunities, this look back in time is an unparalleled way for anyone to interact with the built-in heritage in NZ’s own backyard.
And then there’s the clothes! Today we all throw on what’s clean and walk out the door, but there’s nothing like the whisper of a silk skirt and the weight of a buttoned wool jacket to make you feel extra special. Whether folks dress for upstairs or downstairs the effort that goes into dressing for the occasion is always impressive. Outfits are showcased all week but you won’t want to miss the parade on Saturday.
Newcomers to the celebrations might be surprised to learn Ōamaru is one of the few places you can ride a penny farthing, a large-wheeled symbol of the Victorian era that also coincided with the beginning of cycling as a sport. The high riding position of the penny farthing may look daunting, but don’t be put off, once you get to grips with getting up and down it’s an exhilarating ride. For cycling enthusiasts it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Locals and visitors alike can also enjoy a range of events focusing on this year’s theme of Victorian literature including a character costume competition and an in-depth look at Ōamaru’s own Victorian renaissance man, William Henry Sherwood Roberts.
The Network Waitaki Victorian Fete promises fun for the whole family with top hats and street performers around every corner. As the annual fundraiser for the Ōamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, all proceeds go towards protecting and preserving their iconic heritage buildings.
So, are you ready to pop back to the past? Ōamaru is ready and waiting to welcome the would-be time traveller!
Thanks to Wendy Simpson, Sophia Leon de Barra, Elizabeth Perkinson, Helen Stead, and Jim Hopkins for agreeing to be interviewed for this blog post.