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Town of the Month (Part II)

by Kerry Meadows-Bonner

With its rich limestone architecture, stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from its harbour and most famous for its blue penguin colony sits Oamaru, one of the largest ‘best wee’ towns in North Otago.

Oamaru was laid out in 1858 by Otago’s provincial surveyor, John Turnbull Thompson whom named the streets after British rivers. In the 1860s the town discovered riches through livestock production and goldmining, with the latter serving as the country’s biggest gold strikes in the 1860s. Although famously known for being an important port town, it wasn’t until the 1870’s that Oamaru’s Harbour Breakwater was established. With a population of around 13,000, it offers plenty of historic and adventurous things to see and do in the country’s coolest and oldest town.


Start your morning off with the Harbour side walkway, only a short (1.4km) route through the heart and hub of Oamaru. Starting at the Oamaru Railway Station, stroll through the botanical/public gardens and around the back of its famous Victoria Precinct and the path towards Friendly Bay and you’ll end up at Blue Penguin Colony


One of the popular tourist and local attractions that allows visitors to see the blue penguin colony in their natural environment. Day and night tickets are available where you can peek into their nests and learn about their habitat and at night watch the penguins return to short from their day’s fishing. As a tourism operation with a strong focus on research and conservation it is a unique and special experience for all.


Step back in time to Oamaru’s colonial times with a 90 minute walking tour around its historic precinct that houses some of country’s best preserved Victoria commercial buildings made from local quarried limestone. An easy walking tour for all ages, by day you’ll get to see galleries, café’s, antiquarian bookshops, vintage clothing stores and more inside these famed buildings.


One of Oamaru’s quirkiest attractions is its homage to everything Steampunk with its museum boasting light, sound and an alternate universe! As a retro-futuristic subgenre of science fiction, it incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century steam powered machinery. A must see interactive experience for all ages and if you love what you see be sure to take note of the annual Steampunk festival that takes place between May 3rd-June 7th. One of the largest Steampunk festivals in the Southern Hemisphere!


Amongst its cobbled precinct, there is plenty of choice when it comes to food in Oamaru. Housed in what used to be an 1800’s drapery then bookstore Tees Street (on Tees Street) is a great place to grab a hearty brunch and coffee to start the day of exploring. Owned and run by a husband and wife team it’s a popular place for anyone passing by and has gourmet cabinet food uses organic vegetables.


If a liquid lunch is more your style then you’ll be hard pressed to go past Scott’s Brewery, the country’s only gluten free independent craft beer producers located on the waterfront. Sit back and relax with a selection of their beers or wine and maybe a stone baked pizza for later.


If you need something a bit more lively after all; that beer and pizza then end the night with some live music at the famed Penguin’s Entertainers Club Inc. Created in 1990 by a collection of musicians in need of practise jam spaces and a hangout spot, the existence of Penguins Club is marked in musical history and a hot spot for international bands and artists.

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elocal Digital Edition – March 2021 (#240)

elocal Digital Edition
March 2021 (#240)

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