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Local highlights to visit while you are in the area:
Ōamaru is often called the “Whitestone City” and the area “Whitestone Waitaki”. Limestone is found in many parts of the country, and it’s the creamy colour of Ōamaru stone that’s made it so popular as a decorative building material and a substance for carving beautiful sculptures like these from a local Oamaru sculptor, Ian Andersen.
Whitestone City is also the name a converted grain and seed merchants store that was part of a bustling and grand Victorian town and now houses a replica barber shop, dispensary, theatre, parlour and school room. It also hosts the only Penny Farthing carousel in NZ for you to ride on, and you can enjoy being dressed up in the style of the Victorian era and have your portrait taken if you so wish.
And then there is the Whitestone Cheese Factory, the second largest specialty cheesemaker in the country. Their excellent cheeses are available across the NZ, but with around 50% of production exported to Japan, Australia and the USA. We recommend a visit to their factory store while you are in town.
With two penguin colonies, Ōamaru is also a great place to see the world’s cutest penguins – the little blue and yellow-eyed species that make their home on the Ōamaru coast. Tours run daily to the penguin colonies, but the best time to see these special creatures is at night as they return from a day of foraging in the surrounding sea. Shag Point is an ideal vantage point for native birdlife and observing New Zealand fur seals basking on the rocks.
Ōamaru is, in part, a Victorian city with rows of magnificent colonnaded buildings, including old banks, a post office, old hotels and large stores. The entire area is like you’ve travelled back in time. The buildings are slowly being gently restored and refurbished there are also several shops specialising in ‘collectibles’ with a lolly shop, a Victorian book-binding business and a second-hand bookshop.
Then is also Clarks Mill at Reidston 12km south of Ōamaru which is a historic flour mill housing the country’s only surviving water-powered flour mill inside striking stone and timber buildings. For much older relics there are Māori rock paintings in the Waitaki Valley and the Vanished World Heritage Trail and Centre (a fossil centre at Duntroon) to visit.
The art museum with a difference is a total must-do when visiting Ōamaru. Go through the ‘portal’ to see the Gadgetorium and retro-futuristic sci-fi art, movies, sculpture and sound exhibits while you are here. www.steampunkoamaru.co.nz
Riverstone Kitchen, Gardens, Castle and Country Giftshops
A top class restaurant in extensive gardens with just as extensive giftshops, with one woman’s dream of castle living right next door. Worth a visit to wonder and be amazed.