Visit Kurow, Oamaru / Waitaki, NZ

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  • Kurow is a small town in the upper Waitaki Valley, a landscape of limestone mountains, rivers and lakes. Water-based recreation is popular around the Waitaki River, which is one of New Zealand’s best for jet-boating and kayaking.

    The hydro lakes of Waitaki, Aviemore and Bemore are a short way upstream from Kurow. These are popular locations for boating, picnicking and mountain biking. Fly-fishing for trout and salmon is very good in these lakes and their connecting rivers.

    The St Mary Range of mountains looms above Kurow. The town is named after Mount Bitterness, which was called “kohurau” (many mists) by Maori inhabitants. There are many interesting rock features of eroded limestone, and caves containing prehistoric paintings. The limestone bears fossils including those of extinct giant penguins. And the limestone-rich soil benefits local fruit orchards and vineyards that mainly produce Pinot Noir grapes.

    Accommodation in Kurow (NZ)

    Kurow has hotel and motel accommodation, as well as a number of bed & breakfast establishments.

    There are luxury lodge retreats in surrounding country and close to the nearby village of Duntroon.

    Afarm-stay and backpackers’ lodge is located at Kurow. There is also a holiday park near the river for camping and motor-home travellers.

    Holiday houses and cottages are available to rent all year round.

    Transport around Kurow

    Kurow is located at the junction of State Highway 83, connecting Oamaru with the Mackenzie District, and Highway 82, from Waimate.

    A regular bus service between Dunedin and Mount Cook stops at Kurow and other towns along the route. Bus transport is also available from Oamaru.

    Tourist Activities around Kurow

    In its early history, Kurow was a centre for sheep farming and growing wheat and barley. Farm produce was transported by railway from 1881. The railway line was closed in 1981, and the station has become a community art and craft centre.

    Kurow’s fertile limestone soils have make it a centre for fruit orchards and vineyards. Local wines from a number of vineyards can be sampled at a tasting room centre within the town. There are also local cheeses and other farm products to sample at delicatessens and restaurants.

    The Hakataramea River joins the braided Waitaki River at Kurow, where a large shingle island has formed. An ecological restoration of Kurow Island has made it into an excellent place for walks, fishing, water recreation (jet-boating and kayaking), and fishing for trout and salmon.

    Upstream from Kurow are three man-made lakes behind dams built for generating hydroelectricity. Lake Waitaki is the oldest and smallest. Further upstream are lakes Aviemore and Benmore. Guided tours by mountain bike, horse or 4-wheel drive are popular in this area.

    The St Mary range of mountains behind Kurow rise over 2,000 metres. There are many hiking trails within the range, some of which reveal fantastic rock formations of eroded limestone, such as “The Earthquakes” and “Elephant Rock”. The limestone contains a fossil bed that bears remains of ancient Gondwanan creatures such as giant penguins.

    Kurow’s Information Centre and Museum has exhibits about the early Maori and colonial history of the Waitaki Valley, as well as its geology. The valley was well-populated by Maori people more than 700 years ago. There are two sites of ancient cave paintings at Takiroa near Duntroon, a short journey downstream from Kurow. Duntroon’s Vanished World Heritage Centre has exhibits that explain more of the area’s ancient past.

    Kurow has a number of pleasant riverside walks, which visitors can also travel by mountain bike or guided horse trek. For a panoramic view, the short walk up Kurow Hill is recommended.

    Awakino is a small, club-operated ski field in the St Mary Range that welcomes visitors. After walking or skiing, a massage at Kurow’smassage therapy centre might be beneficial.

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