Visit Oamaru, NZ

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  • Oamaru is a port city in North Otago that became very prosperous in the mid-to-late 19th Century through its trade in gold, wool, meat and grain. A high-quality limestone, known as Oamaru stone, was used to build large, elegant buildings, many of which are still standing, especially in the city district known as “the Victorian Precinct”.

    Oamaru’s history has inspired a recent trend towards “retro” styles of dress, recreation and artwork. Locals have embraced a modern art and engineering movement known as “steam punk”. The city has two related museum/galleries with workshops: the Retro Funk Museum and Steampunk HQ. The penny-farthing bicycle is emblematic of this movement.

    Guided tours from Oamaru take visitors on heritage journeys that include old homesteads and historic farms. Tours also include places of wildlife interest, including a blue penguin centre and fur seal colony.

    Accommodation in Oamaru (NZ)

    Oamaru has a wide range of accommodation, from international style hotels to motels and bed & breakfast establishments. Luxury lodge accommodation is available, mostly in outlying districts.

    There are many backpacker lodges at Oamaru and a camping ground. Other camping grounds are available in outlying towns such as Herbert (20 minutes’ drive south) and Duntroon (in the Waitaki Valley, 35 minutes’ drive east).

    Holiday homes and self-contained units are available for rent.

    Transport around Oamaru

    Oamaru is about 1.5 hours’ drive north of Dunedin, or east of Omarama in the Mackenzie District. The port city of Timaru is about 60 minutes’ drive north. Inter-city coach transport is available from Dunedin, Timaru, Christchurch and centres within the Mackenzie District.

    Oamaru’s airport no longer offers scheduled passenger services. However, charter aircraft still use the runways regularly. Scenic flights are available from the airport.

    Local bus and taxi services provide transport within Oamaru. Mountain bikes and other cycles are available for hire in this cycle-friendly city. Oamaru also has a budget car rental company.

    Tourist Activities around Oamaru

    Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct has a stunning array of late 19th Century stone buildings, containing many shops with an antiquarian theme, such as antique bookshops and a heritage costume photography studio. The Retro Funk Museum and the Steampunk HQ building exhibit artistic, modern interpretations of Victorian themes.

    Arts and crafts are also very prominent. Visitors can view working studios of stone carvers, iron workers, potters, textile artists and furniture makers. The Forrester Art Gallery is worth visiting for its unique collection of New Zealand art, featuring especially the work of New Zealand’s best-known modern painter, Colin McCahon.

    The North Otago Museum is also a major attraction, hosting a collection that was begun in 1863. The museum has a definitive collection of ancient artefacts of a pre-Maori people known as “the Moa Hunters”. Oamaru also has a vintage car museum and a working steam train that makes short trips along the harbour front.

    Oamaru has splendid public gardens that were established in 1876. These feature sculptures, fountains, playgrounds and an aviary.

    There are walking and cycling heritage tours of Oamaru available. As well, there are vehicle-based tours that visit historic farms and homesteads where original Victorian décor is preserved, and period food and entertainment are provided.

    Oamaru has a great range of restaurants and bars. Award-winning local cheese and wine can be obtained from outlets in the central district. A farmers’ market is held every Sunday.

    For family activities and leisure, there is an indoor aquatic centre, mini-golf, and 18-hole golf course.

    Oamaru has a beauty and health spa. A beauty soap maker is also based in Oamaru.

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