Oamaru is the main centre of the Waitaki District and is one of New Zealand’s more alluring provincial cities and there are many reasons to fall in love with it. It is renowned for its attractive townscape and gardens, its neoclassical buildings, its intact Victorian harbour and perhaps its most immediate appeal are the presence of two penguin colonies, the most accessible penguins in the country.
The Historic District of Oamaru is built of the distinctive cream-coloured local limestone earning it the title ‘The Whitestone City’ and at the turn of the 20th century it had the reputation as being the most attractive city in the South Island. Get out and about and take advantage of Oamaru’s picturesque scenery, enjoy the lovely walks, gorgeous gardens and parks, great picnic spots and the intriguing living history.
The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is a natural nesting area for the world’s smallest penguin, grandstand seating enables visitors to get a close look at these birds as they waddle ashore every night at around dusk after being out at sea all day hunting for food. The much larger yellow-eyed penguins nest in smaller numbers but keep more sociable hours coming ashore in the late afternoon or early evening, they mainly arrive on Bushy Beach where a hide enables you to see the penguins as they make their way across the beach.
Oamaru also offers a diverse selection of eateries and boutique retails stores, the historic quarter is full of artisans and craftspeople and in February the Oamaru Food and Wine Festival takes place. In November the ‘Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebration’ honours its fascinating heritage with a few madcap days of commemoration seeing men riding penny farthings and women wearing elaborate Victorian costumes.
Art and culture thrive here with a range of art galleries that include nationally significant artworks while local theatre shows at the Oamaru Opera House make for a great night out.
Moeraki located 33km south west of Oamaru is known for the fascinating Moeraki Boulders, spherical 65-million year old boulders that are up to four metres in circumference and which lie scattered along the beach. Their smooth skins hide honeycomb centres which are revealed in some of the broken specimens and you can see them from a viewing platform that overlooks the boulders or alternatively visitors can walk among them on the beach…a strangely compelling phenomenon.
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During the day penguins are not walking around on land, they are either out at sea fishing or hiding away in their nesting burrows. Our day tours take you behind the scenes into the penguins breeding area where you may see the penguins up close in their burrows.
Evening viewings are when you will get to see the penguins arrive home from their days fishing, walking up the stony ramp in front of you and cross into the breeding colony. We have tours running from 10am to late so stop by and visit Oamaru’s most unique residents.