Oamaru is a good place to base yourself while exploring Otago’s many coastal attractions. It is most famous for its colony of blue penguins (the smallest in the world) and yellow-eyed penguins (some of the rarest), but it also boasts an impressively restored historic centre.
Built of Oamaru stone – also known locally as whitestone – and dating back to gold rush years, this district is charming and full of antique shops and cute cafés, making for a pleasant way to spend a day. It also has the Whitestone Cheese Factory with free viewings in the morning. Otherwise, the town is ordinary, but the nearby town of Moeraki and its famous boulders makes an excellent day trip. It is also a popular stop for backpackers on their way to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
1 Thames Street, Oamaru
Tel (03) 434 1656
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm
Oamaru lies on State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Dunedin. Atomic Shuttles (tel (03) 349 0697), InterCity Coachlines (tel (03) 471 7143), Nakedbus.com and Southern Link K Bus (tel (03) 358 8355 or 0508 458 835) all stop outside LaGonda Cafe (191 Thames Street, Oamaru).
1 Frome Street, Oamaru
Tel (03) 437 0168
13 Thames Street, Oamaru
Tel (03) 434 3446
Beach Road, Oamaru
Tel (03) 434 8115
Corner Cross & Reed Streets, Oamaru
Tel (03) 434 5008
There are a couple of nice hostels south of Oamaru that make a nice base for visiting either Oamaru or the Moeraki Boulders.
1050 Waianakarua Road, All Day Bay
Tel (03) 439 5411
2328 Herbert-Hampden Road (State Highway 1), Waianakarua
Tel (03) 439 5830
Most of the restaurants here cater to day trippers and pensioners on holiday, but there are deals to be found. The historic district is a nice place for a meal, but it is dear – have a coffee at the Star & Garter Café (9 Itchen Street, Oamaru) and watch the tourists snap photos of the old steam train. Turrett Takeaways (218 Thames Street, Oamaru) north of town does very cheap quality fish and chips, and Filadelfio’s (70 Thames Street, Oamaru) has great pizza and snacks. Fat Sally’s Pub (84 Thames Street, Oamaru) is a popular place for dinner and drinks.
There are two New World supermarkets in town (Main South Road, Oamaru) and (402 Thames Highway Oamaru) as well as a cheap centrally-located Countdown supermarket (108-116 Thames Street, Oamaru).
Blue penguins, also known as fairy penguins or little penguins, can be seen from the viewing platforms at the blue penguin colony at the end of Waterfront Road. This is one of the best spots in New Zealand to see blue penguins, although there are far fewer penguins here than in penguin colonies in Australia. The number of penguins that you can expect to see varies depending on the time of year, for instance between Mar and Aug you may see as few as 15, but in Dec you might be able to see 150 penguins swim in to shore and waddle home to their nests.
Waterfront Road, Oamaru
Tel (03) 433 1195
Penguins arrive half an hour before sunset
This small museum has exhibits about the area’s history and cultural heritage.
60 Thames Street, Oamaru
Tel (03) 433 0852
Open Mon-Fri 10.30am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-4pm
The rare yellow-eyed penguins are much larger than blue penguins and they can be seen at Bushy Beach.
Bushy Beach Road, Bushy Beach
Penguins leave just after sunrise; penguins arrive late afternoon before sunset