North of Dunedin is a fine coastal town where you can admire some of the best-preserved and most stately commercial buildings in the country.
Oamaru, the main town of North Otago, is a most interesting and attractive place to visit. It has prospered through the goldmining, quarrying, timber milling and farming eras for over a century. As it gained wealth, the town expressed its good fortune by erecting elegant stone buildings.
Oamaru’s Historic Precinct of well-preserved 19th century buildings is renowned, particularly in the Harbour-Tyne Street area. Here you will be fascinated by the variety of architectural styles. They range from Gothic revival to neoclassical Greek and Italian. In November each year the town comes alive for the Heritage Celebrations, when penny-farthing bicycles race through the streets, cheered on by locals in Victorian costume.
The remarkable cream limestone from local quarries has earned Oamaru the title of ‘The Whitestone City’. It is so soft that it can be quarried with a circular saw. Once exposed to air, it hardens and is eminently suitable for public buildings. Elegant banks and hotels stand alongside handsome warehouses and wool stores. Buildings in other cities have been constructed in this distinctive stone, including the Auckland Town Hall.
The Public Gardens have been rated as being within the top ten gardens in the country. Features include a stunning Italian marble fountain, a Victorian summerhouse and oriental garden, fragrant garden, rhododendron dell, and cactus house. History, culture and art, are well presented in the North Otago Museum and Forrester Art Gallery. For visitors with literary interests, a Janet Frame Trail highlights locations used in the books of this well-known New Zealand author.
Steampunk HQ is dyslexic art that will blow minds unlike any other visitor attraction in this universe! Steampunk HQ New Zealand’s premier Steampunk experience is a museum and workshop situated in the historic Victorian precinct of Oamaru. Was founded in 2011 by a group of creative minds (Don Patterson, Jac Grenfell and Brian de Geest), who were passionate about Steampunk, and showcasing it to the public.
An outstanding natural attraction in Oamaru is the colony of little blue and yellow-eyed penguins, within walking distance of the town centre. The little blues are quite numerous and nest around the harbour. They waddle ashore at dusk and draw large numbers of visitors to watch their antics. The yellow-eyes are among the world’s rarest penguin species. A hide has been built to allow the visitor to observe their sojourns ashore, for the purpose of feeding their chicks. This usually occurs two hours before sunset.
The happy blending of man-made excellence, superb gardens and natural wildlife makes Oamaru an appealing visitor destination.