Oamaru, a coastal town north of Dunedin, was once a major port and wealthy service town for surrounding farms and high country estates.
Craftsmen in the 19th century utilised the beautiful local limestone to construct many prominent buildings. Today, some of this stunning architecture features in the restored historical precinct that forms the eccentric heart of the place. It is bursting with art galleries, high-end artisan workshops, funky bars and cafes, and is described by Lonely Planet as New Zealand's coolest town.
The 19th century Victorian theme has been proudly embraced. Steampunk HQ, an art collaboration with off-beat visions of a steampunk universe, has been rated one of New Zealand's best new tourist attractions. And where else can you learn to ride a penny farthing?
Oamaru is equally well known for its wonderful penguin colonies and the excellent visitor facilities from which to enjoy this unique wildlife experience.
A little further afield, the braided river that flows through the Waitaki Valley is the gateway to the alpine region beyond. This scenic valley is home to a developing wine industry, Maori rock art and the Vanished World centre which will guide you through incredible fossil sites and weirdly wonderful limestone formations.