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Oamaru. Photo: Samuel Mann

Oamaru - the heart of the Waitaki District - will transport you to a time gone by when penny-farthing cycles once raced the streets. Then stroll around Oamaru’s famous Historic Precinct, which contains a magnificent collection of Oamaru’s majestic whitestone buildings, built in the 1870s. The precinct was once the business hub, with banks, hotels, grain and wool stores adjacent to the Oamaru harbour. Today it has been revitalised with shops and galleries.

Blue Penguins are the smallest penguins in the world and naturally nest along the coastline at Oamaru. The Blue Penguin Colony is primarily a conservation area for the blue penguins but is also the easiest place in New Zealand to view good numbers of blue penguins as they return ashore each evening on dusk. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is located just a 5-minute drive from town on the edge of the Oamaru Harbour under the dramatic cliffs of Cape Wanbrow. The colony features a large visitor centre and gift shop, research centre and a uniquely designed 350-seat viewing stand.

South of Oamaru you’ll find the Moeraki Boulders. Each year they’re visited by thousands of people who want to see these giant, perfectly rounded boulders scattered along the sandy beach. The soft mudstone boulders were raised from the seabed around 15 million years ago and emerge from the cliff behind the beach where they are eroded by the sea. These geological curiosities each weigh several tonnes and early whalers referred to them as the Ninepins. According to Maori legend the boulders are petrified calabashes from the wreck of the Arai-te-Uru canoe.

Where to stay


What to do

  • Visit the North Otago Museum
  • Visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony
  • Marvel at the Moeraki Boulders
  • Browse around the Historic Precinct
  • Walk to Busy Bay to see yellow-eyed penguins

More info

North Otago Museum
Blue Penguin Colony
Moeraki Boulders

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Getting there

  • From Invercargill by road: 332km
  • From Christchurch by road: 247km
  • From Dunedin by road: 115km


Piwa perched