The Waitaki District is a great place for outdoor adventures, with snow-capped mountains, tranquil lakes, and braided rivers.
It’s a region with stunning scenery, bordered to the north by the braided Waitaki River, dividing Otago from Canterbury, as it rolls down to the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find intriguing art, history and wildlife here too.
Bike the Alps 2 Ocean
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is a glorious multi-day ride from the Southern Alps, down through small towns, past rivers and lakes, to the sea at Oamaru. The trail starts at Aoraki/Mt Cook and takes 4-6 days to complete in total. With many entry points along the way, cyclists can pick a section and choose a day ride.
Ski field at Lake Ohau, photo: Tourism Waitaki
Stay beside Lake Ohau and revel in the spectacular views of lake and mountains. In summer, go swimming, water-skiing or fishing for trout or salmon. There are great hiking trails, with beech forest and streams. With the Alps 2 Ocean trail running past, cyclists can ride as much or as little as they like. In winter, ski the Ohau Snow Fields, then cosy up for a meal at Lake Ohau Lodge.
Photo: Glide Omarama
Soar above the mountains and lakes here - Omarama is a mecca for gliders. The spectacularly eroded Clay Cliffs are 4km north of Omarama. At Ladybird Hill there’s a cafe, restaurant, winery and salmon farm - catch one and smoke it onsite! Hot Tubs Omarama is the perfect place to end the day; soak in a private tub of pure mountain water as the sun sets and the stars come out.
Continue southeast to Otemetata, a village built in 1958 to support the construction of the Benmore and Aviemore dams. These hydro lakes are popular for sailing, kayaking and water-skiing, and there is world class fishing nearby in the Ahuriri, Hakataramea and Waitaki rivers.
The small town of Kurow sits beside the blue waters of the Waitaki River. The Waitaki Valley is a growing wine region - some of the local wines can be sampled at the Vintner’s Drop, in the old Post Office. Other activities in the area are the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, horse treks, water sports or a visit to see Māori rock art at Takiroa.
Oamaru - lots to see
Grainstore Gallery, photo via Tourism Waitaki
Read our guide to Oamaru, to find out more about this heritage town, set on the coast, with its famed whitestone buildings, and beautifully preserved Victorian Precint. There are art galleries, cafes and restaurants to explore, the quirky Steampunk HQ, and a charming colony of blue penguins. There are renowned restaurants in the region - head south to Fleur’s Place in Moeraki for seafood by the sea, or north to Riverstone Kitchen, for wonderful local produce.
Kakanui and Herbert
A short drive south along the coast brings you to Kakanui, a little town where the Kakanui River meets the sea. There are rockpools to explore, or try whitebaiting, surfing, fishing and beach walks. Sometimes there are seals or dolphins at Campbells Bay.
The small town of Herbert lies slightly south, and inland from Kakanui. It’s a peaceful spot, with bush walks and mountain bike trails in the Herbert Forest, and swimming holes in the Waianakarua River.