A Victorian past: exploring Oamaru

By: Road Trip


There is nowhere like Oamaru. For a start, it is home to New Zealand’s most impressive 19th century architecture with more protected buildings than anywhere else in New Zealand.

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Designed in Victorian and neo-classical style by the finest architects of the day, these buildings were built with locally-quarried limestone, now known as Oamaru stone. History lovers immersing themselves in the unmodified backstreets of the town’s Victorian Precinct may well see a Penny Farthing cycle passing, complete with its period-costumed rider.

Time appears to have stilled when you’re wandering this area, where museums, shops, and galleries will cast their spell for hours.

The main street, with its wide verandahs, harks back to a previous time, but shoppers will be impressed by the array of up-to-the-minute goods on sale. There are a few chain stores, but it has numerous quirky shops for those who prefer to remain individual.

Local knowledge

Oamaru Harbour: one of the best surviving, unmodified, Victorian/Edwardian-styled deep-water ports.

Take the one-hour walk to Cape Wanbrow to see yellow-eyed penguins and seals.

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail: Oamaru is now the end point of the 300km-plus trail from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru.

Oamaru Public Gardens: established in 1876, the areas of beauty and interest within the gardens have grown throughout the years, while remaining true to the early pioneers.

Places to eat and drink

Oamaru Opera House: the century-old building features an intact, heritage-listed, 19th century streetscape.

Whitestone Cheese: this cheese shop and factory claims its success from the sweet limestone country cows are grazed on.

Riverstone Kitchen: don’t miss this award-winning restaurant on the Waitaki Plains, owned and operated by acclaimed chef Bevan Smith and his wife.

Oamaru Farmer’s Market and Victorian Street Market: held every Sunday for fresh, locally-inspired fare.

Spend the day tasting incredible wines at Vitners Drop, Kurow or Pasquale Kurow Winery.

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