Hotels in Oamaru, New Zealand
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Oamaru - Where Kooky and Cool Meet in New Zealand
There’s nowhere else quite like the town of Oamaru, not in New Zealand and probably on the entire planet. A variety of circumstances have created a truly unique place, where old meets new and bohemian spirit rules. Heritage architecture from the Victorian age is remarkably well preserved here, from a time when Oamaru was flush with wealth and ambition, qualities that are now returning to the town. Eccentric art galleries, quirky antique stores, amazing artisan workshops, and boutique hotels have helped regenerate this seaside settlement. That, plus the wonderful natural landscape and wildlife, namely the penguin colonies, have propelled North Otago’s largest town into the spotlight.
Step Back in Time at the Victorian Precinct
Centred around Thames Street, the Victorian Precinct survives from the late 19th century, extravagant buildings built when Oamaru was on the up and up. There was little money here to demolish and rebuild during the 20th century so they stayed, unlike many other places in New Zealand. This has worked in the town’s favour, and now the precinct has transformed itself into a place that blends both past and future with a beatnik flavour. Just strolling around this artsy neighbourhood will keep you entertained for hours, with shops, pubs, cafes, museums and other venues to draw you in. There are also a few hotels nestled within this offbeat area if you really want to immerse yourself in the bizarreness. The North Otago Museum is worth a look if you’re interested in the history of this fascinating town and want to find out more, while the Oamaru Opera House is a fine example of Victorian architecture and regularly hosts events, from theatre and comedy to concerts and ballet.
Explore the Surreal World of Steampunk HQ
It won't take you long to notice some of the strange outfits worn by the locals here, but to find out exactly what is behind this funky dress code you must visit the Steampunk HQ. Finding it is easy, just keep your eyes peeled for a metallic airship with shark teeth and a futuristic steam train, then you know you've arrived! It’s a fascinating museum of sculptures and exhibitions, reflecting the science fiction world of Steampunk, a future where steam power still reigns in a world gone mad. Think the surreal contraptions from the books of Jules Verne, or the Martian machines thought up by H.G. Wells in ‘The War of the Worlds’. Oamaru has grown into New Zealand's capital of Steampunk, and the Steampunk NZ Festival transforms the town during the first week of June. If you're planning to visit during this time, make sure you book a hotel room well in advance as the town swells with visitors!
Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere!
While Oamaru has become famous for its heritage architecture and bohemian residents, that only makes up half of this town's story. There’s something else that attracts visitors by the bucket load, and that’s the penguin colonies. You don't have to wander far from your hotel to see them either, with the arguably more popular little blue penguins easily seen right from the harbour. There’s a grandstand where hundreds of people can sit and gaze at these cute waddling birds, the smallest type of penguin in the world, as they return to the shore each evening. If you take the short trip down to Bushy Beach you could spot an entirely different type of penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, or hoiho in Maori. Native to New Zealand and on the endangered list, they are one of the rarest penguin species on the planet, and possibly one of the most ancient of all penguin species in existence.
Ride the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail
To get out of Oamaru and explore the stunning natural scenery of the Waitaki District and beyond, there’s no better option than the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. This mammoth cycle trail connects the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki . Depending on which way you look at it, the trails either starts or finishes in Oamaru, but it doesn’t matter which direction you ride! The first section connects Oamaru to Duntroon, a total of 54 kilometres, along which you’ll follow an old railway line and see the strange limestone formations of Elephant Rocks. The entire trail stretches for over 300 kilometres, which probably means you’ll need the best part of a week to complete it, unless you’re an experienced cycling athlete. Not to worry though, there are plenty of hotels in the towns and villages along the way, so you’ll always be able to find somewhere to stay after a long day riding!
Price rangefrom $31to $468
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