Arrived in Oamaru on Monday. It’s the largest town in North Otago in the South Island and the main town in the Waitaki District. The name Oamaru comes from Māori words meaning the place of Maru. The Māoris are the indigenous Polynesian people who arrived in new Zealand 1000 years ago from the Cook Islands.
Oamaru is in the spectacularly beautiful Waitaki District which reaches inland from the Waitaki River mouth up the Waitaki River Valley. It’s known for its Victorian architecture and Blue Penguin colony. The penguins nest close to town under the cliffs along the Historic Harbour foreshore near the Victorian Heritage Precinct. The area of the penguin colony was once a rock quarry used to develop Oamaru Harbour. The quarry ceased operating in the 1970s and the penguins began coming ashore and nesting there. You can view the penguins at night when they come ashore and are most active. There is a covered viewing area and it’s fun to watch them interact. On Sunday night there were 140 penguins counted – the count varies from day-to-day. You can go during the day and tour the nesting area. They can stay at sea for 6 months at a time but come back to the same place to breed.
Gold was the source of Oamaru’s early wealth but it was the booming agricultural sector that contributed to the harbour and port industries. The town’s past rich maritime history is clear at the old harbour where the structures have remained intact over the years.
“The landscapes here have ancient limestones shaped by wind and water to form the hills and valleys of this district. Erosion of volcanic rock and limestone formed the coastal seascape sculpture. The famous spherical Moeraki Boulders lie north of Palmerston. These stones formed about 65 million years ago underneath the seas. Sediments that formed became boulders and this process took place as long as four million years ago.”
The magnificent old Victorians in the historical precinct of the town are well restored and preserved and a major attraction. Created in the 19th century the buildings made of limestone known as Oamaru Stone.
I plan to spend a few days at a farm stay called GlenMac which is in the beautiful Waitaki Valley about 40 minutes northwest of Oamaru. There are many hiking trails in the area. It’s a working cattle and sheep ranch run by the owners Kaye and Keith.