Old World Charm in Oamaru
17 September 2021
The town of Oamaru was laid out in 1858 by Otago’s surveyor John Turnbull Thomson, who named the streets after British rivers. The town is famous for its many buildings made from locally quarried limestone (known as Oamaru Stone), over 70 buildings registered as Category 1 or 2 Historic Places.
The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust was established as a charitable trust back in the late 1980s and worked tirelessly to transform Oamaru’s Harbour and Tyne Streets. This area is now the jewel in Oamaru’s crown, the Trust owns 16 Victorian buildings in the Victorian Precinct and they were all built during the period 1860-1880. The buildings were largely grain and seed warehouses which serviced the rich and prosperous agricultural sector in the surrounding districts. Spend a good few hours wandering the Victorian Precinct with its mix of eclectic collections, displays, galleries, artisans, craftspeople and delicious places to eat.
Oamaru became the world’s unlikely capital of steampunk and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of steampunks in the world. What is Steampunk? A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting alongside a fashion trend and style of design that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction. Steampunk HQ sets out to portray an industrial version of Steampunk. I can best describe it as crazy, quirky and quite unique. Inside the museum is full of contraptions and bizarre machinery, mainly featuring copper, gears, pipes and gas cylinders. These are often accompanied by skeletal sculptures which are uplit with flickering lights, film projection and sound. Head out the backdoor and to a large yard filled with projects in various stages of being steampunked!
Cape Wanbrow/Oamaru Lookout
Take a drive or cycle up to the Oamaru Lookout Point on top of Cape Wanbrow. It offers an excellent view of Oamaru and beyond. There are also a few walking and cycle trails that you can access from here as well.
Oamaru Public Gardens
When Oamaru was first surveyed way back in 1855, 34 acres were set aside as a public reserve. The gardens opened on this site in 1876, making it one of the oldest in the country. Mature plantings hug both sides of the Oamaru Creek which meanders along its length. There are many areas sectioned off with themed plantings. These include rhododendrons, azaleas, native fernery and of course, extensive plantings of NZ natives. There is a Chinese Garden linked to a distinctive red lacquer bridge over the creek.
Rainbow Confectionery Seconds Shop
Another icon of Oamaru, they have been making confectionery since 1949. Their factory shop is full of all the delights that I’m sure many of us will remember as kids. Walking through the door the old saying ‘happy as a kid in a lolly shop’ came to mind. Pineapple Lumps, Baby Choc Fish, Marshmallows, Jelly Beans and a huge array of gum confectionery, just to name a few. And yes, the seconds were cheap!
There once was a lady who wanted to live in a castle, so she built one. This majestic dwelling is constructed from 20,000 locally made concrete blocks and 150 tonnes of locally quarried Oamaru stone. It is located 15km north of Oamaru and sits on its own island, surrounded by a lake. Whilst the castle is a private residence the grounds have craft shops, beautiful gardens and the award winning Riverstone Kitchen Restaurant. Dot, who owns the castle, occasionally opens it up for tours so keep an eye on the Facebook page.