At sunset, sit up high in the designated "Penguin Blind" and watch the little guys hit the beach...
It is pretty interesting as they will pause on the beach for quite a while (seemingly for a photo op, but actually to cool off) before tramping up into the bush to head towards their nest...
If you come to Oamaru in the summer time, you may be fortunate enough to see some babies yellow eyed penguins in the nest.
First thing you will notice is their colorings. While adults are black and white with a yellow stripe around their eyes, the babies are all brown. (they will shed this coat after the first year.)
Another interesting fact is how big they are... Usually when the baby heads out to sea for the first time, they are actually bigger (i.e. fatter) than their parents...
Must be all that YUMMY regurgitated food...
This is another impressive building, but located in Waitaki Avenue.
Waitaki Boys' High School, founded in 1883, is a secondary school for boys, and also a boarding school.
The school is notable for its historic buildings such as the Hall of Memories, an assembly hall, built to honour the men who died in the first world war.
Another beautiful building to feast your eyes on, is the Criterion Hotel, which was built in 1877.
Operating as a licensed hotel until prohibition came to Oamaru in 1905, it was still used as a private hotel until 1943 when it was bought and used for storage of light engineering foundry equipment.
Since 1989, exterior and interior has been restored, and once again is a fully licensed Pub, which serves meals, [Pork Pies if you wish to try one!]and offers bed & breakfast accommodation in victorian themed rooms. Inside, it is like stepping back in time, into that Victorian Era! It is said to be one of New Zealand's most photographed hotels, I can understand why!
Oamaru, located half-way between Timaru and Dunedin on the Otago coast, is rather well-known for its colony of Little Blue Penguins. It is less known for its sheer beauty. A beauty made of the white stone it has given its name to. Auckland's Town Hall, Post Office and St. Matthews Church, Christchurch's Catholic Cathedral, Wellington's Customhouse and Dunedin's First Church, Town Hall and Anglican Cathedral have been made of the distinctive creamy-white Oamaru stone which is a granular limestone of Tertiary age.
Every year in mid November Oamaru celebrates its Victorian heritage in a five-day festival, with food, drink, theatre, concerts, dress-ups, dance and fun, and the steam-train runs. The highlight is The Grand Victorian Street Parade. Once we arrived the day before the parade without knowing anything about the big party, and people were already having fun running around in their vintage dresses. The historic precint is closed to traffic on the Sunday of the celebrations.
This precint really is a gem. As you walk around you feel transferred back into the Victorian age. Splendid buildings with columns and rich decor, be it the wonderful Courthouse, the New (which still is from 1884!) or the Old Post Office. The building of the Bank of New South Wales with its Corinthian columns is of outstanding beauty.
Outside the historic precint sits Oamaru's most striking building, St. Patrick's Basilica (at the foot of Usk St).
The penguin colony is just a little walk from the historic precint. They have built a tribune right on the beach, so the visitors can sit and watch the Little Blues, the world's smallest penguins, waddle out from the sea every evening at dusk. Escpecially in the breeding season from September to January you can see more than 200 penguins.
Several tour options, evening viewing is $17.50 for adults and $6 for children, a combo with a Behind the Scenes tour ($10/2) comes to $22.50 and $7. Locals pay a fraction of it.
You can see both the yellow-eyed and blue penguins. Just visit the tourist information centre and the keen staff can organise a tour of both. You can go by yourself but a car would be handy. We ended up with Andrew as our guide - he was brilliant - so enthaustiastic - he had lots of information about the penguins and about pretty much everything else.
Omaru is famous for its lovely creamy limestone buildings. I am not a particular expert on the building material front, but I thought this stone was gorgeous!!
Omaru also boasts the second widest bridge in the southern hemisphere - see photo (it was too wide for my camera!).
This magnificent Catholic church is constructed of Oamaru stone and was built in various stages, the first in 1893 and the last in 1918. The Basilica follows the pattern of the large, roofed buildings used by the Romans for public purposes. The foundation stone was laid on Trinity Sunday, 1893, by Bishop Moran, and the Basilica was opened on 18th November 1894. The interior with its coffered Renaissance ceiling and great dome over the sanctuary is well worth going inside and having a look at.
Oamaru’s main draw these days is its penguins. Within walking distance of the town center are colonies of world’s smallest and rarest penguins – Little (or Blue) and Yellow-eyed Penguins, respectively. Timing a visit to both colonies is easy. The Yellow-eyed Penguins, whose colony is further out from town, come ashore late in the afternoon, while the Little Penguins usually wait until dark before coming ashore. Visiting the Yellow-eyed Penguin colony is free, but to guarantee seeing the birds from just a few feet away and getting great photo opportunities you should pay the small fee and take the Bushy Beach Yellow-eyed Penguin tour. There is a small fee to view the Little Penguins, but it is more than worth it. What the Little Penguins lack in size, they more than make up for in personality. Town maps, available free at the visitor information center, detail each of these locations. If you aren’t keen on walking, the Oamaru Penguin Express provides a door-to-door tour to both colonies and other town landmarks for $25, which includes the entrance fee to the Little Penguin colony.
If you are traveling between Oamaru and Dunedin, the Moeraki Boulders command at least a short visit. The boulders lie just off SH1 forty-kilometers south of Oamaru, and the signs along SH1 make them impossible to miss. There are definitely more interesting things to see in New Zealand, but the boulders are rather unique in the world and worth the ten minutes or so it takes to walk to the beach to view them.
The Moeraki Boulders are situated some 40kms south of Oamaru. They are large, almost spherical boulders of volcanic origin, set on a nice sandy beach.
Oamaru is also noted for its many fine buildings in white stone, which was quarried locally, like these on Thames Street
Well, you don't see these traffic signs just anywhere.... but best to heed the warning, I dont know what the fine is for squashing a pengie, but I bet it is considerable...
Keep you eyes open and scan the brush for tell tale penguin droppings... You might just get lucky and spot a loner yet to find a mate...
244 Thames Street, Oamaru, 9400, New Zealand
Good for: Business
252 Thames Street, Oamaru, New Zealand
Good for: Business
346 Thames Highway, Oamaru, New Zealand
Good for: Families