Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is seeking to be Australasia’s first Geopark.
This gives a glimpse of some of the attractions:
Young Farmers’ Agri-Kids completion at the North Otago A&P Show today attracted 50 teams from North Otago and South and Mid Canterbury.
There was also someone a wee bit older – Tom Marshall who is in his 80s and still shearing his own sheep.
Grow North Otago is selling the charms of the district.
Stuff is doing a series of stories on rivalries between provincial towns and cities.
It started with Timaru vs Oamaru for the pride of the south.
Audrey Malone talked up Timaru and Hamish Rutherford penned an ode to Oamaru.
. . . It’s amazing what kids take for granted.
Only when I went to university did it dawn on me that the local bank did not necessarily have giant Corinthian columns at the entrance (or that the tellers may not know you by name).
You might not see what is remarkable about Oamaru if you have simply driven through it. From State Highway 1 it would be possible to imagine Oamaru was just another provincial New Zealand town, so very long that its main purpose is to slow you down on the way to somewhere else.
But I was lucky enough to call Oamaru home: grandiose banks, halls, churches, pubs, municipal buildings and many large houses, built on early economic prosperity and the availability of a distinctive locally quarried limestone were the norm.
Let me sing its praises. At 14,000, the population is hardly bigger than it was in the 1960s, but North Otago’s dominant town is arguably much more prosperous than many others which have grown much larger.
Oamaru has world-class offerings for food and culture, with a rich tapestry of history.
It has good cafes and a couple of restaurants which would continue to do fine if they were in bigger towns. The brewery, Scotts, relocated from Auckland, is well known for its gluten-free variety by New Zealand’s booming GF army. The Whitestone cheese factory sells to supermarkets in every part of New Zealand – and has attracted a few celebrity fans in Hollywood. It has contributed great literature, from Janet Frame to Greg McGee.
There is a lolly factory, which opened in 1949. Rainbow Confectionery recently attempted to keep Pineapple Lumps production in New Zealand after Dunedin’s Cadbury factory closes. The owners, Mondelez, refused, sending manufacturing offshore, with every other Cadbury and Pascall product. So may I offer you Rainbow’s Pineapple Chunks, available online and in the factory store?
Some of the employment is more old-school: Pukeuri, to the north, still has its freezing works, with dairy farms all the way up the beautiful Waitaki Valley. Oamaru is a good place if you are willing to work hard.
New Zealand’s first shipment of frozen meat was sent to Britain from the port just to the south. The port may now be insignificant in shipping terms compared to Timaru, but it was in Oamaru that the Terra Nova landed, carrying news that the great British explorer Robert Scott had died in his failed bid to reach the South Pole first.
A key measure of a New Zealand town’s class is in its coffee, but despite living in Timaru for a spell and still passing through several times a year, I still wouldn’t know where to go. In Oamaru, head to the area with most of the nice buildings and take your pick.
There are many great things to say about Timaru. Like almost anywhere you go, it is full of very nice people. A nationally competitive motorsport community recently gave us international rally driver Hayden Paddon. But Paddon is no Richie McCaw, who started in North Otago before going on to bigger things. . .
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who lives in Oamaru, thinks it is the best wee town in the South Island. She moved there with her husband and young family decades ago, and won’t be leaving any time soon.
“We moved 30-odd years, and it’s largely because of the people we wouldn’t move away,” Dean says.
She usually flies in and out of Timaru.
“I actually like Timaru, I just like Oamaru a whole heap more.” . . .
Oamaru and Timaru are often confused by outsiders because they sound similar.
If there’s any rivalry between the two, it’s pretty low key.
For many of us on the right side of the Waitaki River, Timare is just a place you drive through on the way north.
When Mike Sandri first suggested athletes from round the world might like to run the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway, and would pay well for doing so, some locals were skeptical.
But months of hard work by him and his team paid off and the race starts today:
A first for New Zealand, the ultra endurance race will involve athletes running self-supported on and around the 300km-plus Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, which extends from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru, over seven stages in seven days.
As it stands, stages one and two (53.85km) on day one have a 14hr cut-off; stage three (51.34km) on day two a 13hr cutoff; stage four (86.6km) on days three and four a 34hr cut-off; stage five (43.76km) on day five a 12hr cut-off; stage six (52.66km) on day six a 13hr cutoff; and stage seven (28.67km) on the final day a 6hr cut-off. Checkpoints will be set up every 10km to 15km, offering water and electrolytes.
Self-supported runners will have to carry their own food, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and other compulsory items for the entire seven days, while supported runners will have their food and bedding carried for them to the end of each stage.
They will still have to carry all compulsory gear and food for that day. Each team will comprise up to four runners, and each member will carry the same as an individual. Its origins go back to September 2016, when Mr Sandri took part in the Canyon to Canyon Ultra, a self-supported foot race covering about 280km over six gruelling days in testing conditions in the United States.
When talking to his fellow competitors, they queried him as to why there was no organised ultra race in New Zealand.
“I thought that was actually a pretty good question,” he said.
Mr Sandri believed the terrain from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru would be perfect for such as race, and when he returned from the Canyon to Canyon event, he set his idea in motion.
More than a year later, everything is set to go.
The 126 athletes who will compete hail from 15 countries with a split of about 50-50 between males and females.
Just under half of the field is made up of athletes from New Zealand. . .
The Alps 2 Ocean Ultra website says:
From the base of New Zealand’s Highest mountain, Mount Cook, to the small, historic town of Oamaru, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, this rugged 316km race passes by eight lakes, takes in valleys, rivers and diverse terrain. It is set to challenge the hardiest athlete, yet allow virgin ultra-athletes to test their mettle.
Run by an enthusiastic, committed team of tireless volunteers, backed by a generous range of sponsors, all proceeds from Alps 2 Ocean are heading right back into the community and the uptake of registrations means that a difference will be made. The event answers the question about why our country has not yet hosted an ultra-staged race, and the uptake of entries shows the need there was for it.
1. To bring people to Godzone and showcase our amazing country. Check. √
2. To host an inclusive race – catering for the elite athlete to the bucket lister. Check √
3. To contribute any profits to the community, with a focus on youth. We’ll make this transparent via our social media channels.
I am in awe of anyone who is fit enough to run 316 kilometres and equally in awe of Sandri who had the vision for the race and the work down by him, his team of volunteers and the sponsors who have made it happen.
(P.S. – if you click on the website link you’ll see some of the beautiful countryside through which the race will go).
The 83km Timber Trail, which runs between Pureora and Ongarue in the King Country, was one of the earlier trails to be completed, in 2013.
Last year 6500 people rode the trail – and many used the services of Paul Goulding’s Epic Cycle Adventures.
“We started off three-and-a-half years ago with a van, a trailer and four bicycles, and now we’ve got three vans [and] 40-odd bicycles,” Mr Goulding says.
“Business is about 40 percent up each year, so … we are very optimistic.” . .
The Central Otago Rail Trail shows the potential from cycleway.
It took time for people to realise the opportunities for the provision of accommodation, food and other goods and services but the trail now brings thousands of visitors and their money to remote rural communities.
It has brought life to dying towns and provided off-farm income for people on previously isolated properties.
This is being replicated in other parts of the country as new cycleway take off.
One of the more recent success stories is the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway which starts near Mount Cook and finishes in Oamaru.
Not all the trail is off road yet and there are long stretches where people have yet to seize the opportunities to feed, water, accommodate service and sell to the cyclists and their support crews.
But even in its infancy the trail is attracting thousands of cyclists and will host the sold-out Alps 2 Ocean Ultra next summer.
Here’s an appetiser for the trail:
Friends from the North Island came to stay with us yesterday.
We took them to dine at Fleurs Place last night where we experienced the usual warm and efficient service, delicious food and a magical sunset.
This morning we wandered round Oamaru’s historic precinct, taking in a visit to Steampunk HQ which now features an infinity portal.
Oamaru used to be the town you had to crawl through on State Highway 1 on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. Now it’s a destination.
Seven Sharp made it New Zealand’s sharpest town, Lonely Planet dubbed it the coolest town in the country a view echoed by travel writers with gems like Pen-y-bryn which featured on Kiwi Living this week.
Seeing the town through the eyes of visitors today reawakened us to its charms for all of which I’m grateful.
North Otago didn’t used to feature on many people’s tourist itineraries and Oamaru was once just another town to crawl through for people driving on State Highway 1.
But the growing popularity of the little blue penguins which nest around the harbour, the town’s stunning old (by New Zealand standards) buildings and its Victorian precinct and becoming the country’s Steampunk capital started attracting more visitors.
Oamaru was dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town by Lonely Planet which has helped attract more visitors and help locals appreciate what we have on our doorstep.
Visitors’ appreciation isn’t confined to the town and exploration of the wider district has been boosted by the development of the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which has been recognised as one of the world’s leading attractions:
North Otago’s Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has made it on to a list of the world’s best destinations in 2016 by travel publishers Frommer’s.
The trail runs from Aoraki-Mt Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru in North Otago.
Being named as one of 16 of the “Best Places to Go” in the world in 2016 is priceless marketing and “something that the whole region should be really proud of”, Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill says.
“It’ll be an amazing thing for the trail,” Mr Gaskill said.
“This is extremely important – it’s recognition that the trail itself, the infrastructure around it, the people who are operating on it and the people who are supplying it are operating to a standard that people feel comfortable to promote.”
Frommer’s describes the trail as ‘‘stunning and cheerfully hospitable” and starting the trail at Aoraki-Mt Cook “sets a perfect standard for awesome”.
“Your local hosts along the trail are happy to greet you and warmly organise food and lodging – after all, they pitched in to create this route for tourists – so come meet them under wide landscapes and huge skies… before the hordes find their way here,” the Frommer’s website said.
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the only New Zealand attraction to feature on the list and appears alongside destinations including Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia. . .
The A2O isn’t finished yet but is already bringing lots of visitors and providing business opportunities for people servicing and selling to tourists.
Tourism is broadening the district’s economy, lessening its reliance of agriculture and it’s opening the eyes of locals to the many charms of our home patch.
Today I’m grateful for visitors who appreciate what we’ve got and help us appreciate it to.
P.S. The Frommer’s Best Places to Go list is here.
New Zealand’s steampunk capital, Oamaru, is hosting the Steampunk New Zealand festival this weekend.
Clicking on the link will take you to a list of what’s one, where and when.
A highlight will be tomorrow’s Fire and Steam Festival:
This is a good introduction to steampunk:
You can find out more on Facebook.
This video shows some the Oamaru’s attractions and is accompanied by this commentary:
5×1 can be realistically accomplished in Oamaru and the surrounding Waitaki area as everything you need is right at your doorstep. Coastal Otago is perfect as it boasts an abundance of natural wildlife and breathtaking beaches, the beautiful Historic town of Oamaru, and a vibrant culture of creative… and passionate people, attract young tourists to the region. Being a small town is not a negative for the youth traveller, as having a unique one-on-one experience with the locals (and eating amazing food for small town prices) is a once-in-a-trip lucky find, with many travellers revisiting and bringing their friends along on their next trip. Don’t let Oamaru wait to be found, New Zealand’s coolest town (‘Seven Sharp’ Public Poll) is the best place to plan your next holiday.
Saturday 11th April – Sunday 24th May
Bodytok Quartet: the human instrument archive at the Forrester Gallery A sonics from scratch project. ‘The human body is our first instrument. Every one of us can make sounds which are as unique to us as individuals as our fingerprints or facial features. Our bodies are the sites from which all communication and music stems. This installation creates a visual and non-verbal sound conversation between viewer and on-screen performer.’
Taste of Autumn at the Oamaru Farmers Market – celebrating the seasonality of our region!
Adventure Books presents: John Crick ECO ROCK – Ecology & lore of Kiwiland with a laugh & a song. Join us at 6pm!
Evening with Allyson Gofton: 7.30pm Loan & Merc Building in the Victorian Precinct. $15 per person. Funds to local Hospice Building. Organised by Lions Club of Oamaru and Paper Plus. Tickets available from Paper Plus.
Oamaru Penguin Club: Peter Coulton with an acoustic tribute to Johnny Cash- 8pm
Oamaru Penguin Club: “Pick at the Remnants and Friends” 8pm.
Saturday 18th – Sunday 31th May
Jackie Margaret at the Forrester Gallery Local artists Jackie Margaret presents a series of inspired still life and botanical paintings. These works are sculptural and almost come ‘alive’ with movement and colour.
The Ice Suite: Direct from Australia for Steampunk NZ. Symphonic Electronic Live Music and Digital Visual Performance commemorating the heroism and tragedy of Arctic Explorer Robert Falcon Scott as perceived by multi-media ensemble co.sonance. 6pm Adventure Books, Oamaru.
Oamaru Penguin Club: Jam Night.
Oamaru Fire and Steam festival
Friday 29 May 6.30pm (Queens Birthday Weekend)
Oamaru Fire and Steam festival is a fire, steam, sound and lighting spectacular. This premier event will take place in Harbour Street on Friday 29 May 2015 from 6.30 – 9.00pm. It is an evening of fire themed entertainment for the entire family produced by professionals.
The unique Victorian architecture of Harbour St will be beautifully illuminated with feature lighting displays, smoke effects, controlled explosions, projected images, music, bands, dancers, sports and films.
Oamaru Farmers’ Market
Sundays 9.30am – 1pm
Tyne Street, Harbour Area, Oamaru
Taste of Autumn at the Oamaru Farmers Market – celebrating the seasonality of our region!
Meet the growers, farmers and producers of the best seasonal produce our region has to offer. You’ll be sure to find a fantastic selection of fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, plants, baking, preserves, eggs and more.
Take the time to enjoy the Oamaru Farmers’ Market experience. Grab a coffee and a tasty bite to eat, listen to some music and catch up with friends.
Steampunk NZ Festival
Thursday 28 May – Monday 1 June (Queens Birthday Weekend)
The Premier Steampunk event of the Southern Hemisphere is based in the Steampunk capital, Oamaru, New Zealand.
A 4 day event with markets and music, feasting, racing of teapots, airships and magic carpets, – and much more madness; then short story and steampunk literary readings, workshops and dancing. The highlight is the Fashion Show and to top it all a Gala Ball.
Special guest for 2015 is International Steampunk Personality Montague Jacques Fromage from Manchester Township, New Jersey, USA. Montague will be headlining the After Oamaru on Fire music extravaganza on Friday 29th May, involved in as much as he possibly can be on Saturday 30th and then MC at the Steampunk NZ Fashion Show on Sunday 31 May.
The finest dressed, the most fantastic sci-fi accessories and the most friendly, welcoming people, all having fun in the most natural Steampunk backdrop of Oamaru’s Victorian architecture. There is the festival events and then there is the rest of the Waitaki District to enjoy.
28th May: 2015 Steampunk NZ Festival Passport- Loan & Merc and the Oamaru Club.
28th May: Steampunk Magic Night- Early Settlers Hall 6.30pm Family Entertainment.
29th May: Steampunk Friday Night After Party – Loan & Merc 9pm.
30th May: Steampunk Writers’ Workshop with Nathalie Brown 2pm. Early Settlers Hall.
30th May: Steampunk Literacy Readings – 3.20pm Early Settlers Hall
30th May: 2015 Steampunk Market. 10am Oamaru Club.
30th May: League Victorian Imagineers Mess & Dinner & Steampunk Racing. Loan & Merc 5.30pm.
31st May: Steampunk NZ Fashion Show. Oamaru Club 3pm.
31st May: Steampunk NZ Gala Ball. Oamaru Club 7.30pm.
Members of a group called GROW North Otago have taken it upon themselves to develop and launch a video highlighting the benefits of living and doing business in Oamaru and the wider Waitaki district. The private group of new-generation business owners was established last year. Rebecca Ryan finds out who they are and what they want to achieve.
Sometimes the best ideas do come over a drink.
For four new generation Oamaru business owners, a night out at a charity boxing event last year has set off a chain of events they hope will promote change in North Otago and encourage new business.
Heliventures New Zealand Ltd owners Craig McMillan and Nicki Perniskie, Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry and his wife, Annabel, director of Design Federation, have developed a business networking group called ”GROW North Otago”.
The group, based in Oamaru, aims to make the region a more interesting place to live for business owners and forward-thinking, motivated people, targeting the 20 to 40 age bracket.
It was launched last year with the intention of supporting the new generation of business people, promoting collaborations and ”having fun along the way”, with further aspirations of attracting new talent to the region and bolstering community participation.
The way forward was to lead by example and that was what they had decided to do.
”This was our way of ensuring we have sustainable growth and long-term economic prosperity for the region,” Mrs Berry said. . .
This is a wonderful initiative providing mutual support for members and helping to encourage more young business people to the district.
Natwick Photography (Natasha ‘Natwick’ Chadwick) has declared Oamaru New Zealand’s best kept secret and a photographer’s paradise:
Heading to New Zealand’s south island for a photographic sojourn, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location to shoot and to relax than Oamaru. A small harbour side town, located approximately three hours south of Christchurch on the East coast, is a photographer’s paradise. . .
She also rates it as one of the most photographic places in the world:
This vintage town provides spectacular backdrops in abundance whether you’re shooting portraits, streetscapes, movies or wildlife. Around every corner is a setting worthy of a photograph. Having travelled much of the world taking pictures, I rate Oamaru in my top ten for destinations to photograph. It’s up there with New York, Cuba, New Orleans, Prague, Paris and Sydney. . .
I spent my days there photographing the streets, the buildings and the marina. And, of an evening I did timed-exposures of the harbour, much to the disgust of the local penguin colony which came to shore and nestled in the rocks or beneath overturned beached dinghies at night – right where I happened to position my tripod. I sat there beneath the twilight blue evening sky, photographing boats on a still harbour, listening to the gentle cries of penguins – it was a magical experience.
Oamaru is a place of strong lines and much character as you’ll see from my collection of photos. In only two days I captured hundreds of images and could have taken more. One thing it guarantees, I will return. And if not for the pictures, I’ll go back for the best fudge and whisky tastings New Zealand has to offer. Need I say more! . . .
Clicking on the link at the top of the page will allow you to see some of the photos she took.
When the farm consultant bringing a group of Australian farmers to North Otago was discussing the proposed itinerary it included a look at irrigation infrastructure.
I suggested that some of the party might like an alternative.
I was right.
The whole party had been to whisky tasting on Monday night and four of the women were keen to return to discover more of the charms of Oamaru’s historic precinct.
Our next stop was the Grainstore Gallery:
The Grainstore Gallery is quite unlike any other you will find anywhere. A simply astonishing array of original artworks amidst a unique and magnificent ambience. Most of the works are created on site by owner and artist in residence, Donna Demente. Her work is famous throughout NZ for its mysterious richness and eerie presence, focussing on the glances and gazes of her portrait subjects (some masked) which loom large like illuminated echoes of the Renaissance, Romantic and Religious iconography of yesteryear.
There is also plenty of ephemera and minutiae to enable you to take home a small souvenir of your experience of this majestic interior. . .
From there we walked to the end of Harbour Street, admiring Ian Anderson’s Oamaru stone carvings en route and popped into Housekeepers Design for retail therapy and coffee before meandering back up Harbour Street.
An hour simply wasn’t long enough – we had to miss Slightly Foxed, the Woolstore Complex, the inside of Steampunk HQ and several other attractions including the newly opened Galley café and the steampunk playground.
Victorian Oamaru is a good place to start when looking at what to see and do in and near the historic precinct.
Events include the regular Sunday Farmers Market, the Oamaru Harbour Regatta on Waitangi Day, February 6th; the Harbour Street Jazz Festival from Friday March 20th to Sunday 22nd and the annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations in November.
This is part of a series of posts of things to see and do in Oamaru and the wider Waitaki hinterland.
You’re welcome to add your thoughts on the area or your own part of the country/world.
Oamaru is New Zealand’s steampunk capital and a highlight of any visit to the town is Steampunk HQ.
Steampunk is a quirky and fun genre of science fiction that features steam-powered technology. It is often set in an alternate, futuristic version of 19th century Victorian England.
The Steampunk future is driven by unusual steam powered devices – the ‘world gone mad’ as Victorian people may have imagined it. Examples are machines like those in the writing of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, and in tv shows such as Dr. Who.
Oamaru is an ideal setting for Steampunk art and activities, given the wonderfully preserved and thriving Victorian buildings.
The building was originally called Meeks Grain Elevator and was built in 1883 from designs by Architects Forrester and Lemon for the grain traders and millers J. & T. Meek. Oamaru was at that time a flourishing sea port, and bigger than Los Angeles.
The five storey building was the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere at the time. In 1920 the top two storeys were destroyed in a spectacular fire.
Steampunk HQ, which opened in November 2011, is an art collaboration proudly based in Oamaru, New Zealand. It sets out to portray an industrial version of steampunk, with a giant sense of humour and larger than life visions of an off the wall steampunk universe. Steampunk HQ is well known for its full scale train engine that spits fire and billows smoke The Lonely Planet Guide rates Steampunk HQ as one of NZ’s best new tourist attractions.
. . . In this cultural display of art, fashion and sculpture, one man’s trash is literally another’s treasure.
Steampunkers reconstitute the familiar into the weird and wonderful in a bid to create an alternate dimension.
Peculiar contraptions hiss and pop as they send you kicking and screaming into warp speed, destined for worlds far beyond our comprehension.
Mayan counters track the passing of time and predict the end of the world as we know it, subliminal messaging interrupts rational thought and radio waves bounce around your brain, feeding you messages from the other side.
The fashions incorporate fabric and object without prejudice.
Merging the line between form and function these alluring designs adorn the colourful characters who call the world of Steampunk home. . .
If your curiosity allows I highly recommend taking a trip into this neo industrialised fantasy world.
As you explore the dimly lit curiosities of Steampunk HQ you are transported into another dimension.
One of unexplainable sights and sounds.
80’s computers emit puffs of smoke as they dial out to connect with the either, steam powered portals spring into life as they sync with alternate dimensions, the creative remnants of previous inhabitants litter the floor, light bulbs flicker and the sound of static fills the air.
A loud rhythmic ticking keeps the ensemble in time. . .
Steampunk HQ is at the norththern end of Oamaru’s historic precinct.
Steampunk also provided the theme for the playground to the south of the precinct over the road from Friendly Bay.
A steampunk- themed café is about to open nearby too.
The annual steampunk festival held in June attracts a growing number of visitors, among whom last year was Curious Kiwi. Follow that link for words and pictures.
This is one of an irregular series of posts on things to see and do in Oamaru and the Waitaki District.
You’re welcome to add your ideas for visitors to this area o further afield.
The Alps to Ocean cycle way is New Zealand’s longest – 301 kilometres from Aoraki/Mt Cook to Oamaru harbour.
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is New Zealand in all its colour and beauty – from our highest mountain, past great lakes and rivers, and down to the ocean. Suitable for all ages, the 8 section bike trail is an easy to intermediate grade, offering a pleasing mix of on and off-road terrain which links the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.
Most people would need 4 -6 days to do the whole trail but you can do day trips or shorter rides.
- Aoraki/Mt Cook
- Elephant Rocks
- Snow-capped Mountains
- Clay Cliffs
- Golden Landscapes
- Maori Rock Art
- Pacific Ocean
- Blue Penguins
- Limestone Cliffs
- Boutique Shops
- Lakes: Tekapo, Pukaki, Ohau, Benmore, Aviemore
- Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct
- Hydro Canals
Neighbours have been running homestays in an historic home for years and their business is booming now the cycle trail has opened.
I’s still in its infancy but has already been numbered among four of the best cycle trails in New Zealand.