Is Oamaru Worth Visiting

Is Oamaru worth visiting?

Oamaru is a charming town with natural beauty and historical charm. It’s the place to go for travellers, from families and couples to history buffs and nature lovers. 

But if you’ve never been to this quaint town, then you’re probably wondering: Is Oamaru really worth visiting? 

Yes! Oamaru is definitely worth visiting if you’re a fan of natural beauty, heritage architecture, Steampunk culture, adorable blue penguins, arts and culture, and outdoor recreation.

Join us as we take a closer look at all the reasons why Oamaru is a town worth adding to your destination bucket list. 

Oamaru’s natural beauty makes the town a must-visit 

Oamaru is within the Waitaki region, a place known for its extreme landscapes, enthralling wildlife and beautiful natural vistas. 

One of the most fascinating natural attractions in Oamaru is the Moeraki Boulders. These massive, spherical stones scattered along Koekohe Beach are a sight to behold. 

The boulders, some of which measure up to 2 meters in diameter, were formed millions of years ago and have become one of the most photographed features on the South Island.

The town’s coastline also adds to its natural allure with stunning ocean views, rugged cliffs, and gorgeous beaches, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Oamaru is worth visiting for its heritage architecture

Oamaru’s heritage architecture captivates your imagination and transports you back to the Victorian era. The well-preserved Victorian architecture of Oamaru has made it a popular tourist destination and played a significant role in shaping the town’s identity. 

At the heart of Oamaru’s architectural charm is its Victorian Precinct. The buildings in this area were constructed from local limestone, giving the town its unique aesthetic.

The precinct is home to New Zealand’s best complete collection of Victorian buildings, making it a heritage destination that’s not to be missed. 

But Oamaru’s architectural heritage extends beyond the Victorian Precinct into the harbour area. Here, you’ll find a collection of structures and buildings on streets named after famous rivers in England, reflecting the town’s early settlers’ origins. 

Oamaru is worth visiting for its immersive Steampunk culture

Steampunk has found an unexpected home in Oamaru, earning it the title of “Steampunk Capital of the World”. 

Steampunk is a creative movement combining 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery aesthetics with science fiction and fantasy elements. It’s a world where wrought iron meets science, where the past mingles with the imagined future. 

The embrace of steampunk culture has had a transformative effect on Oamaru. It has breathed new life into the town’s historic Victorian precinct, with many of the area’s boutiques and galleries now featuring steampunk-inspired creations. 

The steampunk aesthetic has also found its way into the town’s public spaces, with fantastical sculptures and installations popping up in unexpected places.

Here are two main ways the town embodies Steampunk culture! 

Steampunk HQ 

The Steampunk phenomenon in Oamaru began when a group of local artists decided to create an art collaboration to portray an industrial version of the Victorian era. This led to the opening of Steampunk HQ in November 2011, quickly becoming a hub for the town’s burgeoning steampunk culture.

Its exhibits allow you to immerse yourself in an eccentric world of retro-futuristic art and machinery. The museum’s collection includes everything from bizarre contraptions to futuristic sculptures, giving a unique interpretation of the steampunk aesthetic.

Steampunk Festivals and Events

Oamaru’s commitment to steampunk extends beyond Steampunk HQ. The town hosts several steampunk-themed events throughout the year, attracting visitors from around the globe. 

These include the annual Steampunk NZ Festival, which features a variety of events such as fashion shows, art exhibitions, and even a teapot racing competition. 

Oamaru is worth visiting for its blue penguin colony 

Oamaru’s blue penguin colony truly makes the town stand out on the map. It’s one of the best places in the world to see blue penguins in their natural habitat.

These adorable creatures have made their home along Oamaru’s rugged coastline. Every evening at sunset, you can observe these penguins returning from their day at sea to their nests on the shoreline. 

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony 

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony  is home to over 1,000 blue penguins, making it one of the largest colonies in the world. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is managed by a dedicated conservation team committed to protecting the penguins and their habitat—so you won’t be disturbing the penguins one bit! 

Oamaru is worth visiting for its arts and culture scene

Oamaru also boasts a thriving arts scene that has placed it firmly on the map as a must-visit destination for culture and art enthusiasts. The town is home to several art galleries, each offering a unique perspective on local and international art. 

The Forrester Gallery, housed in a stunning neo-classical building, is one such gem. It features a rotating collection of exhibitions showcasing works from established and emerging artists.

In addition, the town’s vibrant art scene extends beyond traditional gallery walls. Street art and sculptures can be found throughout the town, adding an extra layer of charm to Oamaru’s picturesque streets. 

Traditional crafts are also alive and well in Oamaru, with local artisans showcasing their skills in various mediums. From stone carving using the region’s distinctive limestone to intricate woodworking, these crafts offer a glimpse into the town’s rich cultural heritage.

Oamaru is worth visiting if you love outdoor recreation 

Here are three outdoor recreational activities you can enjoy in Oamaru! 

Hiking & Biking

Oamaru has slowly gained recognition among outdoor enthusiasts for its impressive hiking and biking trails. There’s something for everyone, from leisurely strolls around the town to challenging hikes through rugged terrains. 

And with the pristine beauty of the Waitaki District as your backdrop, these walks become more than just exercise – they’re a feast for the senses.

One popular trail is the Oamaru Lookout Point Walk, an easy walk with awesome scenic ocean views. 

For those who prefer two wheels, Oamaru is home to a vibrant mountain biking community and boasts a network of trails that Mountain Biking North Otago maintains. These trails cater to all skill levels and feature a mix of challenging climbs, thrilling descents, and scenic routes that wind through forests, farmlands, and along the coast. 


Oamaru is perfect for fishing from the novice angler to the seasoned pro.

Oamaru Harbour, Moeraki Peninsula, Shag Point, and Karitane are prime kayak-fisher locations. 

Meanwhile, Oamaru Creek offers a quiet and peaceful spot perfect for those who prefer a more serene environment.

Really, in Oamaru, you never know what you might reel in. 

The beaches around Oamaru are good for surfcasting, with species such as school sharks, rig, and elephant fish all being common catches. Then, Oamaru Harbour is home to a variety of fish species, including red cod, kahawai, and yellow-eyed mullet.