The Complete Guide to Oamaru©
The Complete Guide to Oamaru

The Complete Travel Guide to Oamaru

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Article Single Pages©
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A Travel Guide to Oamaru

Welcome to one of the South Island’s most bizarre towns. And we mean that in a good way! Once you know about it, it becomes an unmissable destination. Perhaps because of its townscape awash in Victorian white limestone architecture, which inspires the town’s locals to dress up every year for the Victorian Fete and establish quirky attractions like Steampunk HQ. Just wandering around the town’s Victorian Precinct is an attraction in itself, transporting travellers to another time.

While combing the coast, it’s not unusual to see the occasional little blue penguin, but penguin sightings are almost guaranteed at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony attraction or from the viewing hides of Bushy Beach.

Oamaru is a relief for the tastebuds too, home to an artisan cheese factory, breweries, the nearby Waitaki Valley wine region and arguably some of the best Kiwi pies in the country – you decide!

So plan your trip to Oamaru, a town with a healthy Victorian, steampunk and penguin obsession, with this complete travel guide to Oamaru.

Fast Facts About Oamaru

Location: On the South Island’s east coast in the Otago region.

Population: 13,700

Climate: Daily average temperature – 11.2°C/52.1°F, yearly average rainfall – 589mm/23.2
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?

Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13

How to get to Oamaru: Oamaru is connected to the rest of the South Island via State Highway 1. The closest international airport is Christchurch Airport (3 hours drive), which also has frequent domestic flights from Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown. Oamaru is on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.

The Complete Guide to Oamaru©

Oamaru for Budget Travellers

The grand limestone architecture, art galleries and abundance of wildlife, particularly penguins and seals, means there’s plenty to see in Oamaru without spending a dime. Attractions like Whitestone City, Steampunk HQ and Whitestone Cheese tours are also affordable attractions to enjoy to bring you closer to Oamaru’s creativity and history. Combine these with the eclectic mix of budget accommodation in Oamaru, as well as affordable eateries, and you have an all-round affordable visit to the steampunk capital! Learn more in The Guide to Oamaru on a Budget.

Budget Activities in Oamaru

  • Check out the Oamaru Victorian Precinct
  • Watch penguins at Friendly Bay and Bushy Beach
  • Stop by the Moeraki Boulders
  • Take a road trip down the Waitaki Valley
  • Visit the unique gallery of Steampunk HQ

For more budget activities, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Oamaru.

Budget Accommodation in Oamaru

Oamaru is home to a range of quirky backpackers and flashpackers, a holiday park, motor parks, motels and budget lodges. Check them out in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Oamaru.

The Complete Guide to Oamaru©

Oamaru for Luxury Travellers

This is the point in our destination guide where you would usually find a list of luxurious experiences and places to stay. However, Oamaru offers too little in terms of luxury to necessitate an entire luxury guide to Oamaru. That just makes a luxury stay here all the more exclusive.

Oamaru’s only five-star accommodation is the heritage-style lodge of Pen-y-bryn Lodge, while accommodations like Poshtel, Mariner Suites and The Wansbeck are also worth considering for the discerning traveller.

Some of the most luxurious experiences in Oamaru include indulging at the local spas, like Oak Villa Beauty Spa or the hot tub and sauna complex of the Old Bones Lodge. Tasters of the premium Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail are also a worthy option for luxury travellers, with all the gear and transport provided by Cycle Ventures. Some of our closest-to-luxury activities can be found in the 8 Romantic Activities in Oamaru for Couples.

The Complete Guide to Oamaru©

Oamaru for Families

Oamaru is certainly a destination that appeals to all ages, especially with its quirky steampunk playground and interactive art gallery attraction, Steampunk HQ. It’s also a place to connect with wildlife, where the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is one of the better penguin attractions for families in the South Island thanks to their tiered stands and lighting so the little ones can see all of the action. Complete your stay with one of the holiday homes or motels in Oamaru and you have a family getaway that’s all too easy! Get some tips on planning your trip with The Guide to Oamaru for Families.

Family-friendly Attractions in Oamaru

  • Play at a steampunk playground
  • Step back in time at Whitestone City
  • Go horse riding along the Waianakura River
  • Watch little blue penguins waddle to their nests
  • Ride the Oamaru Steam Train.

For more details on each experience and their locations, see the 10 Things to Do in Oamaru with Kids.

Family Accommodation in Oamaru

Families will find plenty of options for places to stay in Oamaru, especially holiday homes should you want the ideal blend of homeliness and essential facilities. Otherwise, there are plenty of affordable motels in Oamaru offering self-catering facilities and room for the whole family. Check them out in the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Oamaru.

The Complete Guide to Oamaru©

Oamaru for Couples

With its historic buildings backed by the glistening Pacific Ocean, Oamaru can’t help but add an air of romance to your visit. Not to mention that the penguins you’re likely to see simply melt your heart! There’s something in Oamaru for couples who want to adventure together, like the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, and for couples who prefer to relax together, with an array of art galleries and couples’ spa experiences. Plan your romantic getaway with The Honeymoon Guide to Oamaru.

Romantic Things to Do in Oamaru

  • Have a stroll in the Oamaru Public Garden
  • Indulge in a wine and cheese factory tour and tasting
  • Enjoy a scenic journey on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail
  • Treat yourselves to a couples’ spa day
  • Treat your loved one to lunch or dinner at Oamaru’s eateries.

For more information on these activities and others, see the 8 Romantic Activities in Oamaru for Couples.

Romantic Accommodation in Oamaru

Quaint B&Bs, a luxury lodge, boutique hotels and more make up the landscape of Oamaru’s romantic accommodation. There’s something to suit couples looking for a cheap getaway to a luxury romantic retreat. Check them out in the 9 Best Romantic Accommodation in Oamaru.

The Complete Guide to Oamaru©

Oamaru for Foodies

By this point, you probably think that Oamaru’s only about the Victorian vibes, penguins and steampunk stuff. But it hides a foodie scene that those who like to travel through their tastebuds are going to love! You’ll find cheese factory tours, the largest confectionery manufacturer in New Zealand, the Waitaki Valley wine region, craft beer breweries and more. Plan a trip orientated around food in The Foodie Guide to Oamaru.

Food Tours and Activities in Oamaru

  • Tour a cheese factory complete with tastings
  • Experience the Oamaru Farmers’ Market
  • Venture to the Waitaki Valley wine region
  • Try some craft beer in the Victorian Precinct…
  • … Then pick up a pie, ice cream and artisan goods in the Victorian Precinct.

For more details on each experience and more, take a look at the 7 Things to Do in Oamaru for Foodies.

Foodie Accommodation in Oamaru

Many of Oamaru’s accommodations not only offer a bed but dining. Check them out along with some self-catering accommodation in the 10 Best Accommodation in Oamaru for Foodies.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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