Plan a Family Trip to Oamaru
Like nowhere else in New Zealand, beautifully preserved Victorian-era heritage, wildlife and even sci-fi fantasy combine in the town of Oamaru. This creative town on the east coast of the South Island, between Timaru and Dunedin, is a place to spark the imaginations of children with its towering Victorian buildings and steampunk-themed attractions. Penguins and seals also play a part in Oamaru’s experiences, seen on coastal walks and dedicated penguin tours. We go through some of the top family-friendly activities, as well as accommodation listings, in this travel guide to Oamaru for families!
Things to Do in Oamaru with Kids
- Check out the Moeraki Boulders
- Play at a steampunk playground
- Explore the Oamaru Public Garden
- Watch seals and penguins at Bushy Beach
- Step back in time at Whitestone City
- Be transported to an alternative reality at Steampunk HQ
- Go horse riding along the Waianakura River
- Watch little blue penguins waddle to their nests
- Ride the Oamaru Steam Train
- Take a road trip up the Waitaki Valley.
For more details on each experience and their locations, see the 10 Things to Do in Oamaru with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
Families will find a nice balance of nature and history in the bustling town of Oamaru! After checking out the beautifully-preserved buildings of the Victorian Precinct and picking up ice cream from Deja Moo, it’s time to head onto some family adventures!
Throughout the day, families with children aged eight years and above can enjoy a relaxing horse trek along the Waianakura River with Sanctum Grove Equine. The trek is certainly one to inspire the imaginations of kids, with highlights including the Taniwha (Monster) Lair, Hobbit Chairs, a wishing well and perfectly spherical boulders much like the Moeraki Boulders. Horses are matched to the rider’s ability, even for the beginner riders of the family.
Speaking of the Moeraki Boulders, this is a must-see attraction on the way to or from Oamaru. Check out these perfectly spherical boulders on the beach at low tide, which have inspired photographers and artists for years. They also make for some fun family photos! Learn about how to get to them in The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Moeraki Boulders.
An evening in Oamaru is not complete until you’ve seen some penguins! While just a stroll along the Esplanade and Waterfront Road of Friendly Bay offers viewings of little blue penguins waddling to their nests after dark, you’ll get a guaranteed viewing at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Sit in the stands with enough lighting to see the “rafts” of little blue penguins coming in after a hard day’s fishing. There’s live commentary during the event to help you learn more about these cute creatures.
For more family adventures, like a Waitaki Valley road trip, see the 10 Things to Do in Oamaru with Kids.
All-weather Family Activities
If the weather is playing havoc on your holiday, then try out these all-weather attractions to keep the little ones happy!
While the Victorian Precinct feels like you’re walking in a different era, the historical museum attraction of Whitestone City enhances the experience! As you walk through the seaside entrance of a restored warehouse, you’ll wander through a mock-up of Oamaru’s early settlement, including the barber and chemist, newspaper and architect offices, until you reach a large playground with Victorian games and penny-farthings to try out. It’s historical fun for the whole family!
To add a little retro-futuristic sci-fi to your trip, check out the imaginative Steampunk HQ! This art gallery/wild and wacky attraction brings steampunk to life with all kinds of interactive pieces to play with. Play a futuristic organ piano, find the gorilla in the mini-maze, jump in a fortified bus or ride the steampunk bike. The most memorable experience of all is standing inside “The Portal”.
For more all-weather experiences, see the 10 Things to Do in Oamaru on a Rainy Day.
Free Family Activities
Stick to your travel budget with ease by making use of Oamaru’s fun and free family attractions! An obligatory visit to the Friendly Bay Playground is in order, a steampunk-themed playground on the waterfront. Steampunk-inspired sculptures are incorporated into the playground equipment of this park, such as a giant penny-farthing on the swings, an oversized armoured elephant climbing frame, a dizzying giant hamster wheel and more!
For a pleasant afternoon out, head to the Oamaru Public Gardens where the kids and roam around exploring the wonderland garden, display house, fernery, water fountain and, of course, a children’s playground. Take a picnic and make a day of it!
For a scenic photo opportunity and a chance to see New Zealand’s fur seals and rare yellow-eyed penguins, head to Bushy Beach! Walk the easy 10 to 20-minute walking track to viewing platforms overlooking a seal colony on the rocks below. Head a little further and you’ll come across viewing hides to watch yellow-eyed penguins crossing the beach (usually before 9am and after 3pm).
For more affordable experiences, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Oamaru.