Oamaru is known for its Victorian precinct and steampunk. We also enjoyed the neighboring Otago coast and its great oceanfront freedom camping options.
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Highlights of Oamaru
Oamaru Victorian Precinct
The Victorian precinct of downtown Oamaru has striking limestone buildings. Many of these buildings house unique shops such as antique furniture stores, book shops, galleries, and cafes.
Craftwork is a nano-brewery producing Belgian-style beers in the Victorian precinct of Oamaru. Unfortunately they were not open during either of our visits but we often purchased their beer throughout New Zealand. Really legit good stuff.
Scotts Brewing Co is a popular brewery with good pizza and beer located between the Victorian precinct and the harbour area.
All throughout Oamaru you’ll find steampunk relics. The term steampunk is defined as: a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.
FUN FACT: Oamaru was added to the Guinness Book of World Records in August 2016 for the largest collection of steampunks in the world.
A steam train even operates between the historic precinct and the harbour on the weekend.
Oamaru Harbour and Penguins
The harbour area includes a playground with steampunk features and a huge Penny Farthing structure supporting the swings.
The harbour is also home to a colony of little blue penguins. These penguins are the largest tourist draw in Oamaru. Tours can be quite pricey. We opted to view the little blue penguins at the Royal Albatross Center on the Otago Peninsula. Read about that here.
Additionally, a colony of yellow-eyed penguins can be found just outside of Oamaru at the Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve.
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Highlights of the Otago Coast: Oamaru to Dunedin
The Otago coast from Oamaru to Dunedin has a lot to offer beyond the scenic accessible beaches.
Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve
Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve is home to a colony of yellow-eyed penguins. The best time to spot them is about two hours prior to sunset. We didn’t see any but if you do, please send us some photos!
Moeraki Boulders Beach
Moeraki Boulders Beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. Strewn across the beach are large spherical boulders.
Māori legend suggests the boulders are petrified baskets and kumara washed ashore from a large canoe shipwreck. The petrified canoe hull forms the rocky shoals extending from Shag Point and the pattern on the boulders are remains of the fishing nets on the canoe.
Katiki Historic Reserve and Lighthouse
Some fortunate people have also spotted yellow-eyed penguins at the Katiki Historic Reserve. We didn’t see them here either; just a lot of fur seals!
Trotters Gorge Track, Trotters Gorge Scenic Reserve, Hillgrove
A short distance inland from Katiki Historic Reserve is Trotters Gorge Scenic Reserve in Hillgrove.
Trotters Cave Walk
700 m one-way // 30 min one-way
This short walk follows Trotters Creek to a set of caves.
Trotters Gorge Track
2.5 km return // 2 hr return
Continuing on from the cave walk, this track is uphill to a rocky outcrop with spectacular views of the ocean. After descending the track is in the forest and follows a dry creek.
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Camping on the Otago Coast: Oamaru to Dunedin
We suggest using the information and bountiful reviews in the CamperMate app to find campsites suitable for your situation and inline with your expectations. These are the campsites at which we stayed on the Otago Coast between Oamaru and Dunedin.
Waihao Box, Waimate
This freedom camping area is about 35 minutes north of Oamaru. A bit off-the-beaten path, this area fits a few vehicles and has easy access to a rocky beach.
TIP: Victoria Park in Waimate has an aviary as well as (caged) wallabies.
All Day Bay Free Campground, Herbert
Freedom camping 15 minutes south of Oamaru. Long stretch of grass alongside the road and next to the beach. Popular with surfers.
Riverside Haven Lodge & Holiday Park, Herbert
Riverside Haven is a paid campground inland between All Day Bay and Katiki Beach. Friendly owners, powered sites, other amenities, and a scenic riverside location.
Katiki Beach North Reserve Rest Stop, Hillgrove
Small freedom camping area 35 minutes south of Oamaru. Get there early for a spectacular spot.
New Zealand Planning and Resources
If you’re planning for your vacation or holiday in New Zealand, more resources – including our trip map with points of interest and camping spots – can be found in our New Zealand planning and resources post.
Our travelogue and the details of our day-to-day activities can be found in our New Zealand itinerary and travelogue post.
travel dates: February 5 – 6, 2020 & August 12 – 16, 2020
last updated: 26-Aug-2021