Exploring Waitaki

Image: Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Exploring Waitaki

The Waitaki region has an eclectic range of attractions. Oamaru’s Blue Penguin colony is sure to delight wildlife lovers, the region’s geology and ancient history are fascinating, and the historic Victorian architecture of Oamaru is a delight to explore – and has had the unexpected offshoot of the small country town becoming the Steampunk capital of New Zealand.

Do & Discover

A major highlight of the region is the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, New Zealand’s largest scientifically monitored Blue Penguin colony. The world’s smallest penguins spend their days feeding at sea and every evening they arrive back on land and waddle up to their burrows. With purpose-built facilities, including a 350-seat grandstand, the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is a great place to see wild penguins. Once you've met these charming little birds, head to the region's main town of Oamaru and browse at the Forrester Gallery, or explore the town's lovely Victorian whitestone architecture and history at the North Otago Museum. Get a glimpse of history's alternative universe at the Steampunk HQ Workshop. Step back in time yourself with historic recreation portraiture at The Photo Shoppe, browse The Woolstore Complex gallery and market, sample delicacies at the Whitestone Cheese Store, and catch a movie at the Limelight Cinema. Elsewhere in the region, brave Omarama's world famous gliding conditions with GlideOmarama.com, or relax on the ground in the thermal pools of  Hot Tubs Omarama. In Duntroon, the Vanished World Heritage Trail & Centre is well worth a visit.

Food & Drink

The Waitaki region has plenty of excellent eateries, some of which have received much acclaim. Locally produced cheese has developed a good reputation amongst foodies and is definitely worth seeking out when you’re in the area. Good coffee can be found at Roost, Steam, and the Whitestone Cheese Store. Relax with a drink at the Criterion Hotel, Fat Sally’s Pub & Restaurant or The Globe in Oamaru, or head to The Penguin Club for live music. Pick up an inexpensive meal at Harbour Street Bakery. Fleur’s Place is a much-loved local eatery right on the jetty in Moeraki. Others to try are Northstar Motel, Restaurant & Bar, Portside Restaurant and the award-winning Riverstone Kitchen – it’s worth seeking out this country restaurant for its menu of fresh, local produce.


Accommodation options in the Waitaki include everything from relaxing holiday parks to the chance to stay in historic Victoria-era buildings in Oamaru. Backpackers can head to Omarama's Buscot Station, while the Oamaru Top 10 Holiday Park and Moeraki Village Holiday Park are also good cheaper options. For motel accommodation try Northstar Motel, Restaurant & Bar or Eden Gardens, or for the most luxurious options head to the Criterion Hotel or Brydone Hotel Oamaru.

Local Knowledge

The Waitaki region's nearest airport is in Dunedin, where domestic flights are available to all main New Zealand centres and international flights depart to Brisbane, Australia. If you’re driving, Oamaru is 3 hours, 20 minutes from Christchurch and 1 hour, 40 minutes from Dunedin. When you're there, visit the Oamaru i-SITE at 1 Thames Street to find out more.

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