A few days leave, a good weather window, a lack of penguins in my recent past, and the wish to explore the Waitaki region more resulted in a 7 hour drive down from Blenheim to Oamaru. My plan for a few days was to photograph the penguins, explore the Victoria Precinct, eat the amazing food Oamaru has to offer, and head further afield if the weather behaved.
I booked a gorgeous AirBnB knowing I wanted harbour views and it was even better than I expected - I felt as though I had furnished it myself and I could have moved in (to live) immediately.
If you are just here for the birds, I’ll get on to it quickly. Oamaru has gorgeous wildlife right in the middle of town, you can visit the Little Blue Penguin Colony, view the Spotted and Otago Shags on Sumpter Wharf, and fur seals seem to have taken up residence on almost every flat surface around the shoreline. I wasn’t really here for the other species though, only the Yellow-Eyed penguins. Both Bushy Beach and Katiki Point Lighthouse (south down by Moeraki) have resident birds. The first free afternoon I went to Bushy Beach and although saw two penguins from the viewing platform, it is from quite a distance from a photographic point of view. After some advice from a friend, I spent the second afternoon at Katiki Point. The fur seals are numerous and really quite cute, but I my heart skipped a beat when the first Yellow-Eyed penguin called into the sky. He or she was encouraging their partner home. I was absolutely stoked to watch one pair waddle up the beach, along a well-worn path and into their nesting box. All my photos are taken on at 400 mm lens, and then cropped as Yellow-Eyed penguins are the most shy of any penguins I’ve encountered, and a photo is never worth upsetting or scaring them.
Aside from the penguins I was really keen to experience Oamaru and surrounds, here are some of the things I did, ate and saw.
Tees Street Cafe - I visited many times, and it is my go to for breakfast. The Huevos Rancheros are delicious, and my black rice pudding was luscious.
Harbour St Collective - Fabulous coffee and amazing Spanish beans for lunch.
Cucina - I’m here for the dessert! The smoked fish tagliatelle and rocket and blue cheese salad were packed full of flavour but the dark chocolate mousse stole the show. Cucina is an exceptionally good restaurant for a small town.
New Zealand Whisky Collection - Is anyone else addicted to Outlander? They consume a large amount of whisky on the show, I decided a whisky would be a nice way to warm up so I chose the Dunedin Doublewood, a very nice whisky for a beginner. I think we are going to become the best of friends over winter.
Whitestone Cheese - Jump on a tour, or grab a tasting platter.
The Victorian Precinct.
This area has come to life with the SteamPunk Museum, artists, book shops, and crafts all tucked inside beautiful old Oamaru stone buildings. Adventure Books is a must visit when you are wandering the beautiful streets.
If you are keen to head out of town a little, I can recommend Elephant Rocks for some fascinating landscapes, the Moeraki Boulders, and Fleur’s Restaurant. In Moeraki you can also jump on a charter to head out fishing for the famous blue cod, sea perch and to spot an albatross or two. We went with EZIFISH and had a fantastic time.
After four days in this cool little region, hopefully I’ve convinced you all why you should stop in Waitaki.