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Penguins + Architecture = Oamaru | Don't Ever Look Back

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Penguins + Architecture = Oamaru

Penguins + Architecture = Oamaru

Many who road trip around New Zealand’s South Island go directly from Dunedin to Christchurch or vice versa without bothering to check out what’s in between the two cities.

We were fortunate enough to have a night to spare so we spent it in Oamaru, located 90 minutes northeast of Dunedin. Oamaru is the main town in the Waitaki District and home to approximately 13,000 people. It’s also home to one of our favorite little animals – the penguin!


Oamaru Historic Precinct

Oamaru Historic Precinct

Built predominantly between 1870 and 1890, the historic precinct of Oamaru is home to some beautiful colonial architecture. The majority of buildings are built from Oamaru Stone and the town is home to New Zealand’s most impressive Victorian Streetscapes.

If you’re around at the right time, you might get to see some people in costume – a great photo opportunity!


Yellow-Eyed Penguins

Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Bushy Beach

A five-minute drive south of Oamaru’s Historic Precinct lies Bushy Beach, a Yellow-Eyed Penguin reserve.

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin is one of the world’s rarest species of penguins with an estimated population of only 4,000 and we were lucky enough to see three of them playing around on the beach. The photo above is the best our zoom lens could get but our YouTube video shows them in action.

There was also a playful fur seal just minding his own business on Bushy Beach during our visit.


Blue Penguin Colony

Blue Penguins Oamaru

The Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru is home to the world’s smallest penguin, the Blue Penguin (also known as the Fairy Penguin or Little Penguin). These little fellas stand around 30cm (12 inches) tall and seeing them in their natural habitat is very cool.

The colony has an outdoor viewing grandstand where you can watch them come home from sea after a busy day of fishing where you can get a great view of these adorable creatures.

Just remember, no cameras!

If you’ve got the time, we can strongly recommend including Oamaru on your South Island itinerary. Especially if you love your penguins as much as the two of us do!


Need Transport?

travelheadfirstTravel Headfirst offers the Penguins Crossing tour above including accommodation pick-up and drop-off. Adults $55, Children $20.


  1. Posted February 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Ohh I just did this! So much fun. The blue penguins are adorable!
    Liz |Traveling Liz recently posted..Overstaying your Indonesia Visa

  2. Posted February 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    So glad you got to enjoy what we did Liz! They sure are adorable, wish we could’ve taken some photos/video from the blue penguin colony so that more people could see it!

  3. Posted February 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    this is so true! there is so much to see between Dunedin and Christchurch and Oamaru is one of those perfect spots – esp. when you get to see the penguins 🙂

  4. Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! Love little insider tidbits of information like this, such as a place to stop between two cities that are usually not even considered! And the penguins are adorable, what an awesome experience!
    Jessica recently posted..Experiencing Life As It Was Lived 3,000 Years Ago in Neot Kedumim

  5. Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Nice post…I added a side trip and flight to Dunedin on my NZ trip just to see the penguins down that way. I thought the yellow-eyed penguins looked kind of scary and mean, but the little blue ones were cool. I will have to visit Oamaru next time!
    Red Hunt recently posted..Hey ‘Professional’ Travel Bloggers – Have you Apologized to Delta yet?

  6. Posted April 6, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I LOVE Oamaru! The Penguin Parade thing is so touristy, but so cute and worth it! When I was leaving, I saw so many penguins in the parking lot too!
    Plus, I loved the hostel I stayed at in town. Just a super cute place to break the trip up.
    Rebecca recently posted..Alaska – The Last Day-ish

  7. Posted June 15, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    We did a road trip around the southern island a few years back. Beautiful place. Roads can be a bit scary but. Vertical drops with no railing!
    Nicole @ GGT recently posted..Water Wonders: A Father-Daughter Story of Growth Through Adventure

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