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