New Zealand Part 9: Oamaru

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The coastal town of Oamaru is best known for its little blue penguins.  These tiny birds march up the beach each day at dusk to the delight of tourists ensconced in a little viewing area.  My daughter, Halley, and I did not partake of this adventure, choosing instead to explore the town.  We had driven most of the day and just wanted to walk a bit.  With no prior knowledge of Oamaru we were in for a pleasant surprise.

It’s filled with Victorian buildings! Oamaru in its heyday was booming as a commercial center and a thriving seaport.  As a result of this prosperity, the town was soon using local stone to build bigger and more impressive structures.  Thank goodness these buildings are still around today.

Victorian Building, The Opera House, in Oamaru

Victorian Building, The Opera House, in Oamaru

I don’t know how much restoration work went into these shops, warehouses and office buildings, but they are charming.  Some are dotted about the town while others are located within the area of Harbour and Tyne Streets, a section known as the Victorian Precinct.  We discovered the Opera House as the sun was setting.  It is located on Thames Street, the main thoroughfare. This isn’t just a museum piece; it has a full lineup of concerts and plays set to run this season.

Encouraged by the discoveries, Halley and I set out the following morning  to find the historic Victorian section of town.  The real excitement started when we arrived on Harbour.  At that point it was one shop after another, all just waiting to welcome us to the past.  The image below is an actual shop that sells wool.   I love the shapes and colors in this image.  That door has such an old-time warehouse feel in contrast to the elegance of the stonework in the arch.  Note, too, the cobblestone pavement!

J & T Meeks Building in Oamaru

J & T Meeks Building in Oamaru

One block over is Tyne Street and this building.  We were searching for it because it has a bookstore in it.  Yes, we purchased a few books.  No wonder we had to ship things home.  We managed to do quite a bit of shopping in the Victorian Precinct.

Building known as Sumpter's Exchange in Oamaru

Building known as Sumpter’s Exchange in Oamaru

We spent a lot of time exploring and wandering about trying on hats, or buying hand-knitted socks. As the image below illustrates, we could even do a little whisky tasting!  But we didn’t because I know nothing about whisky.  Nonetheless, we did take a look inside and were astonished to discover that this is a big time operation and that they distill award-winning whisky! Oamaru is just full of surprises.

The New Zealand Whiskey Collection in Oamaru

The New Zealand Whiskey Collection in Oamaru

As the morning wore on, more people appeared but initially we had the place to ourselves.  We stopped for a snack and then carried our purchases back to our car.    I had never heard of Oamaru before I made this recent trip, and it turned out to be a wonderful treat.  Everyone we met was friendly and there certainly was a lot to see and do.  Our schedule really should have allowed a little extra time for this area.

Criterion Hotel in Oamaru

Criterion Hotel in Oamaru

Oamaru is definitely one place I would visit again.   I think it deserves a lot more attention.

Victorian Oamaru

Victorian Oamaru

 

 


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