Victorian architecture, a blossoming food-and-drink scene, and hundreds of little blue penguins who come to town every night - plus it's the world capital of Steampunk - Ōamaru is a perfect stop for a long weekend visit.
Where to eat in Ōamaru
At Cucina , Yanina and Pablo Tacchini serve locally raised meat, fresh homemade pastas, and tasty vegetable dishes. The owners are originally from Argentina, so expect masterfully barbecued meats, alongside robust vegetable sides.
For the full experience, order the Trust the Chef option, an absolute feast of traditional Argentinian treats, and the best of local produce. We tried pork and apple empanadas with salsa verde, fried gnocchi, a roasted baby carrot and fried chickpea salad, homemade chorizo and charred ribeye. Live your best life and save room for dessert - the churros and s'mores are both unmissable.
You'll probably have seen Whitestone Cheese in your local supermarket. These award-winning cheeses are sold up and down the country, and internationally as well. Visit the cafe or book online to arrange a cheesemaking factory tour and tasting. And if you can't stop by, just sign up for the Cheese Club - a platter delivered to your door each month.
Where to drink in Ōamaru
Belgium-style beers are served at Craftwork Brewery , a micro brewery run by Lee-Ann Scotti and Michael O'Brien. These two are proper beer nerds - they know Belgium ales intimately, and the pair are passionate about crafts of all kinds (she sews her own clothes; he is a former bookbinder). Head to the Tasting Room in Ōamaru's Victorian Precinct for beers on tap and by the bottle, and local cheeseboards and pickled eggs. This little bar is done up to look just like a Belgium pub, and you may find Lee-Ann and Michael behind the bar, donning corduroy two-pieces and cravats, and doffing their hats to the punters.
Scott's Brewing created New Zealand's first gluten-free beer. Now they brew a range of ales, porters, lagers and more, and serve them up Wednesday to Sunday onsite at Wansbeck St, alongside pizzas and bar snacks.
Where to stay in Ōamaru
The Victorian mansion of Pen-y-Bryn Lodge was built in the late 1800s for a businessman and his family. Now the lodge offers luxurious accommodation in this grand home atop Ōamaru's South Hill. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore: libraries, sitting rooms and games rooms, and the wraparound grounds, from which much of the lodge's food comes. Stay in the main lodge or the annex, and in the morning enjoy an elaborate breakfast spread of homemade jams, poached fruits, skyr, and mueslis.