Oamaru is a wonderful little town to stop in if you are traveling between Dunedin and Christchurch. But first, if you are coming from Dunedin, try to plan your trip so you can stop in Moeraki. Not for the Boulders, though they are fine, I suppose. Rather, you want to stop for lunch (or dinner, if you can spend the night) at Fleur’s Place. It rated highly in both Lonely Planet South and Rough Guide. It was great food, and it was right on the water. The fish chowder was so good we bought an extra order to take with us (we ate it next night in Christchurch).
Before touring Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct, see the movie in the visitor’s center. It explains the town’s history – and why all of the buildings are still there: Basically, things stalled out for Oamaru in the late 1800s.
The other big thing in Oamaru, at least for us, was the Steampunk HQ. We almost did not go, which would have been a mistake. If you don’t know what steampunk is, I would explain it as “retro futuristic sci-fi”. Better yet, look at their website. If you decide you really like steampunk, there are shops selling things you can take home with you.
Also, be sure to go the town playground, which continues the “steampunk”-theme into playground equipment.
We stopped at the Whitestone Cheese factory before leaving town. Depending on when you go, you might be able to see them making cheese, but you should at least be able to get a little tasting. We had been buying Whitestone Cheese in food stores, but after we visited Oamaru, we realized where name “Whitestone” comes from.
One last point. We got to the Whitestone Cheese factory at lunch break. The workers were sitting outside eating McDonald’s.
A great place to say in Oamaru is the Ambassador Motor Lodge, at 296 Thames Hwy. It was a very nice room, and it was quiet, even though it was on the main highway. And the free, home-made muffins when you check in were delicious.