Guide48 Hours Ōamaru & Waitaki
The Waitaki region has got it all - the ocean, mountains, bike paths, walking tracks, great food and award-winning wine.
With so much to do, see, and try it’s crucial to plan ahead and make the most of your time here. While you won't be able to fit every local Waitaki gem into just a couple of days, we reckon some time is better than no time at all and this guide will take you through the best bits.
Your guide to the best things to do in Ōamaru & Waitaki
You’ll jump into the region in Ōamaru where you’ll find plenty of history, folklore, Victorian Architecture, and local food and drink. From there you’ll head south to Moeraki for a restful afternoon and then through to Duntroon to explore Waitaki's geologic landscape. You’ll end the day with some glamping, begin day two with a trip to Kurow for a wine tasting and a walk and finally wrap up with a soak in an outdoor cedar tub at Hot Tubs Omarama.
Day One - Morning
126 Thames Street, Oamaru
After waking up at Poshtel you’ll likely find that you’ve just had one of the best sleeps of your life. This funky, lovable hotel has details big and small that will make your stay relaxing and luxurious, too. Every room offers plush bedding, pillows that feel like home, thick woollen carpet underfoot, wide pane glass windows, and a unique theme - check them all out online before you book. While Poshtel could’ve built more rooms, they added more stories. With that, they’ve got The Bowling Room, The Antarctic Explorer Suite, The Polo Room and more to discover. Every space here is filled with relics and antiques that shed light on different parts of New Zealand history with a big focus on art and sporting culture, too. Hosts Shelley and Aidan will make you feel welcome from the moment you arrive.
Breakfast: Tees Street
3 Tees Street
Sweet or savoury brekkie? At Tees Street you can take your pick or do both. Everything you’ll find in the cabinet and on the menu is homemade with every part of the flavour spectrum accounted for. On the sweet side, you’ll find homemade slices, cakes, and (our favourite) bombolino doughnuts. These decadent bites come filled with dulce de leche, creme brulee and other tasty combinations. Order a flat white or branch out with Tees Street’s turmeric latte, Vietnamese coffee or kombucha on tap and you’re sorted. On the savoury side Tees Street’s huevos rancheros and reuben sandwich keep locals (and visitors) coming back for more. The latter comes stacked with tender pastrami, tart sauerkraut, a touch of Thousand Island, melted cheese and a big scoop of twice-cooked chips. It’s an old deli classic done perfectly at this well-loved Ōamaru café.
Explore: Steampunk HQ
1 Humber Street, Oamaru
Once you’re powered up for the day head down the road and into the Steampunk rabbit hole at Steampunk HQ. Rather than rushing, take your time at the start. In the foyer you can dress up in Victorian clothing, choose a Steampunk identity, name and trade and ready yourself for a trip to the future - a future that remained powered by steam, that is. As you make your way through you’ll find a portal to other dimensions, the Gadgetorium, an intergalactic organ pipe and a host of other inventions, gizmos, installations and sculptures that come to life with the touch of a button. While Steampunk HQ is full of art, made by both local and international steam enthusiasts, it’s not a stuffy gallery by any means. Almost everything is interactive here so bring the whole family.
Explore: Victorian Precinct
3 Harbour Street, South Hill, Oamaru
Return to the present but also the past in Ōamaru’s Victorian precinct located just around the corner from Steampunk HQ. The cobbled street is lined with Victorian style buildings many of which are constructed with that iconic Ōamaru limestone. The Precinct’s northern end begins with the harbour masters building. Behind its quaint green door you’ll find a ton of NZ made food, preserves, cook books, and kitchen tools at The Larder. At CRAFTED: Waitaki Artisan Gallery you can explore works by a host of local artists and if you’re hungry get a nibble from Harbour Street Bakery or Deja Moo ice cream shop. At Harbour Street Collective café you can grab a coffee and let the tots run wild at the indoor playground. Finally, Climb the stairs at 9 Harbour Street and find yourself at Grainstore Gallery which can only be described as an emporium filled with the larger than life paintings and paper mache sculptures of local artist, Donna Demente.
Starters: The Fishwife
145 Haven Street, Moeraki
Hop in the car and make your way down Highway 1 to Moeraki. The town’s name means ‘a place to rest by day’ and after just a few minutes here you’ll understand why - this place is special and serene. Just 35 minutes from Ōamaru, Moeraki is perched above the sea and offers some of the best seafood we’ve found. Head to the wharf and get some starters to prepare for an afternoon of eating and adventuring. The Fishwife does, quite possibly, the best blue cod in all of New Zealand. Order a few fillets and a scoop of chips for the whole crew and share it amongst - this fush and chups melt in your mouth - super fresh, golden brown goodness in a basket. The blue cod is caught right here which means this dish is simple and familiar but fresh as - a reminder of how great this classic truly is. Sit at the picnic table on the water or lean against the rail and take in the sparkly blue Moeraki waterfront.
Lunch: Fleurs Place
169 Haven Street, Moeraki
Now that your appetite is fired up, continue down Haven Street and find yourself at Fleurs Place which is just a minute or two away on foot. This storied restaurant is the work of Fleur Sullivan and has been drawing foodies to its doorstep since 2002. The menu is built upon what’s already here in Moeraki; kai Moana, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and lots of foraged greens and garnishes. On the chalkboard out front, you’ll find a list of the ‘Filleted fish today: our fish from the Moeraki boats’. To try them all go for the platter which features five fresh fillets of different types of fish atop steamed organic vegetables and homemade sauces. This dish is enough to feed a few and goes perfectly with other Fleurs favourites like seafood chowder, smoked potted eel and other delicacies like Titi (muttonbird). Whatever you order, familiar or new, a visit to Fleurs place is a chance to have some “naturally good” food that’s caught here, gathered here, grown here, prepared here, and enjoyed here.
Explore: Elephant Rocks
After all that eating it’ll be time for some exercise. Drive back towards Duntroon and explore the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, which is home to impressive outcrops like Elephant Rocks. Pop ‘Island Cliff 9494’ into your GPS and it’ll take you straight there for a nice walk, a bit of bouldering, or both. Remnants of an ancient seafloor, this limestone has since been sculpted by wind and rain creating impressive outcrops. Once you’ve found it, do the quick 200m walk and find yourself peering down into a limestone basin that is home to a herd of Elephant shaped outcrops. Mind the sheep (not made of stone) and head on down to explore. Be sure to bring your camera, too, as this spot is pretty stunning.
Dinner: The Fort Enfield Tavern
625 Weston-Ngapara Road, Enfield
Wrap up your day with one final, noteworthy meal at The Fort Enfield Tavern. It’s an easy, welcoming spot for a beer, wine, and a classic but delicious pub feed. Grab a local craft brew from Scott’s or a time tested Speights, choose a big table or cosy nook, and sit down to rest your legs. Take a peek at the menu and you’ll find all the favourites like fish and chips, chicken schnitzel, and what’s been said to be the best steak in town. This hearty filet comes served with fresh salads, a generous serve of chips and your pick of garlic butter, peppercorn sauce or red wine and mushroom sauce. If it’s a fine weather day you can sit outside but either way is sure to check out all of the historical photographs and relics that line those walls and tell the story of this local gems’ 40-year history. Once your well and truly stuffed head along to Vallery Views for a night of glamping.
Stay: Valley Views Glamping
161 Domett Road, Otiake
Valley Views Glamping has got fancy camping down to a science. After one night here you’ll see what we mean. Here you’ll spend the night in a glamping dome with sweeping views of the Waitaki Valley. Hosts, Amber and Patrick, opened Valley Views in 2017 and have had about 4,500 guests from 50 countries come to stay. The spot itself is beautiful and so are the domes. Inside you’ll find a bed fit for a king, a little log fire to keep you cosy and a picture window to bring the outside in. While your dome has complete privacy you can wander up the hill to the kitchen and common space for coffee and tea. Down the back you’ll find an outdoor tub in the forest. Plan to take a soak under the stars (just check the sign first to ensure it’s not occupied).
Day Two - Morning
Breakfast: Wild Sage
16 Bledisloe Street, Kurow
After the glamp of a lifetime, continue on your journey to Kurow one of the Waitaki’s cutest and most welcoming townships. Kurow has horse treks, hill walks, water sports, cycleways and fishing galore as well as some seriously good spots to start the day with a mean brekkie. Wild Sage is green inside and out with beautiful gardens in the courtyard plus lots of plants and art inside, too. Owner Jane and her team are like a family and together whip up homemade slices, pies and plates that’ll fill you up and satisfy your every craving, too. If you’ve got a sweet tooth the ginger cup paired with a flat white is hard to go past. For something a bit heartier, check out the beef and pepper pie. Don’t rush as this spot is an easy place to hangout and explore. Jane has filled the space with things she loves and her team ensures everyone feels welcome.
Explore: Kurow township, walkway
Get your legs moving with a wander around Kurow town and then climb up above it all to get a sense of the larger landscape it’s situated within. At the end of Grey Street you’ll find the start of Kurow Hill walkway. While it is a bit steep this walk has great bang for buck in terms of effort to views. In one to two hours, depending on your pace, you’ll get a birds eye view of Kurow town, the braided Waitaki River, the Hakataramea Valley and beyond. Other than from an airplane, this quick hike gives what might be the best perspective of the powerful waterway that makes this region so unique. The wispy, brilliant blue braids of the Waitaki River are completely stunning. The path does go through a working farm so be sure to close the gates.
Lunch: River-T Estate
5292a Kurow-Duntroon Road, RD6k, Kurow
You’ll have earned a treat after that walk so plan to pop down to River-T Estate straight afterwards. Sit inside or amongst the grapes and sip the Pinot Gris they support. While River-T grows their own grapes you can also try a swath of other Waitaki wines here, too. While the wines are award winning, River-T’s laid back country-western feel makes it a great spot for the whole family. If you're hungry, take a look at the platters menu. These boards boast local cheeses, meats, dips and produce and there’s even a kids platter, too. If you find a wine that you love take a bottle or two away with you from the cellar door.
Explore: Hot tubs
29 Omarama Ave Main Omarama Twizel, Highway, Omarama
We can’t think of a better way to wrap up a whirlwind tour of the Waitaki than with a soak at Hot Tubs Omarama. The drive from River-T through to this spot is a treat and will take you along the beautiful Waitaki River, past the impressive Benmore Dam and through the region’s rugged landscape. At Hot Tubs Omarama you’ll get your very own outdoor cedar hot tub nestled within its own environment and with views of that same iconic landscape. The tubs are cleaned, filled with fresh mountain water and heated between each booking so all you need to do is get in, adjust the temp to your liking and relax. Each standard booking lasts an hour and a half and includes your own private tub and changing room. There’s also an option to get a hot tub, sauna combo for maximum rejuvenation.
Words by: Olivia Sisson
Photos by: Nancy Zhou