1. Fleurs (and Lachies)
Fleurs is a much-loved restaurant on Moeraki’s sparkling waterfront, established by local folk hero Fleur Sullivan. Its success, driven by its owner’s passion and dedication to the local community, has changed the face of this sleepy little town.
Famously praised by celebrity chef Rick Stein, Fleurs specialises in seafood fresh off the boats that anchor in the harbour right outside the restaurant.
For equally fresh seafood on a smaller budget, Lockies at Hampden, just up the road from Moeraki, serves the best fish and chips on the coast.
2. Donna Demente’s Grainstore Gallery
Donna Demente is a celebrated Oamaru artist and personality. Her gallery, on Harbour Street in the town’s Victorian precinct, is jaw-dropping – Donna’s fascinating works somehow clothe the walls of this enormous room.
Her style has been described as “a mix of drama, pre-Raphaelitism, taxidermy and metaphysics”, and a visit here is an essential stop on your tour of the Victorian precinct.
The bakery across the road serves good old-fashioned meat pies, while the new Scott’s Brewery at the end of the street is a great place for lunch and some delicious local craft beer.
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3. Tōtara Estate and the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail
This historic farm was where the first shipment of frozen meat destined for Britain was prepared, an event that gave birth to New Zealand’s nation-defining frozen meat export industry.
The buildings that stand there were once the hearth and homestead of a great 15,000-acre estate. Today they have been restored and the displays offer insights into New Zealand’s early agricultural history. The nearby Clark’s flour mill is also worth a look.
If the popularity of other cycle trails is anything to go by, this is set to transform the district, so get pedalling now before everyone knows about it…
4. Duntroon and the Vanished World Trail
This little village is situated at the end (or start) of the Vanished World driving trail, which winds through the North Otago hills, leading visitors to some spectacular fossil and geological sites – 'Elephant Rocks' and 'Earthquakes' are just two of the highlights. Duntroon hosts the Vanished World museum, which houses some fascinating fossil finds from the region.
Behind the historic Nichol’s Forge is a great big limestone sinkhole, with crystal-clear water flowing across its base. Water from this hole was once used by a local brewery.
The water makes a brief appearance here before disappearing underground, only to reemerge in the wetlands to the north of the town, where there is a pleasant short walk to be enjoyed.
The café in Duntroon, the Flying Pig, is good but has erratic opening hours. The Valley Café, 10 minutes up the road at Kurow is an excellent alternative.
5. Hot Tubs Ōmarama
These tubs are heated by wood fires and offer the opportunity to soak in privacy under the big sky that Ōmarama is famous for. Open a bottle of wine and watch the Milky Way rise above the hills that surround the town.
Aoraki Mt Cook is nearby, and the whole area feels elevated – closer to the sky somehow. Appreciating this at night in the warmth of one of these tubs can be a transcendent experience.
Two good options for food and drink in Ōmarama are the Wrinkly Rams café and wine bar, which has excellent coffee and cabinet food, and Ladybird Hill for evening dining. You can even catch your own salmon at Ladybird Hill before eating it!