The Criterion Hotel, Ōamaru. © Tourism Waitaki

Go back in time in Ōamaru's Victorian Precinct


Visiting Ōamaru is like stepping back in time. 

First settled in 1853, Ōamaru was a popular spot for migrants, with its sheltered port and flat, treeless plains. By 1881, 6,000 people lived here, making the city the same size as Los Angeles at the time. 

But the most remarkable aspect of this historic town is the whitestone heritage architecture, forged from local limestone in the Victorian era and still standing today. 

In Ōamaru you’ll find penny farthings parked at cobbled curbs, locals dressed in full Victorian regalia, blacksmith shops, historic grain store buildings and colourful bunting decorating the streets. 

In the harbourside Victorian Precinct, you can grab a coffee from one of the superb cafés and explore the shops selling local crafts, vintage wares and make sure you climb the stairs to check out the Grainstore Gallery featuring local icon Donna Demente’s serene, surreal paintings and sculptures. 

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