1. Take a day trip to Macraes. No matter how many times you’ve been there before, the landscape above the treeline never fails to amaze. Decades of open-cast gold mining have created a vast grey mass of terraces and pits _ like the Mars scenes in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic move Total Recall
but grey instead of red. Explore historic Golden Point and marvel at how the early Chinese miners survived the desperately damp, bleak winters. On the way there or back, you could stop for a picnic beside the Shag River where State Highway 85 turns a sharp bend under a cliff. An off-road parking
area gives easy access to shady trees and a paddle in the river.
2. Visit the Bushy Beach yellow-eyed penguin viewing hide. This place is extraordinary. A very short drive or a good walk from downtown Oamaru, you can watch one of the world’s rarest penguins come ashore after a day feeding at sea. What looks like an ordinary little bird bobbing in the shallows suddenly
stands up and reveals itself as a tall penguin with a distinctive yellow headband. Then it waddles up the beach and somehow manages to climb the cliff to its nesting site. Not only is it a privilege to see such creatures at close quarters, it is also a wonderful way to blow away the workaday cobwebs before
nightfall. An added bonus is meeting some of the international tourists who travel the globe to see what is right in our backyard.
3. Stroll through the Oamaru Public Gardens. Never underestimate how beautiful the gardens are, and how relaxed and revived you will feel after spending time in them. The plantings are divided into “rooms”, a Victorian aesthetic in keeping with the town’s heritage. Superb specimen trees stand tall
above masses of flowers and foliage, with walkways and bridges leading between them. Extensive rose beds are filled with scented blooms throughout the summer, and the huge greenhouse showcases exotic plants. Added attractions include the children’s playground, large duck ponds and aviaries. This
is a free activity with multiple benefits.
4. Explore Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct. Sure, you’ve been there loads of times. But have you really looked into all the shops, stopped for a coffee, freshly-baked goods, or an ice-cream, and passed the time of day with some of the friendly artisans, shopkeepers or international visitors? The penny-farthing
anchored in Harbour St is not just for tourists _ locals are more than welcome to climb aboard and have their photo taken. If you’ve never taken a train ride from the Harbourside station to the Red Sheds, give it a try. And whatever your age, go on the swings, slides, and merry-go-round at the steampunk
playground. Growing up is so over-rated.
5. Meander through the Waitaki Valley. As many travellers are discovering, our district contains most of New Zealand’s landforms, from alpine to coastal. Whichever direction you travel in, the changes can be seen and enjoyed along State Highway 83 and beyond Omarama on SH8. There are loads of
activities to take in _ have a swim in one of the hydro lakes; fish for trout in a river, lake, canal, see the soaring Clay Cliffs near Omarama; go climbing at Elephant Rocks; sample wines at the vineyards; call in at unique owner-operated shops; or take in refreshments at one of the excellent eateries.