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Oamaru is one of New Zealand’s most charming small towns and cities, according to a survey by TravelMag.com.

The online travel magazine invited more than 100 travel writers, photographers and selected professionals to name the five towns or small cities – with a population of less than 100,000 – they considered to have the greatest charm and overall appeal.

They then listed the top 20, in alphabetical order, and the favourites happened to be evenly split between the North and South Islands.

The North Island destinations are Feilding, Foxton, Martinborough, Napier, Paihia, Raglan, Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane and Whanganui.

The South Island towns are Akaroa, Arrowtown, Hanmer Springs, Hokitika, Kaikoura, Oamaru, Picton, Queenstown, Takaka and Wanaka.

The spiel about Oamaru said despite only being a small town, it was packed with attractions from the Victorian-style old town area to the seafront’s natural spectacles.

“The latter comes in the form of the lovely little blue penguins, which are the smallest penguin species. They tend to return to the beach from hunting at dusk, but must be given plenty of space.

“At Oamaru’s official penguin observation area there is a seating area, like that at a cricket ground, from which sea lions can also be seen.

“In town, the Victorian Heritage Centre’s open-air museum feel is created by the quiet roads and well-preserved old buildings. Harbour Street is lined with galleries and quaint shops, while the Victorian quirkiness is enhanced greatly by Steampunk HQ, with its futuristic art installations and interactive exhibits.”

The full results of the survey can be seen at travelmag.com/articles/most-charming-destinations-new-zealand.