SHARE
Come on in .. An Oamaru stone arch welcomes visitors to Whitestone City. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

A “steady stream” of visitors has passed through the doors of Whitestone City since it opened in late May, which Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill believes is encouraging for the future growth of the attraction.

Whitestone City, a Victorian era-themed heritage centre in Oamaru with some modern elements, was officially opened on May 21.

It is a joint venture between Tourism Waitaki and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

It features a streetscape that includes a medical dispensary, a barber shop, a general store, an architect’s office with a hologram of the Criterion Hotel, and a newspaper stand, which features another hologram of a Victorian-era newspaper boy.

There is a Victorian dressing experience that displays several authentic period gowns, hats, a video showing the difficulties involved getting dressed as a Victorian woman, and more than 60 replica portraits, in original frames, of Oamaru’s early settlers.

Other features include a rideable carousel with four penny-farthings, a playground with Victorian-era games, an agricultural area, a bar and brothel display, a schoolroom and a parlour that houses furniture and a laid-out dinner set.

Mr Gaskill said, on average, 30 people a day had visited Whitestone City since it opened, while 400 visited during Oamaru Fire and Steam over Queen’s Birthday weekend and more than 1000 on its opening day.

Visitor numbers were higher at weekends and some days were busier than others during the week.

“The feedback’s been very, very positive,” he said.

“We’ve had a steady stream of people since [the opening]. In the first few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of locals come in, which is fantastic, and we’re really pleased with that. We’re seeing a lot of interest for visitors as well coming through.

“The level of community engagement has been really nice to see and to experience, We would really like people to see it as a community activity that is something everyone can engage with. That’s our hope.”

He believed the attraction, which exited on to Harbour St, would have a positive flow-on effect for businesses in the precinct.

“It was always designed as an entry point for people to go and experience a lot more of what Oamaru and the historic precinct has to offer.”

Tourism Waitaki was “cautiously hopeful” that the next tourism season would be a fruitful one for Whitestone City.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the people we’ve been talking to in the industry. It’s winter, so obviously there are fewer people around at the moment, so we are taking that into account when we’re evaluating stuff. But, the level of interest is encouraging for the coming summer.”