GO NZ: Ōamaru’s Victorian punks and yellow-eyed penguins a vision not forgotten

Ōamaru has given its own twist to the solid stateliness of the Victorian era, writes Eleanor Hughes

We reach Ōamaru through Ōamaru Gardens, via the Southern Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. The colourful, manicured flowerbeds are like an oasis after riding past kilometres of paddocks and rural scenery. Signs point us to the trail end at Friendly Bay. A large frame forms a picture-perfect spot with the harbour, dotted by yachts and old wooden launches, in the background. We pose with our bikes before delivering them back to Cycle Journeys Depot. Time to find our way back to Empire Hotel Backpackers, which we spotted when coming into town, and explore Ōamaru.

Passing imposing, whitestone buildings with fancy columns and decoration that make me feel like I’m in London, not small-town New Zealand, we reach our accommodation on Thames St. The main commercial thoroughfare is four lanes, plus a median strip – constructed this wide to make for easy turning of oxen and carts back in the 1800s. Today, there’s barely any traffic on the street bedecked with hanging baskets of red, yellow and blue flowers.

My room looks out to Steampunk HQ where a dirigible is suspended and a steam engine points skywards. We’ll check it out tomorrow.

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