Otago, Invercargill, and Stewart Island Feature

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The Northern Otago Coast and Oamaru

Oamaru i-SITE Info Centre. The town's visitor center has information about the locally popular Victorian Heritage Celebrations as well as the town's noteworthy buildings. 1 Thames St., Oamaru, 9400. 03/434–1656. www.visitoamaru.co.nz.

Oamaru's other claim to fame is penguins. Each evening, enthusiastic blue penguins—the world's smallest penguin breed—emerge from the sea and waddle up the beach to their nests.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony can be visited any time of the year, and, providing penguins are present, tours and viewing opportunities run day and evening. There's a small visitor center on-site with a shop and toilet facilities. The actual times penguins come ashore in the evening affects the nighttime open hours, but the center opens every morning at 10 am. Waterfront Rd., Oamaru, 9400. 03/433–1195. www.penguins.co.nz. NC$16 for daytime tours; NZ$28 for night viewing. Oct.–Mar., 10 am–11:30 pm; Apr.–Sept., 10 am–8:30 pm.

An even more significant population of yellow-eyed penguins, or hoiho, come ashore south of Oamaru. The best places to view them are Bushy Beach and Katiki Point, where hides (camouflaged viewing huts) have been constructed. These penguins are one of the world's rarest breeds, and they are considered an endangered species.

Moeraki Boulders. These giant spherical rocks are concretions that are just north of the village of Moeraki were formed by a gradual buildup of minerals around a central core. Some boulders have sprung open, revealing—no, not alien life forms, but—interesting calcite crystals. The boulders stud the beach north of the town of Moeraki and south as well at Katiki Beach off Highway 1. Sadly, the boulders at Moeraki Beach have become a bit of a tourist attraction, and there are often whole busloads of people wandering the beach. Watch for little dolphins jumping in the surf just offshore; they're as interesting as the boulders. 7 Moeraki Boulders Rd., Moeraki.

Riverstone Kitchen. The mouthwatering menu at Riverstone Kitchen, serves organic, locally grown, seasonal produce. The deli and restaurant are open daily for breakfast and lunch, and dinner is served from 6 pm Thursday through Sunday. The menu is regional New Zealand cuisine with a few Asian accents (a Thai duck salad, for instance). And while the atmosphere is casual, the food is serious. Chef Bevan Smith, who trained in Christchurch, has published two cookbooks. The "Little People" menu just for kids is a highlight. A prix-fixe menu for NZ$60 let's you sample the best of the offerings for a fairly reasonable price. The restaurant is 12 km (7½ miles) north of Oamaru's town center. 1431 State Hwy. 1, Oamaru. 03/431–3505. www.riverstonekitchen.co.nz. Closed Tues. and Wed. No dinner Mon.

Fleurs Place. If you're feeling a bit hungry after the sea air, pop into Fleurs Place out on the old jetty in Moeraki. Here you can enjoy fish straight out of the sea, which is the highlight of the lunch and dinner menus. Sit upstairs and watch the fishing boats come in, gaze at the setting sun or imagine the stories behind the eclectic mix of relics that adorn this unpretentious place. When a newspaper offered to send British restaurateur and chef Rick Stein anywhere in the world to write a travel article, he chose Fleurs Place as his subject. Praise indeed. 169 Haven St., Moeraki, Oamaru. 03/439–4480. www.fleursplace.com. Closed Mon.–Tues.

Riverstone Kitchen. The mouthwatering menu at Riverstone Kitchen, serves organic, locally grown, seasonal produce. The deli and restaurant are open daily for breakfast and lunch, and dinner is served from 6 pm Thursday through Sunday. The menu is regional New Zealand cuisine with a few Asian accents (a Thai duck salad, for instance). And while the atmosphere is casual, the food is serious. Chef Bevan Smith, who trained in Christchurch, has published two cookbooks. The "Little People" menu just for kids is a highlight. A prix-fixe menu for NZ$60 let's you sample the best of the offerings for a fairly reasonable price. The restaurant is 12 km (7½ miles) north of Oamaru's town center. 1431 State Hwy. 1, Oamaru. 03/431–3505. www.riverstonekitchen.co.nz. Closed Tues. and Wed. No dinner Mon.

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