Otago, Invercargill, and Stewart Island Feature
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The Northern Otago Coast and Oamaru
Oamaru. Driving south from Timaru, Oamaru is the first stop of interest. Described as the best example of Victorian architecture in use in New Zealand today, the ornate Oamaru limestone facades of the buildings in the port precinct gleam. During the second week of November the town hosts the Victorian Heritage Celebrations. Festivities include the New Zealand Penny Farthing Championships, a Heritage Golf Classic, a Heritage Ball, and a Victorian Garden Party. The town's visitor center has information about the festival and the buildings themselves. Oamaru i-SITE Info Centre, 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. Waterfront Rd., Dunedin, 9400. 03/433–1195. www.penguins.co.nz.
Pen-y-bryn Lodge. Pen-y-bryn Lodge extends entry to the penguin colony as part of the hotel's room rate. Each night, between the appetizer and the main course in the dining room, guests are encouraged to leave the table and head down to the ocean to watch the penguins come in, before returning to their meal and a quiet port afterward. 41 Towey St. 03/434–7939. www.penybryn.co.nz.
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.
Local information office. Ask at the local information office for details on viewing yellow-eyed penguins. 03/434–1656. www.tourismwaitaki.co.nz.
Moeraki Boulders. Along the coast north of Dunedin, you can stop to see the striking Moeraki Boulders. These giant spherical rocks are concretions, 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, about 60 km (37 mi) above Dunedin, or 40 km (25 mi) south of Oamaru. Sadly, the boulders at Moeraki Beach have become a bit of a tourist item, 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.
Fleurs Place. If you're feeling a bit hungry after the sea air, pop into Fleurs Place out on the old jetty. Here you can enjoy fish straight out of the sea, which is the highlight of the lunch and dinner menus. The old Jetti, Moeraki, Dunedin, 9842. 03/439–4480.
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 Saturday. 1431 State Hwy. 1, North Oamaru, Dunedin. 03/431–3505. Sun.–Wed. 9–5; Thurs.–Sat. 9–late.
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