In Oamaru's port district New Zealand's best-preserved collection of historical landmarks still gleam with ornate, limestone Victorian facades. 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'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. The penguin colony is a five-minute drive from the town center in Oamaru. 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. The hide at Bushy Beach is wheelchair-accessible. These penguins are one of the world's rarest breeds, and they are considered an endangered species.

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