NZ is never predictable. Leaving the wild-lands mid-March we anticipated scenery of a more familiar nature on the “lower east side” of South Island. NOT SO FAST…we found “mysterious” Moeraki boulders; an unexpected vibe in quirky Oamaru; and surprising formations at the Clay Cliffs – “Hey! Turn here!”
Moeraki Boulders, 60-Million-Years-Old
Unless you believe they were deposited by aliens, the large, spherical boulders scattered along the beach are curious, but not mysterious. Broken boulders reveal calcite crystals at the core. I’m not sure that “they have to be seen to be believed”, per the guidebooks, but they were unexpected and unusual.
There’s a great vibe here! We under-researched and underestimated Ōamaru. Its strong Victorian heritage and architecture alongside Steampunk inventions and OMG Pacific Ocean views was captivating. The combination of eccentric with sophistication hinted of a quirky personality. We said over and over “there’s something about this town…”.
Steampunk HQ – Museum and Studio
Classic Victorian Architecture
I kick myself for not taking pictures. There were funky photo ops all over, but I was too agog (or photo weary) to snap. These on-line photos from an offbeat annual Victorian festival (which we did not see) are a sample of “fun things to do” in Ōamaru (NewZealand.com). I would go back.
Blue Penguin Colony
A significant attraction are the Little Blue Penguins. Each evening a raft of penguins noisily squawk and flap towards Bushy Beach. We watched over 127 (or was it 160?) little guys POP out of the sea, climb a steep bank and waddle to their nests. Wondrous!
The Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony is dedicated to research, protection, and long-term conservation of this endangered penguin.
Clay Cliffs – Otherwordly
Turning inland from Ōamaru, the ocean behind us and the road flat. Suddenly a tiny sign and a subsequent sharp (and fast) left turn led to a “Utah-like ” canyon, hidden on Prohibition Road. The Clay Cliffs – easy to miss if not for the attention of our somewhat bored driver. The pinnacles and narrow ravines were carved by glacier flow over a million years ago.
Spectacular as they were, the cliffs were just a warm-up for the extremely impressive mountains ahead – the famous Aoraki/Mt Cook.
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