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 1) “mysterious” Moeraki boulders; 2) an unexpected vibe in quirky Oamaru; and 3) surprising formations at the Clay Cliffs at Omarama (enroute to Mt Cook). – “Hey! Turn here!”
1) 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. Recommendation – Sunrise pics.
2) Quirky Oamaru
There’s a great vibe here. We under-researched and underestimated Oamaru. 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
There are photo ops all over town 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 Oamaru (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 100 little guys POP out of the sea, climb a steep bank and waddle to their nests. Wondrous!
The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is dedicated to research, protection, and long-term conservation of this endangered penguin.
3) Omarama Clay Cliffs – Otherworldly
At the junction of SH 83 and SH 8, (90 minutes from Omaru at Omarama) are the Clay Cliffs. A tiny sign and sharp left turn on Prohibition Road leads to a hidden canyon. The Clay Cliffs (easy to miss if not for the attention of our somewhat bored driver on the long, flat stretch of inland road) are pinnacles and narrow ravines carved by glacier flow over a million years ago.