As soon as summer kicks in and the school holidays start, the planing of short road trips begins. It is hard leaving the business at its peak time, but we’ve got to keep the little ones entertained. Let’s go and see the Penguins in Oamaru, a friend suggested, and the next day we found ourselves packing bags and the children into the car and heading south.
If you are a tourist, don’t take the road we locals take. SH1 from Christchurch to Oamaru is boring. Just like that. To make it a real road trip, take the inland scenic route via Mt Hutt and you will end up in Temuka and from there join SH1 down south.
Speaking of Temuka, plan a break at The Shearers Quarters Cafe. It will require you to get off the main road, and drive through the tiny rural back roads, but it is well worth it. One warning though. If you are going on a hot day, don’t sit outside.
We stayed the night at Northstar Motel and enjoyed getting a wealth of information from our hosts. After settling in we took a walk through the town centre to admire its old buildings and tranquility. Dinner at Filadelfio’s Pizza proved to be a winner.
Time for the reason we took this road trip – the Blue Penguins. The Blue Penguins is the smallest in the world and it nests under the cliffs along the Historic Harbour foreshore. The Penguins are active on land only at night. At sunset, you can spot a dark wave in the distance and a few minutes later this dark wave is turning into a crowd of noisy small Penguins. A few Seals spending the night on shore are sometimes an attraction as well. If you want to help the conservation programme, you can adopt a Penguins.
Oamaru is also home to another world rarest penguin specie – the Yellow Eyed Penguins. A hide has been built to allow visitors to observe as they are easily disturbed. The best viewing is about 2 hours before sunset and at sunrise.
The boulders are giant concretions formed in the mudstone seabed millions of years ago. A Maori legend tells the boulders are remains of calabashes, kumaras and eel baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe, the Araiteuru, was wrecked at nearby Shag Point (Matakaea).
Drive south about 30 minutes from Oamaru, park near the beach and enjoy the walk to the boulders. Make sure you check the tide or you might be disappointed to find the sea covered the boulders.
Have you visited Oamaru and the Moeraki Boulders? Share your stories with us.