Oamaru’s Pen-y-bryn Lodge Gives Best Bang for the Buck

In the latest instalment of Wendy Perrin’s Insider’s Travel Guide, Jean-Michel Jefferson, owner and founder of Ahipara Luxury Travel, shares his insights into “Active New Zealand“, including recommendations of must-see sights, must-do activities, and even a few things to avoid. When it comes to his “best bang for your buck” hotel, he gives Oamaru’s Pen-y-bryn Lodge the nod, citing the lodge’s elegant architecture and gourmet cuisine, along with its proximity to a colony of the extremely rare yellow-eyed penguins.

Oamaru also gets a mention in another post on the same site, this time in Donna Thomas’ “Affordable New Zealand” itinerary, recommending a visit to the iconic Fleur’s Place just south of town.

Wendy Perrin is also apparently preparing a full-fledged guide to the Oamaru area, which should really help more and more travellers discover this hot destination in New Zealand.

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Welcome to Oamaru

jg-20140907-8625Spring has sprung in Oamaru, bringing with the sound of birds and the sight of spring-blooming bulbs. With the arrival of spring, Oamaru also begins to welcome back the usual throngs of warm-weather visitors, starting this weekend with the resumption of special passenger trains into our beautiful historic railway station. Today’s train brought close to 400 travellers up from Dunedin for the day, here to enjoy a beautiful early spring Sunday, visit the buzzing Oamaru Farmers’ Market, peruse the shops in the Victorian Precinct and just soak in the atmosphere of this historic town. 

 

jg-20140907-8640-2There is so much for visitors to see and do in Oamaru that no less a personage than Allan Dick, the former publisher of NZ Today magazine who recently made Oamaru his home, put together this little welcome kit that was handed out to all today’s visitors. We think it’s a valuable document for anyone coming to town, so we’re sharing it here. 

Today’s visitors would have had a hard time trying to fit in a quarter of the things listed here during their visit today, so when you come, be sure to leave yourself sufficient time to enjoy all that Oamaru has to offer!

 

Oamaru WelcomeOamaru Welcome 2Oamaru Welcome 3Oamaru Welcome 4

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Oamaru Book Published

Last year, New Zealand writer Paul Sorrell and photographer Graham Warman came for a visit to Oamaru to research a book they wanted to put together about our town and the colourful and people and beautiful buildings to be found here. During the course of their research, they found that in addition to the historic buildings and interesting people there was also some amazing food here, so the book that their visit yielded is more than just photos of this most unique of New Zealand (if not world) towns, but also a collection of recipes from the numerous restaurants and cafés that line our streets, including Riverstone Kitchen, Steam Café and Pen-y-bryn Lodge.

The book will be released by Penguin Press in September, but you can order your copy now from a range of New Zealand book dealers. I have seen an advance copy at the Oamaru branch of PaperPlus and it is absolutely beautiful! I can easily imagine that a lot of people will see copies under their Christmas tree this year!

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Craftwork Brewery, Oamaru

In 1905, Oamaru went dry, leading to the closure of all the town’s breweries, of which there were quite a few at the time. It was 108 years before a brewery would reopen in the town, when in late 2013 Scott’s Brewery relocated from Auckland to the Oamaru Harbour. Happily for us, it did not take 108 more years for Oamaru’s second brewery to open, since native-grown Craftwork Brewery has established itself in the town in the past few months. Founded by Michael O’Brien, known to many as the town’s bookbinder, and his partner Lee-Ann, Craftwork has, in a very short time, found itself in shops and bars around the country. Their beers are Belgian-style craft ales, produced using organic and local ingredients, with clever names like “Flemish Floozie” and “It’s Spelt Grisette” and labels designed by local artists. As a testament to the high quality of their beers, they walked away with a bronze and a silver medal in the first contest they entered, and two “best in class” awards in another! Definitely give one a try when you see it, and you won’t regret it!

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Oamaru “Unique in the World”

National-GeographyIn late May, Pen-y-bryn Lodge hosted Aleksandr Grek and Andrei Kamenev, the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Photographer, respectively, of the Russian editions of National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler, two of the most esteemed magazines in the world. During their short visit to Oamaru, they not only shot some awe-inspiring images of Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Kakapos, but also happened to be in town at the same time as the Oamaru Steampunk Festival. They were interviewed recently, and commented that while they thoroughly enjoyed their New Zealand visit, and plan several features about the country in upcoming editions, Oamaru was one place that they considered to be “unique in the world” and worthy of a special return visit.

Visitors to Oamaru are often surprised by the variety of things available to see and do in the area, and frequently say that “if we had known there was this much, we’d have stayed longer”. Well, thanks to this visit by these journalists, and others, the “secret” of Oamaru seems about to be revealed to the world at last!

Kakapo

Kakapo

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Steampunk Festival

 

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Steampunk Festival Hits Oamaru

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The Queen’s Birthday Weekend is the unofficial beginning of winter in New Zealand, but in Oamaru it is also the official Steampunk Festival weekend, when this historic and beautiful town becomes the destination for hundreds of outlandishly dressed people from all over the country and indeed the world, who come to celebrate the world of Steampunk.

If you’re not already familiar with Steampunk, it is a form of science fiction that imagines a how the future would have looked to the Victorian-era imagination, featuring “retro-futuristic” imagery, tools and decorations. Doctor Who has a lot of Steampunk elements, and even shows like The Simpsons have made Steampunk references in select episodes.

jg-20140531-6237The NZ Steampunk Festival has grown into a sizeable event, spanning three days and incorporating dances, readings, markets, and competitions. Perhaps the biggest of these competitions (and the one that formed the nexus of the Steampunk Festival) is the Steampunk Fashion Show, where creative folks show off the costumes they have developed for their Steampunk personna, which can involve some truly fantastical elements.

A new event that took place this year was the first annual Steampunk Teapot Race, which saw dozens of competitors race remote-control teapots through a complicated obstacle course. Of course hilarity inevitably ensued, as these contraptions were not exactly designed for manoeuvrability. And for people who did not already have a complete Steampunk outfit, there was a day-long Steampunk souk held on the opening day of the festival where you could stock up on brass goggles, clockwork jewellery and all the other appurtenances of the Steampunk lifestyle.

The climax of the weekend is the Steampunk Ball, at which the winners of the fashion show are announced. But that’s not really the end of the festival, since there is also a “people’s choice” award to be awarded, and YOU can vote! When the photos have been uploaded, there will be an open voting process. When the link is available, we will share it of course!

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Oamaru on Fire Sets Town Alight

For the third year running, the Queen’s Birthday weekend in Oamaru kicked off with a bang with the Oamaru on Fire festival. This nighttime event takes place in the historic centre of Oamaru on Harbour Street, with all sorts of fire-related performers, pyrotechnics, and other festivities, together with live music, food, drink and just plain old good fun.

It seems like each year’s edition of this event is bigger and better than the last. This time, one of the highlights was a 3-D mapped projected video on the façade of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust building, which turned the normally sedate building into a real show-stopper.

Other highlights included the sight of countless visitors in Steampunk finery meandering among the stalls and attractions (since this weekend also finds Oamaru hosting the annual New Zealand Steampunk Festival), the chance to try some of Oamaru’s tastiest morsels from numerous vendors who set up on the street, and then the firing of a World War Two howitzer to signal the end of the event and the beginning of the celebratory fireworks display.

As luck would have it, for the third year in a row, the weather was simply perfect for this event–in fact, the whole weekend enjoyed fine weather with daytime temperatures comfortably in the low teens, together with crisp clear nights with stunning displays of stars. Plan to be here next year when Oamaru on Fire promises to be even bigger and better still!

For a look at some photos from the event, take a look here:

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