Harbour Street Jazz Festival Returns!

Jazz ProgrammeThe Oamaru Harbour Street Jazz Festival will be taking place this coming weekend, 21-23 March, at several venues across Oamaru’s Historic Precinct. This is a great opportunity to hear some fantastic music in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful buildings during the Otago Anniversary Weekend. Tickets are still available, so why not make a weekend of it and come on over?

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Visiting Clarks Mill near Oamaru

For the past several years we have been hearing about how we had to make time to visit Clarks Mill (for some reason, that is the correct spelling, without an apostrophe in “Clarks”), the only surviving water-powered flour mill in New Zealand. Despite all the people telling us to make the short trip from Oamaru to Maheno to visit the mill, we either did not have the time, or, if we’re honest, the inclination, to make the journey until today.

During February, Clarks Mill is open every day, but on Thursdays and Sundays they operate the works, which seemed to be a great incentive to make the visit today. After a short introduction to the history of the mill (built in 1865 as part of the nearby Totara Estate, with machinery imported from all corners of the world, electrified in the 1930s etc) we were escorted into the main works of the mill to prepare for the switch to be thrown and the machinery to kick into action.

You really have to see the works in action to believe them. They are a marvel of both ingenuity and Victorian technology, and are incredibly impressive. The mill is three storeys tall, and it takes a small crew of volunteers to run the mill safely, with them calling to one another to make sure the coast is clear before the power is turned on and the nearly 150-year old equipment rattles to life. As is expected from such historic machinery, it does not exactly operate silently. The noise is not oppressive, however, but it does prevent the easy understanding of anything that the volunteers try to tell you about the equipment, its function or its history. Fortunately there are written descriptions throughout that explain everything, along with a very informative photo gallery adjacent to the top floor.

If you are in the Oamaru area, it’s well worth the 10-minute drive to visit Clarks Mill (and be sure to visit Totara Estate, too, while you’re at it). It’s open daily in February, and on Sundays from November to April, or by appointment.

Here are a few videos to give you a taste of what lies in store in this treasure of NZ history:

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Oamaru–Give it More than One Night!

One of the things that people in Oamaru hear more than anything else from visitors is something along the lines of “Wow! If only we had known about all the things to do here, we’d have planned to stay longer.” In the past few weeks, I have heard this an awful lot, and it’s one of those things that all you can do when you hear it is shrug and say “well, be sure to tell your friends, so they’ll benefit from your experience.”

But we can do better, and that’s what this little blog aims to do–to share with you the experience of so many people who stumble across Oamaru and wish they could have stayed longer. Here’s what one set of guests to Oamaru’s historic Pen-y-bryn Lodge had to say about their visit on Tripadvisor:

If we had to do it again, rather than spending a night in Auckland, we would stay here two nights and have dinner at the lodge at least one of those nights. It would deb say to spend a half-day poking around Victorian Oamaru and another half-day traveling and walking around the cliffs on the coast.

There really is a tremendous amount to do here, as this non-exclusive list shows:

  • Visit the penguin colonies
  • Meander through the Historic Precinct
  • Check out the exhibits at the Forrester Gallery and North Otago Museum
  • Peruse the art galleries of Harbour and Tyne Streets
  • Go for a cheese tasting at Whitestone Cheese Factory
  • Stroll through the Oamaru Public Gardens
  • Go back in time at Totara Estate and Clarks Mill
  • See how the future might have been at Steampunk HQ
  • Sample the wines of the Waitaki Valley
  • Follow any of a number of hiking trails
  • Bike all or a part of the Alps 2 Ocean bike trail
  • Wander along the Vanished World Trail of ancient geological formations
  • Photograph all the beautiful scenery of the area
  • Have a massage or reflexology treatment (or both)
  • Watch replica classic cars be built at Tempero’s
  • Eat some of NZ’s tastiest food at some of the country’s destination restaurants
  • Fish some of the country’s most pristine and beautiful rivers
  • Visit the Janet Frame house
  • Do nothing at all and just soak in the atmosphere of one of NZ’s most charming towns

We are not the only ones who believe in Oamaru as a multi-day destination. Guests of Pen-y-bryn were recently sent to Oamaru for a three-night stay by their travel agents. When sent their itinerary, the guests asked “why Oamaru, and why for so long” and the agent just said “trust us”. They spent their time extremely well, going on a short fishing expedition one afternoon, followed by a session with one of the South Island’s most sought-after reflexologists; walking along Bushy Beach; having a delicious chef’s choice lunch at Riverstone Kitchen; shopping for art at the galleries; and hanging around Pen-y-bryn Lodge, where they enjoyed three table d’hôte dinners in a row.

So, when you plan your visit to New Zealand’s South Island, be sure to leave enough time to give Oamaru its due–you’ll be very glad you did!

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Catching Up

It’s hard to believe that the entire month of January has passed without a post on this blog. Apologies!! It’s not at all because there’s nothing to report, but rather to do with just how much has been going on and being rather too busy to write about it.

Oamaru’s culinary excellence has again been recognised, with Pablo Tacchini, the chef at the Northstar and executive chef at the Brydone Hotel, having won the NZ Beef and Lamb award for the third year in a row. You can cook like Pablo yourself now, too, since he has just started a new blog, where he’ll post weekly recipes. Check it out, and subscribe, here.

Pen-y-bryn Lodge, meanwhile, has expanded its culinary team, bringing on a new young chef to support chef-owner James Glucksman in the kitchen. Ashley Baty previously worked at Moeraki’s famed Fleur’s Place restaurant, and before that she worked with award-winning NZ chef Ken O’Connell at Mt Cook’s Hermitage Hotel and the Vidal Winery in her home district of Hawke’s Bay.

And since Pen-y-bryn is marking its 125th birthday in 2014, they are marking the occasion with the release of a free eBook that you can download from the iTunes Store. The book includes the history of the house, complete with dozens of photos, along with information about the Oamaru area’s attractions and some of North Otago’s gourmet delights. Later in the year, a book about Oamaru will be released by Penguin Press that will include more photos of Pen-y-bryn (and other historic buildings in town), together with recipes from the lodge and some of Oamaru’s other gustatory centres.

That is it for our short catch-up today; we’ll do our best to be more regular in our postings!

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A Royal Visit to Oamaru?

In 1964, HRH Queen Elizabeth II made a Royal Visit to New Zealand, and included in her itinerary the charming town of Oamaru. As one of the most beautiful towns in New Zealand, as well as one of the best-preserved, the Royal Visit took place against a backdrop of buildings that were erected under the reign of her ancestor, Queen Victoria, whose memory is fondly cherished here. Many people in town today still remember that visit, and cherish memorabilia produced to commemorate the Queen’s time in the area. Visitors to the North Otago Museum will see photographs from the visit, during which it appears all Oamaru came out to catch a glimpse of their sovereign.

In 2014, fifty years after that landmark visit, the Queen’s grandson, HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will again visit New Zealand, together with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their infant son, the third in line for the British throne, Prince George. Prince William himself also visited these islands as an infant, back in 1983, so this visit could offer a nice little symmetry.

It is not yet clear where in New Zealand the Royal Couple will plan to visit, but hopes are high that they will include Oamaru in their itinerary. After all, few other places in the country have a British flag flying over the centre of the town day-in and day-out. Certainly, they would receive a very warm welcome, and they would likely feel very much at home as they perambulate our streets, so reminiscent of an old English town that film crews are often to be seen in our streets, using our town as a backdrop for movies or advertisements meant to take place in Olde England.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the Royal Itinerary! One should be glad one did!

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Keeping the Gigadream Alive with Twitter

Oamaru has slipped to second place in recent days in the year-long Gigatown competition, but fear not! We are planning a number of competitions and activities to get more and more people involved in the #gigatownoamaru campaign, and to show more and more Oamaruvians how to make use of social media, not just to support the Gigatown initiative, but also to help them use these tools for their own personal and business lives. In the meantime, we have put together a short primer on how to use Twitter, one of the most powerful (and frankly, easiest) ways to gain points for #gigatownoamaru. Have a read of these instructions, and if you have any questions about how to set up your Twitter account, or use its functionality, don’t hesitate to contact me on @GiggityOamaru. 

How to Get Started with Twitter

Instructions for #gigatownoamaru Supporters

Twitter is a powerful and popular social media platform that allows users to share their thoughts with the world in short, (140 characters or fewer) bursts. With 554 million accounts, there is no question that using Twitter has the potential to expose your ideas, your business and our town to a vast number of people. However, the Twitter interface is not 100% intuitive, so here are some pointers to help you out.


1. Get a Twitter App 

Twitter is designed primarily to work on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) but you can also use Twitter on a desktop computer. On a mobile device, simply download the Twitter app (it’s free!) and follow the on-screen instructions to set up an account (details below). On a computer, go to www.twitter.com and click on the link to sign in, which will lead you to a page where you can download the computer app.

2. Set Up an Account

Twitter users all must have a unique username, which is indicated by a “@“ followed by a name. You can use whatever name you like (as long as it’s not already taken) but you’ll want it to be relatively short, since the longer it is, the less space there is for people to tag you in their messages, because of that 140-character limit. Also, Twitter has rules about not using offensive names (but you would not want to do that, anyway). 

3. Find People to Follow

Once you have set up your account, Twitter will ask you a couple of questions to find out what sorts of things you’re interested in to see what users might be suitable for you to follow. You can skip this, but it is helpful to find a few people to follow so that your timeline will be populated with tweets. You can search for users by name, or by topics, or by location. 

4. Tagging

You may have noticed that there is always a “#” in front of “#gigatownoamaru”. That # is the protocol for tagging in Twitter (and now in Facebook, too). Think of this as the “keyword” indicator, since it allows other users with similar interests to find tweets that may be of interest to them. If you are an avid knitter, and you just finished knitting a jumper you’ve been working on for ages, you could write “Phew! Finally finished that #jumper I’ve been working on for months. Time for a glass of wine!” You can have as many tags in a tweet as you like, but don’t go overboard! And if you’re posting for Gigatown, don’t forget to use either the #gigatownoamaru or #gigatownoam tag in your tweet, too! (But don’t use both—@ChorusNZ only counts the first #gigatown[yourtown] tag in any tweet, so don’t waste characters.)

5. Tweeting

Now that you have an account, start tweeting! You can write whatever you like, as long as it stays within the 140-character limit. You can post just text, but you can also link to websites and post photos, too. And if you see a tweet from someone else that you’d like to forward to your own friends, you can “retweet” it (and if it has a #gigatownoam tag, you’ll gain us a point, too). But note: Twitter imposes a limit of no more than four retweets for every original tweet you write. 

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