New Book on Oamaru and the Waitaki Released

IMG_0029Oamaru and the Waitaki District are easily among the most beautiful parts of New Zealand (in our humble opinion), yet there has not been a corresponding volume of books on the area available for visitors or locals to purchase. Fortunately for them, the owners of Pen-y-bryn Lodge have taken it upon themselves to address the situation, and have released a 100-page volume to fill this gap.

The book, which they have titled simply Oamaru and the Waitaki: Home to Historic Pen-y-bryn Lodge, is full of stunning photography that they mostly shot themselves, together with a short history of the district and descriptions of the area’s distinctive features. At the rear of the book they provide a brief history of Pen-y-bryn itself, together with a photographic tour of several of the estate’s rooms, all culminating with a few recipes that their guests have asked them to share.

Copies of the book are available for sale for $40 at Pen-y-bryn as well as at several businesses in Oamaru (including Oamaru Paper Plus, Steam Café, Presence on Harbour, Art on Tyne and the Oamaru i-Site), and an electronic version is available for purchase through the Apple iBooks store as well.

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The Town Bike Opens for Business

jg-20170326-iPhone 6-2344.JPGOamaru has in recent years become a centre for cyclists, many of whom have arrived in town after completing the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail. Oamaru is a hilly town, and biking here poses a certain challenge, but that challenge is now reduced a bit thanks to a new business that has opened in Thames Street.

The Town Bike offers e-bikes for hire, and if you’re not familiar with e-bikes they look  much like regular bicycles, with the addition of an electric system that can assist you when pedalling up hill or going long distances. With a range of around 120km, depending on how much you depend on the electric assist and how many hills you ascend, you can easily use one of these bikes to make your way from Oamaru to points as far away as Elephant Rocks and the Moeraki Boulders.

In a clever move, the shop, which is adjacent to Martyn’s Cycle Shop, even offers a deal if you decide to purchase one of these bicycles for yourself–bring your receipt to Martyn’s and they’ll deduct the value of your bike hire from the cost of a new bicycle to take home!

The Town Bike’s eight bicycles are named for historic “ladies of the evening” who plied their trade in Oamaru, back when the town had more brothels than anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, a clever nod to Oamaru’s boisterous past.

Bike hire rates are available for rides up to two hours, up to four hours, or up to eight hours, and they offer several suggested spots to visit no matter how long you plan to use them:

Up to Two Hours: Whitestone Cheese; Steampunk HQ; Blue Penguin Colony; Oamaru Lookout Point; Bushy Beach.

Up to Four Hours: Oamaru Lookout Point; Bushy Beach; Kakanui Beach; Moeraki Boulders.

Up to Eight Hours: Elephant Rocks; Alps 2 Ocean Duntroon; Maori Rock Drawings; Kurow Estate Winery.

The Town Bike is open daily from 10am to 6pm at 47 Thames Street.

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So Much is New in Oamaru!

It has been ages since my last post–for which I can only offer humble apologies!–but there has been a lot going on in what has been, for us at least, the busiest tourist season in years. So, what’s new? Let’s see…

  1. The fifth annual Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival took place last weekend and was a smash by all accounts. There were dozens of performances all over the historic part of town, culminating in a roaring cabaret night at the Loan & Merc on Sunday evening. Looks like next year’s sixth annual event will be bigger still…jg-20170319-Canon EOS 5D Mark II-4571
  2. A new shop has opened in Thames Street offering e-bikes (bicycles with an electric motor) for hire, giving people an excellent means of exploring the beautiful area of Oamaru at a slower pace, and without straining too much to get up our numerous hills. (Interesting name, too…)17504291_495893237465452_148800448602357939_o
  3. The main street of the Oamaru Victorian Precinct, Harbour Street, is now pedestrian-only on weekends as part of a temporary experiment to see how such a closure to vehicles affects visitors, businesses on the street, and the general mood of Harbour Street. Council will look into the impact of the closure after the trial period and make a determination whether to continue it. Locals took the opportunity of the first day of the closure to have a mid-street picnic.16835927_1146118795511219_6214913412210122325_o
  4. A new bicycle park has opened in the Harbour area, in a previously unusable tract of land between the Loan and Mercantile building and the sea. Here kids can learn the skills of riding a bicycle in an environment that replicates actual roads, with traffic signs, roundabouts, and other road features. 17362476_1277862508948595_908295098570271697_n
  5. The Station Restaurant has changed hands, and is now known as Station Wok, serving up surprisingly authentic Chinese dishes. This is the first restaurant in Oamaru to offer cuisine reminiscent of what you can find in China, and was an immediate sensation to the town’s many Chinese visitors, and also to the discerning locals who were looking for something different. And, happily for us, they are open every day of the week!
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First Annual Great North Otago Potato Race

14543765_1104044969630855_4386439795914159465_oOn 8 October the Waitaki Tourism Association held the first annual Great North Otago Potato Race, a fun family-friendly event that celebrates one of the area’s most iconic agricultural products, the humble potato. A total of four races were held, one for the under-12s, another for adults, a third for people who wished to bring their own potato, and a fourth for businesses. A number of cash prizes were awarded, and the business winner was awarded $500 to be donated to the local food bank. The morning turned out to be tremendous fun, and several lessons were learned for next year’s event (including the need to find a steeper street). Look forward to the 2017 event, which will be bigger, better, and spudlier for sure! More information on the event can be read on the Otago Daily Times’ site here.

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Oamaru’s Pen-y-bryn Lodge on TV

14324183_1406850415998915_4123649520019824957_oThe popular hour-long Kiwi Living programme, hosted by Miriama Kamo, featured Oamaru’s luxury lodge, Pen-y-bryn, on last night’s episode. The show airs on TV One each Tuesday at 7:30pm, and showcases people, places and foods from around New Zealand. In the segment with Pen-y-bryn, Miriama visited with James and James, the lodge’s owners, exploring the historic mansion and learning a bit about what prompted two urbanites from far away in the United States to relocate to Oamaru. The episode is viewable in New Zealand on Kiwi Living’s on-demand service by clicking here, or if you are reading this from outside of New Zealand you can click here and download a copy of the segment to watch on your computer.

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Oamaru Recognised as Steampunk Capital

3000During this past autumn’s annual Steampunk Festival (to take place again in 2017 during 1-5 June) the celebrants decided to try for a Guinness World Record–most Steampunks gathered in a single place. The attempt was very popular, with many dozens of people cramming into the venue to be counted, and with three adjudicators assessing each and every one to make sure that they were indeed dressed in “full steam”. The records were forwarded to the Guinness people and word came back that we had not only beat the previous record (185 people, at the famed Comic-Con convention in the US) but beat it by a mile, with 228 Steampunks in attendance.

The Guardian newspaper has now caught on to Oamaru’s fame as the world capital of Steampunk with an article examining how our town came to such prominence so quickly. It’s well worth a read, even if your correspondent is not so sure that Oamaru was ever particularly “ordinary” or “humble”…

You can read the article by clicking here, and you can plan your visit to Oamaru for the next Steampunk festival by visiting our local tourism authority’s brand-new website, here.

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