After many many months of work, Oamaru’s newest visitor attraction, Whitestone City, has officially opened! Created jointly by Tourism Waitaki and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, with funding supported by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE), Whitestone City offers visitors a chance to experience something of what life was like for newly landed migrants arriving in Oamaru in the late 19th Century.
Guests enter the attraction from the seaside entrance of a restored warehouse amid the sounds of the surf, recreating what it would have sounded like had you been arriving off of a ship just in from Europe. You cross through a ‘street’ lined with period shops, including a recreation of an 1880s chemist’s shop, barber, and newspaper office, together with an architect’s office (ostensibly that of Forrester & Lemon, responsible for building much of Oamaru), complete with a model of the Criterion Hotel that has been projection-mapped with a video loop that recreates the drawing, building, and a day in the life of one of Oamaru’s most iconic buildings (this alone is worth the price of admission, in my opinion).
Further along, the street opens up into a large play area, in the centre of which is a carousel with four penny-farthing bicycles that you can ride (included in price of admission), together with a wide assortment of Victorian-era games, croquet, and other entertainments.
Next is a small theaterette with a video demonstrating the process of a lady getting dressed in the complicated clothing of the period, along with sample outfits from throughout the Victorian era. The walls in this area are also decorated with copies of portraits of early residents of Oamaru, all donated by the Oamaru Settler’s Hall.
Further on there is a reconstructed saloon of the period, complete with a sign warning patrons to be on the lookout for loose women, with videos playing about the history of Oamaru and its place in the New Zealand of the day, and finally, a period lounge with table set up with Victorian porcelain and other period furnishings.
Whitestone City is open daily from 9:30am until at least one hour before the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony evening viewing commences.