What to See In Waitaki New Zealand
The Waitaki district lies in the Otago and Canterbury regions of New Zealand in the South Island. With unique geography, a powerful river, and charming small towns it is a wonderful place to visit for relaxation or adventure.
by Jacob Schweitzer
The Waitaki district is in the South Island of New Zealand, found in both the Canterbury and Otago regions, forming the boundary between the two at the Waitaki River. It is the only district in the South Island that is divided between two regions and was done so due to the importance of the river along with its hydroelectric dams. It is mostly an agricultural area with many farms and plenty of open spaces to explore, especially in the Waitaki Valley. There is one major town in the district, Oamaru, with about 13,000 people which was once a major port and then was one of the first towns in the country to leverage its heritage to attract visitors as well as new citizens.
Waitaki has all kinds of outdoor activities from peaceful retreats to adrenaline pumping thrill rides. A set of limestone cliffs known as the Earthquakes is quite a sight to see, a great example of the type of soft limestone which is prevalent in the area and which is used in many buildings in Oamaru. Just nearby to the limestone formations are a set of caves in which you'll find centuries old Maori rock paintings made with red ochre, charcoal and animal fat. If you are out looking for wild game, then you must stop in Kurow, where the hunting and fishing is considered some of the best in New Zealand. The power of the Waitaki River is on display at the hydroelectric dams which generate almost 20% of the power in the country, but the Benmore Dam is the only one open to the public, and the one of the largest earth dams in the Southern Hemisphere. To relax afterwards head to Omarama Hot Tubs, a wonderful retreat with private hot tubs filled with clean mountain water set under the clear mountain skies on the edge of the Mackenzie Basin. Omarama is also well known as one of the best places in the world for gliding, as a thermal wind known as the Northwest Arch can lift gliders up to heights of 10,000 meters.
In Oamaru there is many places to have a look at, both inside and outside, with the rich heritage of the city being of great importance. The Oamaru Public Gardens were created in 1876 including several Victorian style areas with unique attractions such as the Chinese garden, the display or glass house, the Wonderland statue, and Mirror Lake. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is New Zealand's largest scientifically monitored blue penguin colony and lies only a few minutes from the city center, giving daily tours for an up close look at these colorful critters. The North Otago Museum opened in 1863 containing Maori rock art, ancient artifacts frmo Moa hunters, and other culturally significant items from the area. The Forrester Art Gallery opened in 1983 offering local and international exhibits inside the neo-classical Bank of New South Wales building, constructed in 1884 in the whitestone historic district of Oamaru. Other things to do include attending a show at the Oamaru Opera House, visiting a Steampunk exhibit, and learning to ride a penny farthing at the Oamaru Cycle Works.
The Waitaki district has a uniqueness that must be experienced and can't be explained. One example is the Moeraki Boulders, which are large, smooth, spherical boulders along the shores between Moeraki and Hampden, ranging in size from 0.5 meters to 2.2 meters that have become a popular tourist attraction. Visiting Totara Estate will teach you the story of New Zealand's first meat exports and wine tasting at Bald Hills is sure to leave you hungry for some of the award winning cheese made in the area. Take a glider or bi-plane ride to really get the full view of the geography or if you like to stay on the ground head to the links of the North Otago Golf Club for a beautiful course by the ocean. The un-crowded beaches, fresh air, and friendliness of the locals will leave you re-vitalized if not re-invented, so don't forget about this little gem on your next visit to the South Island of New Zealand.