Oamaru is the largest town in North Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand, and is the main town in the Waitaki District. It is 80 kilometres south of Timaru and 120 kilometres north of Dunedin, on the Pacific coast, and is connected to both by State Highway 1 and the Main South Line. Its historic status as the second centre in the Otago Region (after Dunedin) is under threat from the growth of Queenstown in Central Otago. Regular air services from Oamaru Airport are provided by Air New Zealand subsidiary Eagle Airways to Christchurch.
The name Oamaru apparently derives from Maori words meaning the place of Maru (compare with Timaru). The identity of Maru remains open to conjecture.
Images of Oamaru
Many public buildings make use of a form of local limestone, quarried especially near Weston, and known as Oamaru stone. The southern part of Oamaru's main business district is justifiably regarded as one of New Zealand's most impressive streetscapes, due to the many prominent buildings constructed from this material. This and another part of the town close to the harbour have been preserved as historic precincts.
Most of the streets in Oamaru are named after rivers in England, particularly rivers in the northwest and southeast of the country. The main street is Thames Street, and Severn and Tyne Streets are also major roads in the town.
A colony of little blue penguins is on the harbour, while there is a yellow-eyed penguin colony just south of the town, attracting ecotourists. Penguins have been known to live under buildings close to the beach, including the town's music club, The Penguin Club.
Yellow Eyed Penguins Singing
Oamaru is the eastern gateway to the Mackenzie Basin, via the Waitaki Valley.
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