Why weren't we told about this?
Believe it or not, in the mid-19th century, more people lived in Oamaru than in San Fransisco. It's true! Gold, wool, wheat and meat made Oamaru the place to be though, apparently, San Fransisco's caught up since.
Oamaru grew by its harbour and today those grand old limestone buildings still stand proud, proof of the wealth that built them. The area's starred in numerous films and ads and attracts lots of visitors too.
Many discover it by chance and can't believe their eyes. "We hear the same thing over and over again," says bookbinder Michael O'Brien, who's worked here for years. "People tell us every day, ‘We came here to see the penguins. No-one told us about these amazing craftspeople. Why weren't we told about this?' "
Well, now you have been. So check it out. Because there's plenty to check, folks; coffee shops, cafes, a bakery, wine shop, New Zealand's only local whisky, an old style pub, vintage clothing, beads, Retro Funk, 3 art galleries, 3 second-hand book shops, two stone sculpting studios, an artist working in iron, penny farthings, The Pounamu Gallery (‘The Place of Greenstone'), Lazycat Pottery and tileworks, Miss Chaffey's Curiosity Shop, sweets, Lavish Soaps (if you fancy a posh wash), furniture, a car museum and the brand new Loan and Merc carvery - founded by Fleur, who's waterfront restaurant in Moeraki attracts diners from around the world. That's a another place you should visit. But see the Precinct first. Remember, this time you have been told!
VICTORIAN PRECINCT: Itchen, Tees, Tyne and Harbour Streets, Oamaru
WEBSITE: www.historicoamaru.co.nz or www.victorianoamaru.co.nz
More info from the Oamaru i-SITE, Cnr Thames Highway and Itchen Street