The Waitaki Way
Dunedin | Oamaru| Wanaka
Duration: 3 Days
The road from Dunedin, via the Waitaki Valley, to Wanaka, is littered with fabulous activities, accommodation and eateries. Whether you are travelling for two, in a group or are after some family fun, this itinerary will give you everything from architecture and wildlife to wine and food.
When you arrive at Dunedin airport, pick up your rental car and head toward the city.
Carry on through Dunedin and head towards the historic harbour village of Port Chalmers. While it’s only 15 minutes from the centre of Dunedin, you will feel like you are in another world, with its eclectic mix of galleries, vintage clothing, and bookstores. These, along with restaurants and cafes, are housed in historic buildings and make for a great place to stop for a browse or lunch. Stroll through the streets and discover a vibrant village with a rich history.
As you leave Port Chalmers via Blueskin road, you will come across Orokonui Eco Sanctuary. Orokonui is a predator-fenced reserve of over 300ha where you can enjoy a peaceful encounter with nature. Take a self-guided tour and explore the tracks at your own pace, or book a one or two-hour guided tour.
Continue on toward Blueskin Bay and join State Highway One. Follow the coastal road, North as you head toward Oamaru, which is where you will stay for the night. This road is very picturesque make sure you leave time to stop at Moeraki Boulders to view the mysteriously spherical stones scattered along the shore. From here, you are only 30 minutes away from Oamaru.
The accommodation options in Oamaru and surrounds are just as diverse as the landscapes providing something to suit every traveler's taste and budget.
Some of Oamaru’s smallest residents spend much of their time at sea during the day but visiting the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony should be high on your list. You can visit the colony at any time of day but the highlight would be that every evening, you can watch as the little blue penguins waddle back to shore after a day's fishing. The Blue Penguin colony is a natural protected habitat with a special day viewing area, where you can explore the nesting area and visitors can learn about the research and conservation.
As you wander through the streets of Oamaru, take a step back in time and wander through the delights of Harbour Street, Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct. This is some of New Zealand’s most complete Victorian Streetscapes. Steampunk HQ offers an interactive museum which allows for exploration and discovery of the ‘alternate and futuristic’ version of 19th century Victorian England.
Just north of Oamaru is the award winning restaurant, Riverstone Kitchen. Walk through the accompanying gardens, where all the restaurants' vegetables are grown, the Riverstone Country gift shops, enjoy the playground and explore the bird aviaries. This is the perfect way to finish your day exploring Oamaru and its delights. From March to May each year, the Riverstone ‘Castle’ is open to visitors to explore. Bookings are essential.
As you leave Oamaru, you will head north and turn left onto State Highway 83. This road will lead you up the side of the braided Waitaki river. Along the way is, what is now known as, The Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring Geopark, which offers a window into the ancient world of Zealandia, the world's eighth continent. This ancient world includes information about fossils, the formation of the giant limestone rocks from ancient underwater seas and volcanoes, the lives of the earliest settlers, the Maori and the surviving rock art they left behind. The trail map will take you off the beaten track as these sites are littered all the way up Waitaki Valley, including the Elephant Rocks and Anitini, which are just 10minutes drive from Duntroon.
Waitaki Valley is New Zealand’s newest recognised wine region and with good reason. The limestone soils and the long hot summers create excellent conditions for growing grapes, and it is often compared to the Alsace region of France. Stop at one of the cellar doors along the main road near Kurow, sample the wines and enjoy the serenity.
At the end of a long day exploring and wine tasting, there is nothing better than a soak in a tub and Omarama Hot Tubs are the perfect destination. Relax in a cedar tub, filled with fresh mountain water and enjoy the beautiful landscape.
Your journey from Omarama to Wanaka takes you over the spectactular Lindis Pass linking the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Make sure you stop at the lookout to take in the dramatic landscapes.
Just before arrive in Wanaka head into the Wanaka Airport complex. This is the home to all things aviation and includes the National Transport & Toy Museum, which is where you will be able to explore vintage planes and cars, as well as be taken back to your childhood with their enormous array of vintage toys. Several tour companies call the airport home and you can hop on a plane or in a helicopter and go for a scenic flight over the region. Choose to head South over Milford Sound and Fiordland, or North West over the Majestic Southern Alps.
When you have your feet back on the ground, the Wanaka Lavender Farm has 20 acres of beautiful lavender fields, farm animals and display gardens. Walk through the flowers and play a garden game, check out the farm experience or enjoy the lavender tea and ice cream in the café.
To finish your day, relax with a walk along the lakefront before you head into town for a meal. Wanaka's many restaurant options include award-winning fine dining, contemporary international cuisine, casual eateries and diners. Check out Brownston Street food trucks market for casual outdoor dining in a funky landscaped setting.
Choose to spend longer exploring Wanaka and surrounds before heading back to Dunedin joining the Central Otago Touring Route in Cromwell, this route offers breathtaking views of the region's landscapes, or head to Queenstown - Home of Adventure.
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