Through the valleys.
On top of the world.
Oamaru’s incredible offering of activities ranges from the sublime to the… even more sublime. The one thing you won’t have enough of is time.
Bordered by the stunning coastline of the Pacific, Oamaru offers nature lovers the chance to explore nesting colonies of little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and rare seabirds. For culture lovers the famed limestone architecture houses the cool and quirky world of steampunk and plenty of fashion, art and cuisine discoveries. New Zealand’s best-preserved example of a Victorian streetscape is both utterly unique and altogether captivating.
Whatever you do, don’t rush your visit to Oamaru. Leave time for beach walks and bike rides, or craft beers and cafés, and experience the joys of one of New Zealand’s most surprising little towns.
The Waitaki is a massive district with only slightly more than 20,000 inhabitants, so our landscapes are largely wild and unspoilt. Furthermore, our unique geology has led our region to be designated an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark, meaning that there are internationally significant sites dotted throughout the area--more than 100, in fact. We are also known for our colonies of penguins and other seabirds, including two species of penguin. You might not have time to visit all of them, but you should certainly find time to visit some of the following (and to make this a bit easier, our bespoke Nature and Wildlife Package might be of interest).
As the “coolest town in New Zealand” (according to Lonely Planet), Oamaru has a wealth of things to do that cannot be found anywhere else in New Zealand--and possibly the world! So be sure to allocate some time to wander our lovely small town, there is sure to be something to entice, including some of these. (Many of these are included in our bespoke “Best of Oamaru and the Waitaki” Package.)
As a region famed for many of its agricultural products, it’s no wonder that many people come to Oamaru and the Waitaki just to sample our fine foods. In addition to enjoying a locavore meal at
The mighty Waitaki River provides a number of sporting and adventure opportunities, including some of the country’s best trout and salmon fishing and even jetboating. For landlubbers, there are numerous golf courses in the area, along with tennis, bowls and rock climbing opportunities. And don’t forget New Zealand’s longest (and, it can be argued, best) cycle trail wends its way through the Waitaki Valley, culminating in its terminus at the Oamaru Harbour. If you haven’t the time (or legs) for its full 312-kilometre length, you might be interested in one of our “taster” rides.
In addition to the active pursuits,
To help make your visit with us even more care-free, we have brought together several of our popular activities and excursions, as well as stays with some nearby associated properties, into one-step packages that you can book in one go. All of these can be further tailored to suit your particular preferences, so if you don't see the exact package you'd like, just contact us!
The Waitaki River now offers jet boating to visitors who want to get “up close and personal” with one of New Zealand’s most important rivers. Unlike many other jet boat excursions, though, this is one just for you and your partner, and can include wildlife spotting and a picnic lunch to be enjoyed on the rive...Read more >
There are many cycle trails in the Oamaru area, and several shops where you can hire standard or e-bikes for your use while you’re here. If you’re up for a challenge, you can even tackle NZ’s longest cycle trail, the Alps 2 Ocean, which meanders for 315 km from Mt Cook through the Waitaki Valley to Oamaru Har...Read more >
Waitaki Whitestone Geopark
The unique geography of the Waitaki District has given rise to its status as an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark, the first of its kind in Australasia. From the Moeraki Boulders past the Elephant Rocks via the evocative “Valley of the Whales” to the Clay Cliffs, there are nearly 50 significant sites to visit th...Read more >
Oamaru is home to two colonies of penguins, Blue Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins, the smallest of the penguins) and Yellow-Eyed Penguins, which are among the rarest. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, a 7-minute drive from Pen-y-bryn, is the best place to see the former, while there are several spots in t...Read more >
We have partnered with a small number of local therapists to offer a broad range of spa treatments and reflexology, some of which can be provided on-site in our fitness room or in your guest room. Whether you’re after just a massage or a full day of pampering, there is something to suit your needs.
Oamaru Victorian Precinct
Oamaru is today very fortunate to have had a very unfortunate start to the 20th Century. Having been built to become “the New York of the South Seas”, with impressive stone architecture that would not be out of place in the London or indeed New York of the late Victorian era, those visions never quite came to...Read more >
In the heart of Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct, Whitestone City brings the past to life with exhibits telling the story of Oamaru from the perspective of its first European settlers to today. This is an excellent place to learn about the stalwart pioneers who made a perilous voyage halfway around the world to th...Read more >
The night sky above Oamaru is a sight that many visitors, especially those from overseas, who rarely experience true darkness if they live in congested urban environments, cannot quite get enough of. If you’d like to bring some of it home with you, join us for an evening of astrophotography, where you will le...Read more >
Cooking class at Pen-y-bryn
If you’d like to be able to reproduce some of what we serve at the lodge back at home, you might be interested in one of our cooking classes. We can tailor the class to any skill level and any cuisine you’re interested in--many of our guests have opted to learn to make our famed croissants, or mozzarella-styl...Read more >
Oamaru went dry in 1905, and even though the area permitted the sale of alcohol again starting in the 1960s, it wasn't’ until 2014 that a brewery was established in the area, and it was soon followed by another shortly after. Scott’s Brewing Company and Craftwork now make some of New Zealand’s best craft beer...Read more >
Totara Estate and Clarks Mill
History truly comes alive at Totara Estate, the home of New Zealand’s meat exporting industry. It was from Totara Estate that New Zealand’s first shipment of frozen lamb was packaged for transport to England (and the ship itself left from Oamaru Harbour). The estate today offers a glimpse into that world, as ...Read more >
Museums and Galleries
There is no shortage of exhibition space in and around Oamaru, but among the most important are two that are managed by Culture Waitaki--the Forrester Gallery and the Waitaki Museum. The former, housed in a beautifully restored old bank, offers a constantly changing selection of art exhibitions, often featuri...Read more >
Oamaru has been the unofficial world capital of Steampunk since 2009, when the first Steampunk Festival was held in the town. Steampunk HQ is the repository for a large selection of steampunk-themed artworks, where the otherworldly visions of local artists and those from further afield will certainly give you...Read more >
Hunting is a popular pastime around the Oamaru area, and there are a number of guides who can take you out to try your luck against deer, boar and waterfowl.
Whether you are a seasoned angler or just starting out, the Waitaki River and its nearby rivers and streams are an excellent place to drop a line for some of the country’s best salmon and trout fishing. If you prefer, a guide can be organised to take you to his or her preferred spots, and for the truly advent...Read more >
Nearby Moeraki is home to the iconic beachside boulders, spheres of stone strewn along the waterfront not far from the picturesque fishing village. While here, you can also venture toward Moeraki lighthouse and gain a good view of their Yellow-Eyed Penguins and other wildlife, and a further five minutes will ...Read more >
Whisky tasting at the NZ Whisky Co.
The NZ Whisky Company has put Oamaru firmly on the global whisky map with its collection of carefully aged whiskies. While the company had a hiatus that meant no new whisky was produced for a number of years, they are back in production and tastings of their range can be organised at the tasting room--or you ...Read more >
Wine tasting in Kurow
The Waitaki Valley is home to New Zealand’s newest wine appellation, planted as recently as 2001 but already regarded as “the one to watch” by wine cognoscenti. A 45-minute drive from Pen-y-bryn, the centre of the Waitaki wine region is the small town of Kurow, where you will find a small handful of tasting r...Read more >
Whitestone Cheese tasting and/or factory tour
Established in Oamaru in the 1980s, Whitestone Cheese is now New Zealand’s most awarded cheesemaker, producing a wide variety of European-style cheeses using the area’s incredible cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milks. The small factory is located right in Oamaru, where they offer both cheese tastings and twice-dai...Read more >
Pen-y-bryn has long been a popular destination for honeymooners, and we are pleased to offer a special package just for those of you celebrating your special day! Enjoy a two-night stay in one of our superior suites, including a gourmet four-course degustation dinner served at a private table and tailored to ...Read more >
We are very excited to offer a special package in conjunction with Valley Views Glamping near Kurow and Sky Scape near Ben Ohau. Combine a stay at Pen-y-bryn with a two-night stay under the stars in your own private glamping tent at Valley Views for a chance to see the night sky in all its glory. This spec...Read more >
Update November 2020: Due to the precarious state of the yellow-eyed penguin population, we are suspending tours to the colony near Moeraki until further notice. In the meantime, the blue penguin colony in Oamaru is thriving and we encourage visitors to consider visiting them instead. Oamaru and the Waitak...Read more >
A visit to the Waitaki District would not be complete without a stay in the stunningly beautiful countryside of the Waitaki Valley, just 45 minutes away from Pen-y-bryn. We have teamed up with Valley Views Glamping to offer you an experience that is literally the best of both worlds, combining a stay at Pen-y...Read more >
Pen-y-bryn Lodge is partnering with Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat near Twizel to offer an exceptional four-night package that offers travellers a chance to delve into the Mackenzie Country and Waitaki Valley while staying at these two beautiful and distinct lodges. The standard four-night package includes all o...Read more >
Best of Oamaru & Waitaki
This package is designed for the gourmet traveller who wants to experience the best of Oamaru and the Waitaki on a three-night stay. It will give you a chance to enjoy some of the area’s best food, drink, and scenery, all without rushing or having to do too much planning and driving. After arriving at Pen-...Read more >
Best of the South Package
If you are looking to explore the south of the South Island, and are looking for ideas on how to do this, we have put together a route that takes in a broad range of sites that offers a tremendous holiday opportunity. This itinerary consists of the following: Oamaru — a two- or three-night stay with us at ...Read more >
Best of Alps 2 Ocean
Keen to experience NZ's longest and most scenic bike trail, but only have one day to spare? Vertical Ventures will take you for a day tour that will allow you to experience some of the "best bits" during the course of a day, customising it to your specific interests as well as the day's riding conditions. NZ$...Read more >
Pen-y-bryn is the ideal spot for a small to medium-sized wedding, and over the years, many happy couples have celebrated their unions in the lodge’s stunning surroundings. Since no two weddings are alike, there is no “one size fits all” package for your special day, so the best thing to do is to reach out to ...Read more >
Alps 2 Ocean “Taster”
Drive from Oamaru with your guide via Ngapara toward Elephant Rocks where you will get on bicycles (supplied) for a scenic circle of this beautiful portion of the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, taking in Prydes Gully, Island Cliff and Cants Road. Return to Elephant Rocks via quiet country roads. Moderate fitness r...Read more >
The Waitaki District, with its quiet roads and beautiful scenery, offers several options for driving tours. For those who are happy to get behind the wheel themselves, we have plenty of routes for you to follow and you will surely enjoy the experience immensely. However, if you prefer a break from the driving...Read more >
Oamaru Walking Tour
Join an experience guide for a personalised tour of Oamaru’s distinctive historic centre, the best-preserved historic town in New Zealand. Your guide will take you through this beautiful area, explaining the background to the buildings, how the town came to be one of the most important in the Southern Hemisph...Read more >