Historical Sites

Oamaru is gaining increasing popularity among visitors who travel to New Zealand due to its attractions including the rich Oamaru history and architecture.

The old magnificent buildings in the historical precinct of the town have been well restored and preserved, and continue to be a major attraction of this New Zealand town.

These fine buildings were created in the 19th century from the local limestone that is now known as Oamaru Stone:

One of these remarkable buildings is The Oamaru Courthouse which was built in 1882-1883 and was designed by the noted architectural team of Forrester and Lemon:

Oamaru History

Oamaru Stone

Oamaru stone: historical buildings Oamaru, modern use and excavation in Parkside Quarry

Forrester and Lemon also designed other buildings with similar architectural character in Oamaru: they include the Post Office (1883-1884), Harbour Board Offices (1876) and the Waitaki Boys’ High School (1883):

Waitaki Boys High School

Waitaki Boys High School – 1883- Oamaru, New Zealand

Add some living history to your next New Zealand vacation by lodging in one of Oamaru’s old Victorian hotels like:

Natural Oamaru History

Waitaki River

Waitaki River

Oamaru lies in the spectacularly beautiful Waitaki District which reaches inland from the Waitaki River mouth up the Waitaki River Valley. It covers all the up the Waitaki River Valley, through Ohau to the top of the Ahuriri River Valley. Down south it extends though the east coast beyond Palmerston to Flag Swamp.

The landscapes here comprise of ancient limestones that were shaped by wind and water to form the hills and valleys of this district. The coastal seascape sculptures were formed by the erosion of volcanic rock and limestone. The famous spherical Moeraki Boulders lies north of Palmerston. These stones are said to be septerian concretions formed about 65 million years ago underneath the seas by the crystallization of calcium and carbonates around charged particles. Sediments that formed became boulders and this process was believed to have taken place as long as four million years.

Human Oamaru History

The name Oamaru apparently derives from Maori words meaning the place of Maru. Maru is a Maori war god, the son of Rangihore (god of rocks and stones). The Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. They arrived about 1000 years ago. Based on linguistic and cultural evidence, it was said that the Maoris were originally from the Cook Islands.

Oamaru was discovered in 1770 by James Cook. Before the Europeans arrived, the place was inhabited by the Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The main arrival of European settlers was in 1850. A well known settler, Mr Hugh Robison, built and lived in a sod hut by the Oamaru Creek in 1853 while establishing his sheep run.

Gold was the source of Oamaru’s early wealth but it was the booming agricultural sector that contributed to the thriving harbour and port industries. The town’s past rich maritime history can still be seen at the old harbour where the structures have remained intact over the years:

Oamaru harbour history

Oamaru’s history preserved at the Victorian Heritage Centre housed in the old Harbour Board building at 2 Harbour Street, Oamaru New Zealand.

For more info about the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations, Oamaru’s Victorian Fete, the New Zealand Penny Farthing or renting Victorian Wardrobe, visit the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust. This Trust aims and works to preserve the Harbour & Tyne Historic Precinct in Oamaru New Zealand.

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