Explore Coastal North Otago
Get off the beaten track and see one of New Zealand’s most beautiful, unspoilt coastlines.
The coastline between Oamaru and Palmerston offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, uncrowded beaches and a host of friendly townships each with their own unique character. The world famous Moeraki boulders are the gateway to the Moeraki village where fishing charters are available and an incredible seafood restaurant sits right on the ocean. Visitors can explore second hand and vintage shops in coastal towns, see an outdoor sculpture park, check out viewing area at a working gold mine or wander down to seal and yellow eyed penguin colonies on the coast.
The small town of Kakanui lies on the coast, 14km south of Oamaru. The soils in the area are very rich and fertile, and surrounding land is full of market gardens which produce large quantities of vegetables - also available for purchase on roadside stalls in town. The Kakanui River mouth is a popular spot for whitebaiters, while Campbells Bay provides a surfable break and a safe swimming beach. The beach is approximately 2km long and the Southern end, known as All Day Bay, provides more shelter.
If you're a surfer, head straight for the northern end.
Just ten minutes south of Oamaru, Maheno is known for its collection of charming churches and Clarks Mill - a historic flour mill with a labyrinth of early machinery still intact inside. From Maheno, visitors can take a winding inland route through farmland to Livingstone, Danseys Pass, Duntroon or the Waitaki Valley. Alternatively, visitors can sneak out to the seaside town of Kakanui, or journey on south via SH1.
Check out Maheno's magnificent historic buildings.
Herbert is a quaint village set on sheltered hills and named after British Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert. The original Maori name Otepopo is still used by the local school and stone Church. Close to Herbert, Waianakarua (the 5 A's) is home to the oldest stone bridge still used on a New Zealand highway. A historic mill house provides dining and accommodation facilities while the nearby Waianakarua River provides swimming and picnic spots.
The large forest plantation at Herbert is popular with hunters, mountain bikers and trampers.
Thirty minutes south of Oamaru, Hampden offers a beachside camping ground, a few stores, a popular cafe, tavern and fish and chip shops serving the freshest fish on the coast. Stop for a crayfish in season, or view the unique outdoor sculpture park. Head to the beach where there is a playground for the kids and even a sizeable skate ramp!
Grab a huge cone ice-cream from the Hampden store.
Moeraki is best known for the Moeraki Boulders, which were formed around 60 million years ago and are strewn along the beach. The sea is slowly eroding the boulders and uncovering new ones – some up to four metres in circumference.
The charming fishing village of Moeraki was used by Europeans as an early whaling station. Today Moeraki is home to permanent and temporary residents. There are a number of accommodation and dining options, including the world famous Fleurs Place on the waterfront.
Jump on a fishing charter and catch some of our local favourite; blue cod.
Palmerston’s main landmark is Puketapu (sacred hill), upon which is a monument to early politician, Sir John McKenzie. Kelly's Canter, an annual running race in memory of local policeman Burt Kelly, sees competitors race from the railway station, up the top of Puketapu and back again. Palmerston is a hub for travellers as it's the junction of SH1 and SH85. The town offers a visitor centre, many cafes and dining options, quirky boutique shops and more! Steeped in history, Palmerston is also the gateway to the Otago Goldfields heritage trail.
Head out to Anderson's Lagoon or Tavora Reserve for a magical coastal walk and wildlife viewing, or drive 5 minutes to Shag Point to view NZ Fur seals.
The Macraes area was originally settled by farmers in the 1850s and later by gold miners following the discovery of gold in the 1860s. A beautifully rugged area covered with tussock and schist outcrops, visitors go there today to view the pit of the working gold mine.
Macraes Mine accounts for 50% of the country’s gold production.