First stop in our new wheels was Oamaru and the penguin colonies. Oamaru’s claim to fame is New Zealand’s only Victorian town. In it’s prime, Oamaru was a bustling port and because the area didn’t have large forests, limestone was mined for building materials. The result is a beautiful sea side town with grand Victorian style stone buildings lining the old main street.
Bushy Beach Penguins
The folks at the information site (i-site) in Oamaru were super helpful. They directed us to the local cheese factory where we got to view the cheese making process through little windows into the factory… for free (always a bonus)! They also gave us directions to Bushy Beach’s Yellow Eyed Penguin colony. Yellow Eyed Penguins are the rarest penguin in the world, but lucky for us we got to see some. Unlike the Little Blue Penguins, the Yellow Eyes come into the beach during evening day light hours, so they are easier to spot then the Blues who come in after dark.
We were also told that the Moeraki Boulders were a “must see” if we took the coastal drive down to Dunedin. We didn’t ask many questions, but figured the rocks would be a quick pit stop and a nice view. Little did we know that we’d be walking among GIANT DINOSAUR EGGS!!! …. Well, not quite, but pretty darn close!
My trusty friend Wikipedia explains the Maori legend for the boulders…
“Local Māori legends explained the boulders as the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck of an Arai-te-uru, a large sailing canoe. This legend tells of the rocky shoals that extend seaward from Shag Point as being the petrified hull of this wreck and a nearby rocky promontory as being the body of the canoe’s captain… read more.“
We were told that the light house at Kaitiki Point also had a seal colony and a penguin observation deck. The light house was a beautiful old wooden one, and the setting amongst pasture fields and steep cliffs was gorgeous. In hopes of spotting a few more penguins, we wandered down the path to the penguin observation hut. The hut was built so the penguins would have a harder time noticing humans spying on them – creating a less stressful environment for the penguins and more sightings for us!
Unfortunately we picked the wrong time of day, so the penguins were not very active and we didn’t see any. However, there is also a seal colony in the area and we saw lots of males lazing about on the rocks. For a couple weeks each year the females get a break and head out into the open ocean to fatten up; they’ve just finished rearing last year’s pups, and they won’t be back to shore for mating for a few more weeks.
Just as we were getting back to the car park, I thought I spotted a red-bellied penguin! I blinked, and realized that it was just Miranda doing a very impressive penguin impression.
On the drive back out to the main road we saw lots and lots of lambs! Adorable! I guess they don’t spend much time around humans because they’re very scared of us. It’s either that or they just don’t like our accent.