Duntroon day road trip, what to do and see: travel guide
Ancient rock formations created before dinosaurs walked the earth, a vanished world where fossiled shells narrate the story of the earth. Combined with an evening visit to hang out with little blue penguins, one of those magical moments.
Oamaru has Victorian splendour, an intact precinct that oozes Victorianian, a garden of national significance, old fashioned charm and courtesy and natural history galore. Duntroon is the base for a day of natural history delving into a fossil past and finishing the day with a special date with cuteness personified, the Little Blue penguins.
Where is Duntroon
44 km or 35 minutes from Oamaru
- Vanished World Centre
- Walking trail to observe wildlife, fur seals, penguins
- Evening visit to hang out with Little Blue Penguins
Day trip route map
Oamaru to Duntroon Vanished World Museum, Elephant Rocks, Badlands Clay Cliffs, Duntroon historic precinct, Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve, Little Blue Penguins colony.
You start the day at Vanished World Centre Duntroon, the visitor centre for Waitaki Whitestone aspiring Global Geopark. Vanished World is a hive of information from displayed excavations of enormous prehistoric penguin metres in height to self-guided route maps. Your brief foray into the geopark will start with well-known Elephant Rocks then moves the badlands of Clay Cliffs.
VISIT DURATION 1 – 2 hours in Vanished World Centre
Erosion of limestone rocks has created fantasy in the form of isolated rock formations naturally sculptured bearing an uncanny resemblance to elephants and mythological creatures. The towering natural sculptures have featured in films such as Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Wind, water and time continues to shape the limestone outcrops.
BADLANDS CLAY CLIFFS
Sharp pinnacles and ridges are divided by steep, narrow ravines creating a landscape formed by extreme temperature changes and a lack of water. No vegetation makes for stunning spires that trigger the imagination about outlaws, bandits and nefarious goings on. The farmland you cross to view the Badlands is its grazing sheep is a stark contrast.
The cliffs are on private land. There’s a donation box at the gateway, or you can pay the $5 vehicle admission fee at the Omarama i-SITE.Note: There are no bathroom facilities at this site and the access road can sometimes be affected by scouring following heavy rain. The trail around the Clay Cliffs area is not suitable for people with mobility issues.
VISIT DURATION 2 hours
Lunch in Duntroon at the historic 135 year old pub is an energy booster for your next trip. Cafe, Bar & Restaurant Duntroon is your recommended energy booster for your trip to the coast to view wildlife. And could you get side-tracked in Duntroon by the Nicol’s Blacksmith with its working forge, the heritage jail of 1901 with its public stocks making for a great photo moment.
The Duntroon Wetlands
This wonderful area has been created by hard-working locals. It is a beautiful short walk which starts and finishes in the heart of Duntroon. It also forms part of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. It is the perfect place to stretch your legs.
BUSHY BEACH WALK
At the southern end of Oamaru, spot New Zealand Fur Seals/Kekeno and Yellow-Eyed Penguins/Hoiho from the platform at the end of this cliff-top walk. Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve “The natural coastal vegetation at Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve is the last remaining in the area. Wind-sheared scrub, dominated by hebe, ngaio, mahoe and broadleaf, clings to the cliffs and shelters penguins, other seabirds and a variety of insects. A unique flora and fauna exists here – a number of native plants and insects are at either their southern or northern geographical limit. Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho breed at Bushy Beach. Adult penguins return to feed their young at any time of the day. You can also regularly see New Zealand fur seals, with New Zealand sea lions and elephant seals occasional visitors to the beach. No dogs are allowed in the reserve. To avoid disturbing the yellow-eyed penguins/hoiho, keep off the beach between 3 pm and 9 am.
Keep at least 20 m distance from marine wildlife. Bushy Beach is not only a fantastic photo opportunity with its long-stretching sandy beach backed with coastal forest, but it’s also another great place in Oamaru to spot some wildlife. Follow a 10-minute zig-zag track to the top of a cliff with some great viewing of a seal colony on the rocks below. Continue onwards to a viewing hide where you can watch yellow-eyed penguins on the beach (usually between 3pm and 9am). This is a stunning cliff-top walk that has access to the shingle beach before 3pm daily. Visitors are asked to watch the penguins returning home from the viewing platform, so the penguins are not disturbed as they make their way back to their nests.
- Length 340 metres (return)
- Duration 30 minutes
Afternoon distractions, detours
Perhaps you have been entranced by the Bushy Beach Walk and time has slipped away with a rush to get to the Little Blue Penguins viewing platform.
FLEURS PLACE AND MOERAKI BOULDERS
For the enthusiastic, a detour to Fleurs Place for a foodie heaven encounter with seafood and fish prepared by the iconic Fleurs Place. When British television chef and restaurateur Rick Stein was told he could choose to go anywhere in the world to write a travel article for English newspaper the Daily Mail, he chose Fleurs Place. Situated in the small seaside fishing village of Moeraki, Fleur’s specialty is fresh fish straight off the fishing fleet. This is a stop on your way to Moeraki boulders, perhaps the most well known geopark destination and the site for numerous instagram moments. Just make sure you don’t miss the boulders or your date with Little Blue Penguins as you are tempted to linger at Fleurs Place. Of course you can always return another day.
FOODIE LOVERS WHITESTONE CHEESE
Whitestone Cheese an artisan food vendor, cafe and tasting sensation makes for a great afternoon rest and relaxation while samples melt in the moment brie cheese. Guided Tours, forward bookings are essential for this culinary experience where visitors obtain a behind the scenes look at the cheese making process, all the way from; make to taste. You will get to experience a cheese tasting, informative talk and guided tour of the Whitestone factory through the viewing galleries, plus walk away with a goody bag sample. For the more indulgent foodie, we have the opportunity to upgrade tours – to include a cheese and wine matching. A great way to taste test your way around Oamaru. Did I mention for those pressed for time there is an extensive shop attached to the factory.
LITTLE BLUE PENGUINS
Wildlife. Penguins visit the Blue Penguin Colony. The blue penguin is the world’s smallest penguin. The Oamaru penguin colony has seating set up around the nesting site. You are welcome to watch the penguins return from the sea in groups with the setting sun. The kororā, (Little Blue Penguin) found here at Taiharuru-Pilots Beach breeds on the New Zealand and Australian mainland and islands. They weigh around one kilo on average. The average age of kororā in our colony is seven years, but the oldest recorded was 25 years. The colony is open to the public for evening viewing.
We are open to the public for Evening Viewing.
For more information about the Little penguin/korora: Little blue penguin: New Zealand native sea and shore birds check DOC online resource. The world’s smallest penguin – little penguin (also known as little blue penguin) – is just over 25 cm tall and weighs around 1 kg. The birds nest right around the harbour area and the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony offers a unique opportunity for you to observe the world’s smallest penguin arriving home from their day at sea and returning to their nests.
Open 5.00pm, viewing begins at 5.45pm
Oamaru’s marine life is preserved, protected and abundant. Yellow-eyed penguin Trust Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust – Dunedin, New Zealand Yellow-eyed penguins swim as far as 50 kilometres off-shore and dive up to 120 metres for their food which they find mainly near the seabed.Yellow-eyed penguins can be seen at Nugget Point Totāra Scenic Reserve (Roaring Bay) and Curio Bay – please use the hide for viewing and stay off the beach. Supporting wildlife viewing means at least 4 metres from the wildlife and respecting their space.
Your day trip from Oamaru might need you to stay overnight or even several nights. Oamaru is a convenient, comfortable and great place to explore the town and countryside further.
Recommended is Poshtel on the main street. To book click HERE for details.This beautifully bespoke hotel embraces Kiwiana and completely celebrates the incredible achievements of ordinary New Zealanders. Poshtel’s refreshing and interesting decor evokes conversation and interest. Common areas include a breakfast room & lounge where guests can linger and view a collection of art, sculpture, unique furnishings and historic items.
To book check out Poshtel website.
STANDARD MOTEL ACCOMMODATION: BELLA VISTA MOTEL
Bella Vista Motel is 5 minutes’ walk from the intercity bus stop and Oamaru’s shops and restaurants. The property is also 6 minutes’ drive from the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Guests receive free unlimited WiFi and free onsite parking.
Bella Vista Motel includes a TV with satellite channels, microwave, refrigerator and tea/coffee making facilities. All rooms include In-room USB wall socket for mobile phones.
A coin operated laundry is available for guest use.
Couples particularly like the location — they rated it 8.6 for a two-person trip.
To book check out Bella Vista Motel website.
OAMARU TOP 10 HOLIDAY PARK
Oamaru Top 10 Holiday Park is a great budget alternative with powered, non-powered sites. Just 5 minutes’ drive from Oamaru town centre, Oamaru TOP 10 Holiday Park offers a covered BBQ area, bicycle rental service and tour desk. Free on-site parking is provided.
The tour desk offers bookings for Oceanagold Tours and visits to the Yellow Eyed Penguins and Oamaru Blue Penguin colony. To book check out Oamaru Top 10 Holiday Park website.
The journey is worth it.