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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Kurow

  • 3 minutes

Otago, South Island

Kurow there are plenty of things to do. Kurow, fascinating day trip destination 45 minutes from Oamaru is nestled between the braided Waitaki River and Saint Mary’s Range in North Otago. On state highway 83 is a town the story of the Waitaha people, the earliest settlers in the region; 19th century European settlement; the development of the Waitaki Hydro Dam; and the story of how Kurow became the birthplace of our social welfare system.



  • Rugby fans delight at visiting birthplace of well known All Blacks Captain Ritchie McCaw with a museum exhibition showcasing his achievements
  • Alps to Ocean cycle trail runs through the town
  • Quaint historic village scape of heritage buildings circa 19th century gold prospecting era
  • Immerse yourself in the Waitaki Valley with wineries, geological marvels and rural aspect away from crowded tourism hotspots
  • Huffy, puffy Kurow Hill walk where the world is laided out beneath your feet

Pre-European Maori trading routes, Australian gold fields prospectors, rugby connections.


Memorabillia galore from rugby celebrated great Ritchie McCaw to stories of pre-European Maori stories in rock art. Settler tales from gold prospecting, farming and viticulture. The museum is managed by volunteers.

  • Open Monday to Friday
  • Free admission – Donations welcome
  • Contact Kurow Museum & Info Centre
  • P +64 3 436 0950
  • E-mail
@Kurow Museum
@Kurow Museum
Scenery of a walkway next to the Lake Waitaki near Kurow with a Totara tree branch in the foreground, New Zealand
Scenery of a walkway next to the Lake Waitaki near Kurow with a Totara tree branch in the foreground


A steep zigzag well formed wide track up the local hilltop with the promise of panoramic views of the braided Waitaki River, Hakataramea Valley and Saint Mary mountain range. Access from the end of Grey Street. Note you will be walking through a working farm, close stock gates and no dogs allowed.


Locals have lugged armchairs up the track for walkers to collapse in the very welcome chairs.

  • Length: 3.7 km (return)
  • Elevation gain: 244 m
  • Duration: 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours

A visit to the Kurow Museum and Information Centre is a great place to start to uncover the area’s past, while a gentle stroll around the town following the heritage trail allows you to admire notable historic buildings.

FLY FISHING WAITAKI &  Hakataramea rivers

  • Wild rainbow trout, sea run Chinook salmon


AWAKINO SKI FIELD (Saint Mary Range)

The Awakino Ski Field is a friendly and affordable club-operated skifield situated high in the St Marys Range near Kurow in the Waitaki Valley. The field is situated in a sunny, north-facing valley with fantastic views over the Waitaki Valley and Hakataramea. It boasts one and a half high-speed rope tows, queues are unheard of and a busy day means more than 10 people.

@Braided River Jet boating
@Braided River Jet boating
Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand
Lake Wanaka


Kirkliston Range

This region is in the western Hakataramea Valley north of Kurow and has wallaby, chamois and red deer.


  • Chamois
  • Deer – Red
  • Wallabies

A permit is required from the Department of Conservation to hunt in the area … read more Kirkliston hunting block and find Commercial operators: Hunting in the area.


Acquire your fishing licence from Kurow Auto Services. Then of course, the well regarded cycle trail,  Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail travels through Kurow. For dedicated cyclists there is a side road detour while resting in Kurow. The Alps 2 Hakataramea Loop over the Hakataramea Pass. The view from the pass over the Mackenzie Basin across to the majestic Southern Alps is very special.


Explore Kurow’s wine trails. Waitaki Valley wine trail in North Otago – Best Bits offers opportunities to soak up the semi-arid beautiful landscape while enjoying your Pinot Noir.


In the main street of Kurow, located in the art deco former post office is The Vintner’s Drop, Ostler Wines’ Cellar Door. Dining options include classic contemporary pub fare and cafes Waitaki Braids and Wild Sage Cafe.

The view of the concrete pipes going to the power station at Benmore Dam, Waitaki Valley, New Zealand
The view of the concrete pipes going to the power station at Benmore Dam, Waitaki Valley

Visit in Kurow

  • Visit the Waitaki Dam — One of NZ’s earliest dams, the Waitaki Dam is a stunning engineering achievement. Construction started in 1928 and it was officially opened on October 27, 1934.
  • Play golf on the pretty nine hole Kurow golf course
  • Expand your exploration with a day on a geological trail around Waitaki and beyond

In the late 1880’s the Forrester Lodge managed a benevolent society extending its support to hard up members and non-members alike. The Social Securities Act 1938 was based on the benevolent system. The Kurow Waitaki Dam Project was where social welfare was road tested. The newly emerged Labour Party annual conference of 1934 accepted the scheme as part of their politiclal portfolio. Norman Nordmeyer, politican, Kurow doctor Gervan McMillain and Kurow Headmaster Andrew Davidson were the driving force behind the scheme. Nordmeyer, elected to parliament in 1935 and his colleague McMillan joined him adding to the gravitas.

Omarama, Waitaki Valley, clay cliffs, Canterbury, NZ
Waitaki Valley, clay cliffs

Street names in Kurow reflect the maze of historical events in the Waitaki district:

  • Awahokomo Rd
  • Awakino Rd
  • Awakino Skifield Rd
  • Bledisloe St
  • Bowen St
  • Cattle Valley Rd
  • Diggers Gully Rd
  • Ferguson St
Kurow Hotel in New Zealand
Kurow Hotel in New Zealand


  • On the huffy puffy Kurow Hill track collapsed on one of the armchairs lugged up the hill by the locals
  • Kurow Museum collectables & building’s exterior formerly the town’s 1920’s movie theatre


St Alban the Martyr Church exterior, Oamaru, New Zealand
St Alban the Martyr Church exterior


  • Where Aotearoa New Zealand’s social welfare system was road tested


  • Race day 30 December is a well known event drawing crowds from the region to enjoy market stalls, entertainment and food outlets


  • 500 + (give or take a few holiday makers)


  • A slice of NZ history wrapped around a spectacular landscape is a marriage made in visitor heaven

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Dunedin & Otago Region nearby attractions and events.


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


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