An Outing in Oamaru

Sunday, 21-09-14. Day 32.

Steampunk, Time Travel, and the World's Greatest Playground

We thought it was cold in Geraldine, but this morning was even chillier than the last. But we skipped the usual morning rituals so we could head over to the Oamaru Farmer's Market. Yes, that's right, after the previous day's disappointment, Samantha was very much looking forward to attending the farmer's market that's held every week in Oamaru's historic Victorian section.

The bustling Oamaru Farmer's Market.

The bustling Oamaru Farmer's Market.

At the market, we enjoyed some Bacon Butties. We'd never heard of this creation before, but it's totally a thing — and a good thing, too. A Bacon Butty is a generous helping of fresh-off-the-griddle bacon topped with grilled onions and tomato sauce, served between two slices of white bread.

The delightful bacon butty.

The delightful bacon butty.

After we toured the market, we wandered off to check out some of the shops in the historic Victorian district, including working limestone sculptor Ian Andersen; the Lazycat Pottery, Art Gallery & Cafe; the Grainstore Gallery (which showcased a lot of Donna Dementhe's work); and many other great little shops.

Adventure Books

My favorite store was Adventure Books, which is filled with all manner of books on (of course) adventure, including a section featuring books by and about Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon-Tiki and Easter Island explorations, as well as an exhaustive selection of books on the Everest experience and Shackelton's Antarctic adventures.

In fact, when you enter the store, you're greeted by a movie-prop replica of the James Caird, the small boat that Ernest Shackleton, along with captain Frank Worsley (a New Zealander) and four other men, sailed in for 800 miles (that's nautical miles, mind you) as they sought rescue for the ice-bound Endurance during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

To read a really excellent version of this epic journey, check out my friend Nick Bertozzi's graphic novel Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey.

Greatest Playground in the World

After shopping, the kids were pretty amped up, so we walked over to Oamaru's Friendly Bay Playground, a really fantastic steampunk-themed play area to let them burn off some steam. The whole thing is really well-designed and full of all the playground staples: swings, a slide, a zipline, a boat, a see-saw, a hamster wheel (if they're called something else, I'd love to know), and a merry-go-round — but each has an inventive steampunk-era design. The slide is a steam-powered rocket, the zipline ends in an elephant howdah, and the swings hang from a giant metal penny-farthing bicycle.

The Greatest Playground in the World.

The Greatest Playground in the World.

My daughters have declared this as the "best playground in the world." It's early in this world travel venture in this category, so voting is still underway. But right now the smart money is on this park. Stay tuned for further developments.

Steampunk HQ

Oamaru is known as the (unofficial) Steampunk capital of New Zealand, and right down in the heart of Harborside, sits a solid stone building that houses Steampunk HQ, an appropriately themed interactive art gallery.

Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ

Inside, one can find all manner of industrial and retro-futuristic art pieces, bizarre, "world gone mad" creations, a few crazy movies that run on loops, and discover the wonders of the Infinity Room.

The Infinity Room.

The Infinity Room.

Out in the back, there's even more Steampunk creations, including a skull-faced locomotive, a crazy contraption called the Aethertractor, a giant steampunk motorcycle, and many other fantastic vehicles in various stages of construction.

Vroom.

Vroom.

Time Travellers Experience

Purely by chance, we stumbled upon the Time Travellers Experience, a cool pop culture art gallery filled with great science fiction and fantasy movie posters, toys, and comic strips curated by Stephen Murray. He even had a model Time Machine in one corner.

Taking a quick spin around the timescape.

Taking a quick spin around the timescape.

We spent a little time there, perusing the collection. It was cool to see some of the Dr. Who toys we'd never gotten in the U.S., I saw a set of Huey, Dewey, and Louie robot toys from Silent Running, and the kids enjoyed playing real pinball for, I think, the first time ever.

From the newest information on the website, it looks like this place is now closed and Stephen is boxing up his impressive collection of nostalgic ephemera. He'll be posting some pictures on the museum's Facebook Page if you'd like to see some of what he had on display.

After we'd done some shopping around Oamaru and fueled up the kids, it was unfortunately time to depart Oamaru. We could have used an extra day (or probably two) there, but the next morning we had an appointment in Twizel, which was at the base of Mount Cook. And with uncertain weather in the mountains, we didn't want to get to drive to Twizel too late.

This meant we weren't able to take Ralph (our tour guide from the night before) up on his generous offer to see and help feed the black lamb. We really regret this decision, but world travel sometimes requires hard choices.

Twizel beneath the mountains.

Twizel beneath the mountains.

So we made the drive to Twizel, and arrived at the Twizel Kiwi Holiday Park about 4:30 p.m. After we got everything hooked up, we had just enough time to walk across the rugby fields into town and shop for some dinner before the sun started to go down. It was going to be another cold night.

Notable Statistics

  • Kilometers driven: 150
  • iPad photographers: 1
  • Bacon Buttys eaten: 2
  • Aethertractors driven: 1
  • Zipline traversals: 2

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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An Outing in Oamaru
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