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Where can you watch penguins totter around a quarry, meander in a museum dedicated to steampunk and mountain bike across magnificent capes? Say kia ora to New Zealand's Oamaru. This South Island destination is renowned for its Victorian architecture, and there's even a replica historical town at its centre that strives to bring the bygone era to life. Oamaru packs a punch in the culinary stakes as well, with a craft brewery, whisky cellars and an artisan cheese factory to work your way through.
You can opt for a hostel in Oamaru with themed rooms for a fun stay or relax in outdoor areas before plucking fresh herbs from the garden to use in the communal kitchen. Pick an Oamaru hostel near the Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve to be close to the penguins who live there. If you're coming in a cooler season, you can choose a place with a log fire for curling up next to after a day of sightseeing. Some Oamaru backpackers hostels also have video libraries, pool tables and pianos to help keep you entertained.
Oamaru's central Victorian Precinct is the place to admire 19th-century architecture while dipping in and out of quirky boutiques and antique bookshops. You'll find most of the town's important historic buildings, many made from stone quarried in the region, around Harbour Street and lower Thames Street, Itchen Street and Tyne Street. Head to Friendly Bay for a playground with views of the sea, or to Awamoa Park if you prefer a quieter, more suburban vibe.
Any trip to this pretty town isn't complete until you see the world’s smallest penguins at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. At Bushy Beach, you can 'ooh' and 'aah' over the rarest species of the creature, the yellow-eyed penguin. For even more nature, wander around Oamaru Public Gardens or take snaps of sparkling sea views during a hike on the Skyline or South Hill walking trails.
The town's Victorian theme extends to transport – you can ride penny farthings and steam trains! Modern forms of travel are also available, with daily bus services getting you in from Christchurch, Dunedin and Te Anau to the main stop at Eden Street. Oamaru's quite compact, so you can get around the centre and harbour areas easily on foot. The nearest international airport is in Dunedin, about an hour and 45 minutes' drive away.