New Zealand is chock full of stunning landscapes, as anyone who has seen the advertisements can attest. Among the country's most beautiful areas, and one that remains relatively undiscovered by many overseas visitors, is the Waitaki District in North Otago. The Waitaki District takes its name from the braided Waitaki River, one of New Zealand's great rivers and the site of one of the country's early engineering triumphs, a hydroelectric dam that has created some beautiful lakes that are the favourite destination of local holiday-makers in summertime, and which flows from Mt Cook to the Pacific Ocean.
The major town of the Waitaki District is Oamaru, New Zealand's Victorian town, replete with beautifully preserved and stunningly executed limestone buildings, designed in ornate Victorian style with Greek pediments and columns and ornate decorative elements. Oamaru takes its heritage seriously, and organises numerous events to showcase its unique historic patrimony.
Driving from Oamaru, one has the choice of venturing inland along the Waitaki River, past breathtaking mountain and riverine scenery toward the towns of Duntroon and Kurow, where you can visit some of New Zealand's oldest sites (via the Vanished World Prehistoric trail) and sample some of its newest wines (the Waitaki Valley is the country's newest appellation, producing some of the best pinot noir and pinot gris). Continuing westward you reach Omarama, site of the world's best gliding conditions, where you can join a pilot for the experience of a lifetime, flying in a powerless craft over the stunning landscape. Omarama is the gateway also to the Mackenzie Country, a subalpine highland with breathtaking scenery that is a photographer's joy, with the Clay Cliffs overlooking the meandering Ahuriri River, abloom with lupines in every pastel shade imaginable.
Heading in a different direction you can follow the Pacific Coast toward Moeraki, site of the world-famous boulders, near-perfect enormous spherical boulders that are approximately 60 million years old and that have amazed visitors for centuries. Here you can also sight some of the world's rarest penguins, the elusive Yellow-Eyed penguins, which come in from a day's fishing every dusk, along with countless seals, sea lions and shags. And you can refresh yourself at world-famous Fleur's Place, a seafood restaurant on a pier in the village of Moeraki, where incredibly fresh fish (along with land-dwelling animals) are perfectly prepared.
The Waitaki District may not yet be as famous as some of New Zealand's other scenic marvels, but once you come and experience it for yourself, you'll join the many thousands of others who have made the journey only to make plans to come back again and experience our beautiful home again.
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