Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Do I feel lucky?" Well do ya, steampunk?

Last weekend I escaped the vast urban metropolis of Dunedin and took a road trip 1 1/2 hours north to the sleepy seaside boganville of Oamaru, which has successfully rebranded itself as the steampunk capital of NZ.

On the way, I stopped for a coffee and a look at the shops in the tiny village of Waikouaiti. There is a cute little gift shop, a decent second-hand shop (where I successfully avoided temptation), and a gorgeous library.

By the time I got to Ommers it was after 12 and the Trash'n'treasure garage sale in the Opera House was almost over. Talk about a misnomer - I have never seen anything less like a garage than the Oamaru Opera House. It has been recently restored and is a stunner. Kiri Te Kanawa is singing there next year and my father has been given tickets by his employers, Network Waitaki.

Opera House exterior
Opera House on the right
Musical memorablia in the stairwell



Royal china collection

Reception room
As you can tell, it was a grey old day, with a bit of drizzle. I enjoyed myself, despite the fact that a lot of retailers had shut their doors for the weekend. The recession must be hitting them hard if they can't afford to open. There are still some great antique shops there and I scored some marcasite and costume jewellery, an Egyptian t-shirt and a 1930s sewing book. I hope to post some photos of them soon.

I have strong family ties to Oamaru - both my parents went to school there (Waitaki Boys and Waitaki Girls), and my grandad was born there. I love the Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Many of the buildings are made from the local creamy-grey limestone. Every time I visit I find that some more have been restored.

There are some excellent cafes. I had a cheesy aubergine pie from Roost, and a chocolate hazelnut slice from another cafe - both gluten free.
A giant steampunk motorbike sculpture

Note the unrestored building on the left.

Community House.

An Alice in Wonderland playroom in the Slightly Foxed bookshop.

Imagine how great this will be when it's properly conserved.

Union Stores building. Pity about the car in front.

Lane's Emulsion building. "For coughs and colds. Good for young & old".

Catto Wools.

Gran and seed merchants store.

Wool and grain warehouses.

Note the zeppelin and steam engine.
On the way home I couldn't help thinking - yes I feel lucky punk. I have more possessions than I really need, and no more room in my house for all the antique junk I wanted to re-home.
My great-great grandparents emigrated to Oamaru from Tullymore in Antrim and Shankhill Road, Belfast, and were lucky to escape a life of poverty, back-breaking work in flax-mills and religious conflict.

I felt an overwhelming feeling of self-indulgence as I was driving home with the sea on my left, the green rolling hills on my right and some scalding salty deep-fried spuds in my hand. You can take me out of Ireland but you can't take my spuds away from me.


  1. Ommers! We love Ommers! The old part is wonderful.I'm blown away by the Opera House, I had no idea it was so gorgeous!
    There's some great opshopping to be had, and of course Junk and Funk!

    1. I know! If Junk and Funk is that shop down the alleyway, it is fantastic and I wish it had been open. I'm going back as soon as I've saved up some money.

  2. I love Oamaru - I haven't been there for the LONGEST time though. I need to go back, last time we went we spent quite a bit of time at the book binders and my partner has a bit of a fascination with book binding! Thanks for your comment on my blog - I'm more than happy to give you a low down on where to go in Wellington for op shopping and fabric type things. I'm always happy to meet other bloggers too so let me know if you're keen for a coffee whilst your in town. Give me an e-mail on teresabuckthought@hotmail.com and we can sort something out :)


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