Waitaki New Zealand

General Information

The Waitaki District straddles the border of the Canterbury and Otago regions of the South Island, New Zealand. The Heritage Trails weave through the most beautiful countryside New Zealand has to offer, revealing the history of Waitaki. Waitaki is the perfect place to relax and there is no hustle and bustle found in the cities. Oamaru is the heart of the Waitaki District.


Along the Ohau River in the Waitaki basin the Maori hunted, fished and foraged for berries and roots when traversing the South Island.

In 1919, in acknowledgement of those servicemen who lost their lives in World War 1,400 Oaks were planted every mile with plaques. The trees were planted in the form of a wheel, the hub being in Central Oamaru, and radiating out both North and South. In the country, the trees were planted on arterial roads at one mile intervals, including State Highway 83 from Oamaru to Kurow and where possible as near as possible to the home of the soldier they commemorated.


The Waitaki District covers a triangle formed by the Waitaki Rover, from the coast, extending inland to Omarama.


There is a great variety of places to shop for souvenirs or gifts. Boutique shops throughout the region offer products with a distinct local flair. The towns’historic quarter is full of artisans and craftspeople, including an authentic German bakery, a book-binder and stores full of collectibles.


Attractions and Activities

Waitaki is a place of haunting natural beauty. The district is famed for its dramatic landscape offers an exhilaration environment for active pursuits, unique wildlife, heritage buildings and strong links to New Zealand’s pioneering past. A popular spot for people who like fishing and for boat enthusiasts thanks to the fabulous lakes on the Waitaki River.

Maori Mythology of Waitaki

The Waitaha people left their ancestral home because of war and arrived in New Zealand about the year 840AD.
Their canoe (waka) was called Uruao, and their leader was Rakaihautu. Uruao was tied in tandem with another canoe called Arai-te-Uru, which brought the Rapuwai people. One tribe was expert in the ways of all water, and the other expert with food cultivation and gathering.
The waka (canoe) Arai-te-Uru, was wrecked at what is now Shag Point. Its hull became the hill and peninsula, and its captain turned into the highest rock. This may have been the canoe that brought kumara (sweet potato) from Hawaiiki. When the canoe was destroyed, the kumara scattered, and turned into irregular boulders along the shore. The food baskets that held the kumara became the round Moeraki Boulders.

Maori Translation of Waitaki

The Māori translation of Waitaki is ‘sounding water’.


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