New Zealand is the perfect country for an epic road trip saga full of endless twists and turns.
The South Island was where it all happened. Our main goal there was to visit Mount Cook and we had no idea what else we would find on the way. At first, all I knew about New Zealand was their picturesque Lord of The Rings scenery. After channeling the energy of Bilbo Baggins during our stunning hikes around Mount Cook, we stumbled across a quaint and quirky town called, Oamaru. What initially drew us to Oamaru was their colony of blue penguins, who have the Māori name kororā. Blue penguins are the smallest breed in the world. I had never seen penguins in the wild and couldn’t wait to witness them in person, but the penguin sanctuary was just the beginning of everything that Oamaru had to offer.
Before we arrived in Oamaru, we were also met with a bizarre sign from the universe, the Moeraki Boulders. The Moeraki Boulders are spherical rock formations on the Otago coast en route to Oamaru. If you have the chance, definitely try to stop by. I had a great time contemplating on the spheres and being in total awe of the unusual rock formation. They are huge! And so round! How? Sadly it is not because of aliens, and there is a logical geological explanation for its shape. These boulders took nearly 4 million years to get to their current size due to shoreline erosion. I felt that The Moeraki Boulders mystical aura was a foreshadowing to our next destination which had the most unexpected tourist attraction; the Steampunk HQ in Oamaru.
For those of you that don’t know, Steampunk is a science fiction genre and subculture, first coined in the 1980s, that combines elements of the past and future. This might not make much sense, but let me try to paint a picture in your head. Imagine Oliver Twist, with robots, technological inventions, and time travel. Sort of like Doctor Who’s Victorian episodes where these bizarre and distant combinations make it truly a subculture like no other. The Steampunk HQ of Oamaru is a great introduction to Steampunk where it is an interactive museum full of wacky art, movies, and sounds.
The HQ was founded in 2011 by local Steampunk fanatics and is located in the Victorian precinct of Oamaru. Inside the museum there is an endless amount of interactive creations such as a portal infinity room, display of punker bikes, steampunk films, etc. Other parts of this neighborhood will also feel like a trip back in time with its architecture and the many people dressed up in Victorian style costumes. Steampunk HQ, however, adds an extra layer of mystery and fun to this time travel adventure. New Zealand Steampunk specifically has a unique focus on sustainability and recycling. Most of the costumes and art take on old found objects such as clocks, bikes, and pilot goggles. You can really use almost anything metal and industrial to create your Steampunk character. If you are looking to dive even deeper into the genre, attend the three day Steampunk Festival, where Steampunk artists and enthusiasts gather from all around the world. It is the perfect display of Kiwi madness and you can attend many workshops and events on the subculture.
I believe that Steampunk holds an interesting place in this world and it takes the creativity of cosplay and adventure a step further. There is a reason that The Guardian named Oamaru “ The Steampunk Capital of the World” and that the city made it into the Guiness Book of World Records for having the largest gathering of Steampunks. Oamaru, New Zealand is flat out weird. They embrace it to the fullest and I love that.