Exploring Oamaru’s Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ offers a totally unique and a very unusual place to visit, which makes it one of the most popular things to do in Oamaru.

The charming little coastal town of Oamaru, or Te Oha-a-Maru in the Māori language, on the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, with its wonderfully preserved Victorian houses and old-world atmosphere, provides the perfect setting for the headquarters of the Steampunk culture. The museum is housed in an impressive grain-storage building which was built in 1883, when it was the first elevator building to be constructed in the southern hemisphere and when Oamaru was a bigger city than Los Angeles and a thriving port.

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If you are looking for fun things to do in Oamaru be sure to put the Steampunk Museum at the top of your list, but be warned, Steampunk HQ is not like any museum you have ever visited before. Steampunk is a kind of quirky mix of science fiction and fantasy which inspires works of art using the technology of 19th-century steam powered industrial machinery. Rooted in this eras perspective of life and using steam technology, it could be a futuristic vision of Victorian England, and Steampunk has been inspired by the writing of such great authors as Jules Verne and HG Wells.

HQ Yard


In New Zealand, the Steampunk culture started back in 2009 with an art exhibition in the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru where several iconic works of art by one of New Zealand’s leading sculptors, Chris Meder, caused quite a stir. His marvellous recycled relics constructed from scrap metal included ‘Time Machine’ and ‘Bosca’ the gorilla. The museum itself opened its doors in November of 2011 and Mr Meder’s giant motorbike ‘Chopper Holland’ remains on permanent display in the yard, and the museum continued to exhibit a number of his works even following his untimely death.

Chris Meder sculptures


Within the Steampunk Museum in Oamaru visitors will encounter an eclectic art collection featuring immersive light and sound exhibits, retro-futuristic art with a sci-fi theme, with alien creatures and weird contraptions, sculptures, movies and collections, all presented in a unique Steampunk manner. Whether you are already a fan of Steampunk culture, or if you have never heard of it, the museum displays a weird and wonderful array of interactive sculptures which will amaze and entertain the entire family. In front of the building, visitors are greeted by the iconic Steampunk Engine SP001. In the basement and two darkened rooms, visitors are presented a dark vision of a post-apocalyptic future with bizarre machinery and contraptions formed from gears, pipes, gas cylinders and other bits of metal, accompanied by flickering lighting, sound effects and projected film clips. No wonder this is one of the most visited Oamaru activities.

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Be sure to visit the Portal - a unique mirror and lighting installation with a retro-futuristic feel. Its original glowing light sculptures with mythical themes and plenty of skulls have been called the closest thing to time travel and offer a unique experience that will take you to a new dimension of sound, sight, and wonder. There are loads of fascinating installations to discover; be sure to check out the Metagalactic Pipe Organ and don’t forget to explore all the outside exhibits.

The museum also has an eclectic gift shop where you can pick up something weird to remind you or your visit, and why not explore the rest of the lovely town of Oamaru in Steampunk style, by hiring one of the four-wheeled Steampunk themed cycles that are available for rent in the car park.

If you’re just visiting the South Island, consider hiring a rental car from Christchurch or Queenstown airport to ensure you see everything Oamaru has to offer.