Worth a Trip: Riverstone
It's well worth taking the 14km trip from Oamaru to this idiosyncratic complex, hidden along the unassuming short stretch of SH1 between the braided mouth of the Waitaki River and THE SH83 turn-off.
First and foremost it's the home of Riverstone Kitchen, a sophisticated restaurant that outshines any in Oamaru itself. A riverstone fireplace and polished concrete floors set the scene for a menu that's modern without being overworked. Much of the produce comes from the extensive on-site kitchen gardens (go for a stroll, they're impressive), plus locally sourced venison, pork, salmon and beef. It's a smashing brunch option, with excellent coffee and legendary truffled scrambled eggs. Save room for dessert, too.
Next door, behind a set of fake heritage shopfronts, Riverstone Country is literally packed to the rafters with gifts, crafts, homewares, fake flowers, garden ornaments and Christmas decorations. Outside, there's an aviary stocked with canaries, lorikeets and guinea pigs.
If this all points to an eccentric mind at the helm, take a look at the moated castle at the rear of the complex. The castle is the brainchild of Dot Smith, one of the owners of Riverstone, and is destined to be a private home – construction was completed in mid-2017. At the time of research there was no public access to the castle itself, but that is due to change; check with the restaurant for an update during your visit.
If you're looking for a good place to stay nearby, Waitaki Waters is a holiday park with sparkling facilities, manicured hedges and a peaceful location 3km off SH1. Cabins are simple but well maintained; bring your own bedding.