North Otago rocks

The coastal town of Oamaru, in the South Island of New Zealand, makes a very brief appearance in the latest Penrose and Pyke Mystery, Murder Most Melancholy. In real life, it’s a place worth visiting, if only for the Victorian buildings, robustly constructed of white Oamaru stone. These days, it’s known as the centre of Steampunk and the finishing point of the stunning Alps To Ocean cycle trail (

If you can spare half a day, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting the local geosites, on one of the self-guided routes at The locals have done a stellar job establishing the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, an area which is currently under consideration as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

You can see the Valley of the Whales (a rich source of marine fossils thrust up from the ocean floor), the site of filming for Aslan’s Camp in Narnia, Elephant Rocks (beautifully set against the backdrop of the Southern Alps), Maori rock drawings, and the remarkable spherical boulders on the beach at Moeraki. The Vanished World Centre in Duntroon has fossils and interpretation.

New Zealand is a perfect location for anyone interested in geology (or scenery), as it sits right on a plate boundary, where two sections of the earth’s crust crunch up against one another, causing up-thrusting mountains, earthquakes and volcanoes. Never a dull millennium!

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