Ōmarama travel guide: A surprising gem between Queenstown & Mt Cook

Ōmarama is a small township that you’ll find nestled between mountain ranges in the South Island.

It sits between Queenstown/Wānaka and Aoraki Mount Cook/Tekapo, making it a popular spot to pass through… only we suggest you do more than just drive right on by!

Home to epic landscapes, plenty of awesome activities and charming eateries, it’s a great place to visit while exploring the Waitaki District.

Ōmarama is known as New Zealand’s ‘Gliding Capital’ so it’s the perfect place to explore the area by air.

However, there are also plenty of activities available to you on terra firma.

This Ōmarama guide will introduce you to everything you need to know for your trip, including what to do, where to eat, and the best places to stay.

We’ll even give you some pointers about the next place to add to your itinerary to you can plan your perfect road trip.

Let’s do it!

The cockpit of a glider showing three flight indicators and a magnetic compass on top with the view of the valleys, mountain ranges and blue skies.
Gliding in Ōmarama. Photo: Greg Hewgill.

Things to do in Ōmarama

Though Ōmarama is a relatively small town, there are a surprising number of worthwhile activities and attractions to check out.

Whether you choose one or two as you pass through, or you plan on spending a night in the area, the choice is yours.

Hot Tubs Omarama

Looking for a relaxing experience? Make sure you check out Hot Tubs Omarama where you can relax in a private jacuzzi while admiring the epic views all around you.

This is also the perfect place for stargazing and for enjoying a moment of peace.

These cedar hot tubs fit up to eight people so they’re perfect for groups and families – and they smell amazing.

There’s also a sauna on-site if that’s more your speed.

29 Omarama Ave Main, Twizel Highway, Omarama 9448

Did you know? Ōmarama is just outside of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve but you can still expect to see plenty of stars at night.

A pile of chopped wood, and the steamy bath waters of Waiho Hot Tubs surrounded by bushes.

Gliding Experiences

As we previously mentioned, Ōmarama is the country’s ‘Gliding Capital’. The main companies offering this activity are Kahu Soaring, and Southern Soaring.

Be sure to book in advance as gliding is an extremely popular activity here.

However, just keep in mind that it may not a suitable activity for those who are scared of heights.

A white glider passing over a snowy-covered mountain, showing some of its rocky cliffs.
Photo: Kahu Soaring.

The Clay Cliffs

Just outside of Ōmarama, you’ll come across the clay cliffs. This is one of the most unique natural formations you’ll find in the Waitaki District.

Here, you’ll get to see tall rock pinnacles that were originally formed by ancient glacier flows.

There’s a payment box on-site for visitors as the Clay Cliffs are located on private land, so be prepared with $5 for your car.

We think it’s a real bargain and a must-see while in town, so try to fit a visit in if you can.

Henburn Road, Omarama 9412

Towering cliffs made of clay in Omarama, New Zealand, with a lady showing how large the yellow cliffs are.
The incredible Ōmarama Clay Cliffs. Photo: Geoffrey Marquie.

The Wrinkly Rams – Sheep shearing show

If you’re looking for a glimpse into rural life in Aotearoa, head along to the Wrinkly Rams sheep shearing show.

Professional shearers hold interactive demonstrations throughout the day, allowing you to fit a visit in around your itinerary.

With live sheep shearing, lamb/sheep feeding and a sheepdog demonstration, this is affordable family fun.

10 Twizel-Omarama Rd, Omarama

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

The Alps 2 Ocean Trail is the country’s longest continuous cycle trail covering an impressive 315 km. It starts from Aoraki / Mount Cook and finishes in Ōamaru, so runs straight through Ōmarama.

It takes up to 7 days to do the whole trail by bike, but you can of course, just do a section or two at a time. The scenery throughout is stunning, so it’s well worth taking to the trail… even if you only have a little time to ride.

Along the route, you’ll find lots of great Kiwi accommodation options and bike hire is available if you don’t have your own.

Oamaru Harbour, Oamaru 9400

A couple standing on top of a rocky cliff with their mountain bikes and a lake below them, a beautiful mountain ranges on top, and cloud formations on the sky.
Lake Benmore is a highlight of the Alps 2 Ocean Trail. It’s found between Ōmarama and Kurow. Photo: Kerrie Hollman – NZTT member.

Ōhau Snow Fields

Though the Ōhau Snow Fields are a 45-minute from Ōmarama, we couldn’t help but include them.

A relatively small, friendly ski field, this is a great place to hone your skiing and snowboarding skills.

Plus, with beautiful views over Lake Ōhau, it’s easy on the eye too.

A sloping ski field with people skiing on the snow while some of them riding a gondola over a beautiful background view of Lake Ōhau, vast landscapes, and mountain ranges.
Ski near Ōmarama. Photo: Pseudopanax.

Places to eat in Ōmarama

The Wrinkly Rams

The Wrinkly Rams is one of the most popular eateries in Ōmarama.

Famous for its homemade food and delicious milkshakes, this charming cafe is a great place to refuel.

As mentioned, live sheep shearing shows and sheep dog demonstrations are also held on-site. You can even bottle-feed lambs here during spring and summer.

24-30 Ōmarama Ave, Ōmarama 9448

Boots and Jandals

Within Boots and Jandals Hotel, you’ll find a fantastic restaurant. They have an extensive menu with food portions that are pretty impressive.

From pizzas to burgers, we love this casual pub-style restaurant.

They also have plans to open a beer garden soon, so the hotel will have a great outdoor area to enjoy in the summertime.

1 Chain Hills Highway, Ōmarama 9412

Oasis Bar & Cafe

Oasis Bar & Cafe is a quirky little spot that offers gourmet pizza, takeaway fish and chips, and tasty smoothies. No matter what your preferences are, you’re sure to find something you like here.

There’s indoor and outdoor dining on offer too, so there’s plenty of space for everyone.

4 Chain Hills Highway, Ōmarama 9412

The Pink Glider Cafe

The Pink Glider Cafe is a small locally-owned eatery that’s located right next to Ōmarama Airfield. Not only is it set in a beautiful location but you’ll be able to watch the gliders take off while you dine.

With large meals, sweet treats, and great coffee, you won’t be short of options if you head to this cafe.

68 Airport Road, Ōmarama 9412

Where to stay in Ōmarama

These are a selection of our favourite Ōmarama accommodation options.

Budget: Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park

The Omarama TOP 10 Holiday Park is an excellent choice for families, budget travellers and people in campervans – as all TOP 10s are!

It has modern, clean facilities and is perched in a beautiful spot right on the river.

This campground has plenty of excellent accommodation options including motel studios, cabins, hobbit huts, and self-contained units.

On-site facilities include a BBQ area, a recreation room, a children’s playground, and a communal kitchen. They even have peddle-powered go-karts available for hire!

1 Omarama Avenue, Omarama 9412

Mid-range: Sierra Motel and Apartments

Sierra Motel and Apartments offers a variety of units including studios and apartments that sleep up to four people.

Guests benefit from the use of a BBQ area, a large grassy area and free WiFi.

You’ll also be just a short walk from shops and restaurants and located in a nice, quiet spot.

8 Twizel-Omarama Road, Omarama 9412

Mid-range: BigSky Motels

Although not a fancy hotel, BigSky Motels is one of the town’s more high-end options.

Here you can choose from cosy rooms, studios, and apartments, offering something for everyone. Oh, and the showers are fabulous!

On-site there’s a BBQ area, a tennis court, and a terrace, along with ebike charging and a room for your ski gear.

BigSky really goes above and beyond to ensure a comfortable stay.

52 Ahuriri Drive, Omarama 9412

Things to do near Ōmarama

Ōmarama is the perfect spot for outdoor lovers as it offers so much. It’s also an excellent base for exploring the nearby area, so you can easily take day trips out to other destinations.

Here are some of the best places to visit nearby if you’re looking for your next destination, or you’re wanting to do a day trip or two.

Lindis Pass

Linking the Mackenzie Basin and Central Otago (between Queenstown/Wānaka and Aoraki Mount Cook), the Lindis Pass is a must for any South Island road trip.

At 971 metres above sea level, the scenery here is breathtaking – in fact, it’s one of our favourite drives in the area.

While you drive along the Lindis Pass make sure you stop at the lookout point. There’s a car park here and a few short walks on offer.

And throughout your journey, keep your eyes peeled for a wide range of native birds, including tītipounamu (rifleman), riroriro (grey warbler), pīwakawaka (fantail) and kārearea (falcon).

The Lindiss Pass is a 23-minute drive from Ōmarama.

The Lindis Pass, a road at the foot of brown hills with a little vegetation and mountain ranges on the distant background.
Photo: russellstreet.

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Aoraki / Mount Cook is New Zealand’s largest mountain at an impressive 3,754 meters.

Mount Cook Village is the gateway to this peak and the national park that’s found within – and there’s plenty to see and do here.

We recommend checking out the area’s many hiking trails. However, if there’s only one you walk, make sure it’s the – it is unmissable and suitable for practically all levels of fitness.

Mount Cook is also home to the largest glacier in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier. It is best seen by boat or from the air (by heli hiking or taking a heli/ski plane flight with your NZTT discount).

Mount Cook is a 1 hour, 10-minute drive from Ōmarama.

Southern Lakes heli landing on Mount Cook with three tourists walking in the snow-covered summit.


Oamaru, the Waitaki District’s largest town, has a lot to offer.

There, you’ll find the oldest public gardens in NZ, incredible Victorian architecture, and two penguin colonies.

Other popular attractions include Steampunk HQ, Oamaru Harbour, Whitestone City, and Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve.

Oamaru is a 1 hour, 25 minute drive from Ōmarama.

A group of young blue penguins walking along the rocky terrain.
Photo credit: Tourism Waitaki.


Wānaka is a charming alpine resort town that acts as the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Boasting breathtaking scenery, endless outdoor activities, and quirky attractions, there’s so much to do here.

Some of the highlights in and around Wānaka include hiking up Roys Peak, Lake Wānaka and the ‘that Wānaka tree’, and the historic Cardrona Hotel on the Crown Range.

We also highly recommend a visit to Cinema Paradiso (for the most amazing homemade cookies – the ginger and white chocolate one is especially amazing) and to the lavender farm.

Kids are sure to love Puzzling World too.

Wānaka is a 1 hour, 25-minute drive from Ōmarama.

The famous Wanaka Tree with one of its branch touching in the waters of Wanaka Lake.
That Wānaka Tree. Photo: Johan Lolos.

Although only a small township, we think Ōmarama we definitely worth visiting.

There are some fantastic eateries and affordable accommodation options making it a great stop-off point – and more importantly, a range of unique and interesting things to do.

Have you ever been to Ōmarama? If so, we’d love for you to share your recommendations and reviews in NZTT.

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