Photo: Tourism New Zealand


Promoted historically as “the Riviera of the South”, Timaru is a popular summer destination for a seaside holiday, especially when the perennially popular Summer Carnival comes to Caroline Bay.

There’s plenty to see year-round, though, including the Timaru Botanic Gardens, the South Canterbury Museum, and Aigantighe (pronounced ‘egg and tie’) Art Gallery, one of New Zealand's largest art museums.

Around the area

The port city of Timaru is the largest urban area in South Canterbury and second-largest in the Canterbury region after Christchurch. Unlike much of the surrounding, flat landscape, Timaru is built on rolling green hills, formed over lava flows from nearby Mount Horrible, an extinct volcano last active about 2 million years ago. The volcanic rock is used for the construction of local "bluestone" buildings.

Today, Timaru is shaking off its reputation as a laidback agricultural service town and re-emerging as a vibrant cultural and artistic centre with a bustling downtown and a host of excellent retail and hospitality options. 

Regional Destinations

Temuka This town, north of Timaru, is ‘world famous in New Zealand’ for the pottery that shares its name. Temuka Pottery began production in 1931 and its classic ‘brownware’ styles are now eagerly sought after by collectors. Pop in to the retail shop during your visit and pick up a piece of pure Kiwiana.

Fairlie Gateway to the Aoraki/Mount Cook area, Fairlie retains much of its small-town charm in the historic buildings on its main street. The Fairlie Bakehouse has a lauded reputation for the quality of its pies and other handmade goodies. Hot in summer, golden-hued in autumn, the town is also an ideal base for skiing Mount Dobson during the winter.

Geraldine Nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps, picturesque Geraldine has inspired generations of artists to live and work in the area, including John Badcock, Mike Deavoll and the late Austen Deans. Many artists have studios open to the public, or display at one of the range of galleries around town.


A must-see for plant lovers is the Timaru Botanic Gardens and its extensive collections of roses and native tree ferns. The South Canterbury Museum’s impressive displays include fossil remains, Māori rock art and local maritime history.

The Aigantighe Art Gallery, housed in a historic homestead, is the South Island's third largest art museum. It holds a collection of New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art from the 16th Century to the present day and includes a sculpture garden.

To the west of Timaru, the rock overhangs and caves of the Opuha and Opihi river valleys are home to over 500 sites with traces of Māori rock art. Find out more at Timaru’s Te Ana Rock Art Centre, where you can also book a guided tour of rock art sites.

First to fly?

Depending on who you ask, local farmer and inventor Richard Pearse either did or didn’t make the world’s first flight in a powered heavier-than-air machine in 1903, nine months before the Wright brothers made their flight at Kitty Hawk, in the United States. You can see a replica of Pearse’s plane atop a roadside memorial plinth near where he farmed at Waitohi.


Destinations, South Island

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