Visit Timaru, South Canterbury, NZ

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  • Timaru is Canterbury’s second largest city (after Christchurch) and the South Island’s second largest fishing port (after Nelson). Much of the local industry is based around processing and packaging of agricultural products for export from its large, man-made harbour.

    The city is built on undulating ancient lava flows that have provided the “bluestone” used to build many fine Edwardian and Victorian buildings. Its mild climate is excellent for growing crops such as apples, berries, asparagus and flowers, especially roses, which can be admired in rose gardens, especially at the seaside holiday parklands of protected and sandy Caroline Bay.

    Timaru has more than 500 sites of early Maori occupation, including rock carvings and cave paintings found along the Opuha and Opihi Rivers. The South Canterbury Museum has displays of ancient Maori artefacts. It is unclear whether the name Timaru derives from “Te Maru” (place of shelter) or “Tihi-a-Maru” (citadel of Maru – an ancestor).

    Accommodation in Timaru (NZ)

    As both a commercial centre and a holiday destination, Timaru has plenty of accommodation of all types. There are high-class hotels, motels and lodges, some of which are also historic stone buildings, as well as mid-range motels and bed & breakfast establishments.

    For holiday makers and travellers on a budget, there are backpacker lodges and holiday parks, which accommodate traditional camping as well as motorhome travellers. Self-contained units and chalets are also available, as well asholiday homes to rent.

    Tourist Activities around Timaru

    Timaru’s Caroline Bay is a popular holiday destination. A sandy beach that is safe for swimming, it has a promenade, rose gardens with fountains, camping grounds, playgrounds, mini-golf, an aviary and a nearby skate park. Caroline Bay is the centre of a 3-week carnival held every year over the Christmas and New Year (summer holiday) period. Sailing, swimming and fishing from wharves are popular activities. Visitors can also enjoy charter fishing and marine cruises.

    Timaru International Motor Raceway is situated about 10 minutes outside of Timaru. It is often called Levels because of its previous name Levels Raceway. The Timaru International Motor Raceway holds some of the major sporting events on New Zealand's motorsport calendar.

    Rivers near Timaru, especially the Rangitata River to the north, offer excellent for fly-fishing for salmon and trout. Guided fishing safaris are available from Timaru. Rafting trips are also available. There are opportunities for hunting in wilderness areas around Timaru, which can be accessed by helicopter or 4-wheel drive vehicle.

    The historic buildings, Maori archaeological sites and the South Canterbury Museum provide history and culture enthusiasts with a lot to see. The museum has an important collection of very early Maori relics. It also exhibits an early aircraft built and (reportedly) flown by Timaru’s Richard Pearse in 1903, nine months before the Wright Brothers’ success at Kittyhawk. A second museum and a working steam train can be visited at Pleasant Point, 15 minutes’ drive from Timaru.

    Impressive stone churches, landscaped parks and rose gardens make Timaru a very attractive and interesting city to explore. There are many cafes, restaurants and night spots, which give Timaru a modern, cosmopolitan feel.

    Transport around Timaru

    Timaru is almost exactly half way between Christchurch (2 hours 20 minutes) and Dunedin (2 hours 30 minutes). The city is 60 km north of the Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between Canterbury and Otago.

    The large Otago town of Oamaru (place of Maru) is 60 minutes’ drive to the south. The Canterbury town of Geraldine is about 30 minutes’ drive to the north.

    State Highway 8 leads west from Timaru through mountain passes into the interior district known as the Mackenzie Country, within easy reach of Mount Cook, ski fields and high country lakes and rivers.

    Inter-city coach services connect Timaru with Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown and the Mackenzie country. Suburban buses and taxis provide transport within the town.

    Timaru’s airport services regular flights to and from Wellington and occasional flights to and from Christchurch.

    Mountain bikes can also be hired for local transport. Timaru is the end point of a 300 km (6-day) cycle trail that begins at Mount Cook.

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