Timaru is a busy coastal South Island port and holiday resort and is the gateway to the mountains, lakes and rivers of the Central South Island. The town is known for its elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings, made of volcanic bluestone.
Timaru's focal point is beautiful Caroline Bay. This well-equipped and safe swimming beach is bordered by a 20ha reserve which has children's playgrounds, gardens, tennis courts, an aviary, a skating rink and plenty of car parking.
Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre is now open and boasts a wide range of aquatic activities including a hydroslide, lazy river and toddler play area. The centre also offers gym facilities, beauty therapy services and a café. Every Christmas/New Year Timaru hosts the popular Caroline Bay summer carnival. The region's history can be explored at the South Canterbury Museum, Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre, or take a wander through the Aigantighe Art Gallery or Timaru's lovely Botanic Garden. Activities in the Timaru district include walking tracks, mountain biking, golfing and fishing. In winter there are several ski fields within reach – try heli-skiing or glacier skiing for something a bit different. The Washdyke Industrial Park, Phar Lap Racecourse and Levels International Motor Raceway are situated within 5-minutes drive on the north side of Timaru.
Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre
Located in the Landing Services Building, Te Ana offers the most significant collection of ancient Maori rock art in New Zealand. Experienced local guides share the stories of Maori rock art and visitors can enjoy the incredible interactive exhibition, with guided tours also available.
Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre (Cbay)
Timaru's new purpose-built aquatic centre offers great family entertainment. Cbay caters for all ages including toddlers with a toddler water activity area, spa pool and lazy river, hydro slide and training pools. The complex also has a café and gym.
Timaru Botanic Gardens
Stroll through the Timaru Botanic Gardens, a 19 ha reserve bordering Caroline Bay with gardens, duck ponds and an aviary. The garden is noted for its work with rare and endangered species and its rose collections. Timaru district also has beautiful private gardens open for tours during summer.
Landing Services Building
The last remaining building of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, it was built in 1870 from solidified lava (bluestone) and contains relics of Timaru's maritime heritage and also houses I-Site Information Centre, Te Ana Maori Rock Art experience, Speights Ale House and a function centre.
Aigantighe Art Gallery
Timaru's art gallery contains more than 900 works, including a garden of sculptures. The Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road is renowned internationally for it's art collection, innovative exhibitions and education programmes. The Aigantighe prides itself on being a friendly, thought-provoking art museum for everyone.
South Canterbury Museum
The excellent museum explores the area's whaling history, with some good examples of scrimshaw (whale bone etchings). There are also local Maori artefacts and a replica of the first aeroplane designed and flown by local farmer and inventor, Richard Pearse. Pearse was believed to have flown his craft a year before the Wright brothers made their historic flight at Kittyhawk in 1904.
Timaru is a convenient base for winter skiers, and there are several ski areas within two hours' drive including Mt Dobson, Fox Peak, Mt Hutt, Ohau and Tekapo.