10 Amazing Things to Do in Timaru
What to do in Timaru, the hub of South Canterbury.
Located right in between Dunedin and Christchurch, Timaru is a great place to stay the night on your South Island road trip. The large town has plenty to discover both in the town and on the beach with an amazing museum and art gallery, as well as pleasant beach walks and picturesque parks. When night falls, talk a walk to Marine Parade to watch the little blue penguins returning to their burrows. Find out more in this list of things to do in Timaru.
While you’re here, you might also like 10 Underrated Places to Visit in Canterbury.
1. Visit the South Canterbury Museum
A must-visit in the city of Timaru, the South Canterbury Museum exhibits a wide range of interesting memorabilia from fashion to fossils. Discover local stories and learn about the South Canterbury region’s nature, history and culture. Watch a local historic film at the Heritage Theatre, take a look through the archives at the research area, and wander around the ever-changing array of exhibitions.
Location: Perth Street
2. Watch the little blue penguins
When the sun goes down, the little blue penguins return to their burrows at Caroline Bay. Timaru offers one of the best free viewings of little blue penguins in New Zealand, with street lights making it easy to see the penguins. Watch the penguins from Marine Parade, but make sure to stay behind the fenced off area and don’t use flash photography or shine lights at the penguins. Find out more about watching penguins in New Zealand in 5 Tips for Watching New Zealand Penguins.
Location: Marine Parade
3. Check out the Aigantighe Art Gallery
See international and local collections of artwork at the fantastic Aigantighe Art Gallery. Aigantigne is Gaelic for “at home” and pronounced “egg-and-tie”. It’s the third largest art gallery in New Zealand and holds an impressive collection of New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art. There are ever-changing exhibitions, which historically have included living sculptures, historic painting replica dress-ups and Art Car. Also, check out the Sculpture Garden for open-air works.
Location: 49 Wai-titi Road
4. Catch the Timaru Farmers Market
Saturday mornings in Timaru are best spent at the Timaru Farmers Market. Pick up fresh and local produce, mingle with the locals and experience a real Kiwi market. It’s a great place to pick up gifts for friends at home or simply treat yourself with preserves, cheeses, baking and organic goodies. There’s also hot food and drinks for sale.
Location: 27 Strathallan Street (Community House car park)
5. Wander around the Timaru Botanic Gardens
Timaru has a number of picturesque gardens and green spaces including the fabulous Timaru Botanic Gardens. The gardens feature an aviary, ornamental ponds, conservatory and fernery, a children’s playground and many different collections of flowers and plants.
Location: Queen Street
6. Explore Caroline Bay
Caroline Bay is Timaru’s sandy beach and park area. Enjoy a lookout along a staircase, photo-worthy water features and more in this attractive part of town. It’s home to the Trevor Griffins Rose Garden, which a beautiful sight in spring and summer with its geometric rose beds. There’s also a lovely walkway over boardwalks along the bay taking around 45 minutes to complete.
Location: Caroline Bay
7. Tour the DB Draught Brewery
One of New Zealand’s largest beer brands has a brewery right here in Timaru. Learn the brewing process, past and present, in this insightful brewery tour at the DB Draught Brewery. The brewery is famous for making DB Draught, DB Export Gold and DB Export 33. At the end of the tour, you’ll sample the good stuff yourself and get the chance to browse the gift shop. See more activities like this in 5 Damn Good Brewery Tours in New Zealand.
Location: Sheffield Street
8. Walk the South Beach Coastal Track
Enjoy excellent views of Caroline Bay, the Port and the town along the South Beach Coastal Track. This 20-minute walk is on a well-formed trail along a shingle beach following the coastline north toward the Timaru Harbour. It’s a pleasant walk to watch surfers on the waves and look out for wildlife like penguins, seals, dotterels, oystercatchers and terns.
Location: Patiti Point car park
9. Visit the Te Ana Maori Rock Art site
For a real off-the-beaten-track experience and a unique insight into the Maori history, join a personal guided tour with Te Ana Maori Rock Art. The centre is located just outside of Timaru (it is self-drive so you will need to follow your guide in your own vehicle) where you’ll get the chance to see ancient Maori art painted in caves.
Location: 2 George Street
10. Visit the nearby country towns
Timaru is surrounded by two quaint Kiwi towns well worth visiting, Pleasant Point and Temuka. Pleasant Point is home to some fantastic eateries and some of the oldest remaining steam trains in the country at the Pleasant Point Museum and Railway. Temuka is a picturesque town with historical buildings, the Temuka Salesyard which is buzzing once a week, and the largest garden and park in the district at the Temuka Domain. Find out more in 5 Fun Things to Do at Pleasant Point and 6 Fun Things to Do in Temuka.
Location: Pleasant Point – 20km north of Timaru, Temuka – 19km north of Timaru